Your love is like bad medicine : the medical tradition of lovesickness in the legends of hippocrates and erasistratus of CEOS
CITATION: Ribeiro, L. F. C. 2020. Your love is like bad medicine : the medical tradition of lovesickness in the legends of hippocrates and erasistratus of CEOS. Akroterion, 65:63-88, doi:10.7445/65-0-1024.
The original publication is available at http://akroterion.journals.ac.za
The image of the lover physically afflicted by erōs, with erratic pulse and fiery flushes under the skin, goes back at least as far as Sappho. Ancient doctors like Galen and Oribasius of Pergamon saw the lovesick as a patient with a real disease in need of medical intervention. In Western medieval medicine, the disease had various names, such as amor heroes and erotomania. This study defines lovesickness as erotomania, a psychosomatic illness with depressive symptoms caused by unrequited love, with its roots sometimes sought in a humoral imbalance of black bile, an excess of seminal fluid or in some inflammation of the brain. It traces this tradition to the anecdotes about the physicians Hippocrates and Erasistratus of Ceos on how they diagnosed and treated royal patients suffering from lovesickness. It is argued that these stories reflect real-life medical debates. The anecdotes suggest the cause of the disease to have been seen as psychic rather than purely physiological and somatic, calling for a therapy one might term psychological. They suggest the choice treatment for a patient suffering from sick unrequited love was to requite the demands of erōs.