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CALL. 01.02.2016: CRASIS Annual Meeting. ANCIENT HEALTH: Concepts, Materiality and the Experience of


Health—we think we know what it is, until we start thinking about it. Is health the mere absence of disease? Does it always involve a subjective feeling of well-being? Is it a purely private concern, or something to be regulated by governments –and if so, how? Does health have a moral component? And to what extent does it lie in our control? All of these questions were equally alive and urgent in the ancient Mediterranean. During the 2017 CRASIS Master Class and Annual Meeting we therefore aim to explore what ‘health’ meant in the ancient world. Conceptually, our sources reveal vastly different approaches to ‘health’, depending on region, time-period, political background, social and religious structures. Classical Greece, for example, saw the beginning of systematized medicine, with claims to a rationality that was supposed to set it apart from theological thinking. With this came materialist conceptions of health, rooted in elements observable in the natural world, and empirically-based arguments for cause and effect. But Greek (and later Greco-Roman) medicine was only one of many systems that addressed health and disease in antiquity, and it competed not only with much older, complex systems of medicine in other parts of the Mediterranean and the Near East, but also, internally, with non-literate traditions of ‘folkloric’ healing and temple medicine. How did ancient discourses of health, with their particular terminologies, iconographies and contexts, relate to the institutional and religious frameworks, the places of healing and the practices in existence? And how can we square narratives of sickness and health and prescriptive regimes that have come down to us in the written sources, with the realities of ancient nutrition, disease, and life expectancy, accessible though modern archaeological science (such as paleo-osteology and paleo-botany)?



LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: University of Groningen (Groningen, Netherlands)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Lidewijde de Jong; Sjoukje Kamphorst; Steve Mason; Onno van Nijf; Bettina Reitz-Joosse

INFO: web-


We welcome papers exploring ‘ancient health’ from textual, historical, philosophical, visual, and material perspectives. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

– conceptualizing health in philosophical and vernacular traditions;

– discourses, institutions, and metrics of public health in Mediterranean antiquity;

– health, sickness, and healing in ancient imaginative literature

– the role of the divine in physical and mental health

– moral, mental, and physical health—connections and distinctions;

– practical health regimens prescribed, modelled, or alluded to;

– the materiality of health—sanctuaries, ancient spas, gymnasia, medical implements, archaeo-botanical evidence for diet;

– the iconography of health and sickness;

– the physical body: human remains as indicators for health and diet.


CRASIS is the interdisciplinary research institute for the study of culture, religion and society in the ancient world at the University of Groningen. This year’s event is already its sixth Master Class and Annual Meeting. It is set up as a meeting place for students at PhD or Research Master level, post-docs, and established scholars to promote discussion and exchange of ideas beyond disciplinary boundaries. For more information about past events visit our website.

Keynote Speaker and Master

This year’s Master and Keynote Speaker is Ralph Rosen, Vartan Gregorian Professor of the Humanities and Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His expertise spans a wide field of interests, including ancient medicine and old comedy and satire. His most recent work is the co-edited volume Ancient Concepts of the Hippocratic, published with Brill.

Submission of abstracts - PhD and Research Master students are invited to submit a title and abstract (500 words) for the Master Class (March 2nd), explaining how their own research relates to the theme. - We invite post-docs and established scholars to submit a title and short abstract (250 words) for a lecture on the conference day (March 3rd). - Please accompany your application for either part of the event with a brief (~75 words) academic background and deliver both parts in a single Word document to facilitate processing. - Proposals should be submitted no later than 15 December 2016 with Sjoukje Kamphorst, via

Please note that at this point, CRASIS unfortunately is unable to offer compensation for travel and accommodation costs of the presenters.

Further information for PhD/ReMa students

Research Master students are expected to submit a paper of 3000-4000 words and PhD students a paper of 5000-6000 words. These papers will circulate among the participants and are to be submitted before 1 February 2017. During the Master Class participants will briefly present their paper, followed by a response and discussion under the expert guidance of professor Ralph Rosen. Student participation will be graded, and is eligible for the award of 2 ECTS from your institution or research school.

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