Greeks & Romans


In ancient Greece, there was a tremendous amount of stigma attached to having a mental illness, and also a great sense of shame, loss of face, and humiliation.  Mental illness was believed to be divine punishment and a sign of guilt for both minor and major transgressions.  Those who suffered from any form of mental illness were often shunned by society: some were locked up, and others were even put to death.  During this time period suffers who weren’t locked up were often cared for my family members, and many treatments dealt more with shame and de-stigmatizing the person (Tasman, 1992).

Later on, it was believed that unseen agents could no longer serve as a logical basis for genuine understanding of mentally troublesome phenomena (Millon, 2004).  During this shift, it became necessary to understand how and why mental illnesses occurred, and treatment shifted away from mystical and supernatural.

In early Greek civilizations, therapy for mental illness consisted of removing impurities, which were believed to the the cause of psychotic disorders.  To achieve this, priests mediated the ill person’s prayers to the Gods to assure his or her cure; with the help of the priest, the person’s heart would be purified of evil (Millon, 2004).

Influential and important figures during this time period included: Hippocrates, Pythagoras, and Aristotle.


During Roman times, mental disorders were believed to be the result of excessive tightening of the pores in the brain (which was believed to occur periodically), as opposed to be caused by some type of mysterious forces, or some bio-humoral movements of conflicts.

Important figures during this time period included: Asclepiades, Soranus, Galen, and Aurelianus.


Millon, T. (2004).  Masters of the mind.  Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Tasman, A. (1992).  Stigma and mental illness.  Washington, DC, US: American Psychiatric Press, Inc.

Page created by: Christy Tyrrell

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