Appels à contributions
Persone e parole della cura nell’Antichità (Torino/Turin, Italie)

Persone e parole della cura nell’Antichità (Torino/Turin, Italie)

Persone e parole della cura nell’Antichità

Università di Torino, 27-29 Novembre 2024

This conference aims to explore the ways of representing and conceiving healing processes in Greco-Roman antiquity. The term “care” refers to the set of remedies and treatments implemented to cure an illness, but also to the actions aimed at maintaining a state of health and well-being. The heterogeneity of the documents considered will be a crucial aspect: contributions will focus not exclusively on technical texts, but will also analyse literary texts, papyri, inscriptions, iconographic documents, and archaeological finds.

Proposals may focus on – but are not limited to – the following thematic areas:

-  Words of care: this session aims at analysing terms and expressions that describe the healing processes in texts from classical antiquity. This could include insights into Greek and Latin medical and literary texts that feature descriptions and narratives of healing treatments. Papers related to this thematic area will lead to reflections on the possibility of defining a lexicon of healing and its depiction in Greco- Roman literature.

-  Carers: who were the people with the ability to heal or who took an active role in caring for the sick person? Papers in this session will consider various descriptions of professional figures, as well as their portraits in technical texts (e.g. the ideal midwife outlined by Soranus in his treatise on feminine diseases), in literary works (e.g. of the physician Simmachus, ironically described in Martial 5. 9), or in epigraphic evidence, such as the commemorative inscription for Publius Decimius Eros Merula, defined as a medicus clinicus chirurgus ocularius (Assisi, 1st century CE; CIL XI.5400). Furthermore, this session may include insights into other people involved in the healing processes, such as ritual experts (magoi), pharmaka traders, or those who participated in the production of remedies. By focussing on such figures, it will be possible to explore the nuances of the relationship between the “carer” – to use an all- encompassing term – and the sick person. The latter’s disposition could translate into manifestations of distrust and scepticism. For instance, in Naturalis Historia 29 Pliny denounces the physicians’ familiarity with cheating and poisoning. Patients could, instead, respect and trust the healer: in this respect, one may think of Celsus’ reflection on the greater efficacy of a medicus who is also an amicus for the ill person. The sick person could even develop a feeling of devotion towards their carers. This was the case of the inscriptions found in the sanctuary of Asclepius at Epidaurus, where recovery could depend on the intervention of a deity.

-  The tools of care: this session aims at an in-depth study of the tools used in applying different therapies, traditionally divided into the three categories of regimen, medical treatment (or “pharmacology”), and surgery. In addition, papers could focus on all other types of treatment, such as, for example, incubation in sanctuaries or the use of spellings and incantations. Besides papers on medical tools and tools for preparing remedies, this session may include contributions that deal with “immaterial” tools used during healing processes, like ritual gestures or incantations (such as the ἐπῳδή through which the sons of Autolycus heal Odysseus’ wound in Od. 19.457).

-  The Greco-Roman heritage for healthcare professionals to this day: in this final session, all previous topics will be discussed with those who work in the field of healthcare. For instance, considerations on the lexicon of healing and caring could be taken up to reflect on the ways of speaking about healthcare in the contemporary world. For example, by highlighting the presence of recurring expressions (such as metaphors, technicisms, loan words, etc.) we could compare them with those that occur in ancient medical texts. In addition, the session may focus on the relationship between the medical staff and patients, considering the various nuances it has taken on over time. Concerning the tools of care, this last part of the conference may consider the continuity of certain remedies used still to this day and will start a debate on the chances of identifying and defining the “immaterial” tools of care in the contemporary world.

Practical information :

Paper proposals (maximum 300 words) should be sent to by July 20th 2024. The papers (maximum 20 minutes) may be presented in English, French, Italian, or Spanish. The conference, for which there is no registration fee, will be partly funded by the Department of Humanistic Studies of the University of Turin (UniTo); however, participants will have to cover their expenses (trip and accommodation).

 Please get in touch with Anna Magnaldi ( if you need any further information.

Invited speakers :

María Ángeles Alonso Alonso (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, Departamento de Historia Antigua)

Federico Amianto (Università di Torino, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze)

Alice Borgna (Università del Piemonte Orientale, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici) Serena Buzzi (Università di Torino, Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici)

Annamaria Fantauzzi (Università di Torino, Dipartimento di Scienze Cliniche e Biologiche) Arsenio Ferraces (Universidade da Coruña, Departamento de Letras)

Paolo Garofalo (Universidade de Lisboa, Centro de Estudos Clássicos) Paul Luthon (Sorbonne Université, Faculté des Lettres)

Francisco Marco Simón (Universidad de Zaragoza, Departamento de Ciencias de la antigüedad) Romano Ravazzani (Medico di medicina generale - Ambulatorio dell'arte, Torino)

Francesca Rosso (Università di Torino, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze) Irene Salvo (Università di Verona, Dipartimento di Culture e Civiltà)

Celia Sánchez Natalías (Universidad de Zaragoza, Departamento de Ciencias de la antigüedad) Gabriel Silva (Universidade de Lisboa, Centro de Estudos Clássicos).