CONN 377

Caesar in Vietnam: PTSD in the Ancient World?

This class takes a penetrating look at the burgeoning scholarly interest in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and its possible relevance to ancient combat in Greece and Rome. Extensive readings include selections from Homer?s Iliad, Odyssey, the tragedies Aias and Herakles Mainomenos, and Roman battle accounts. Students then look at how various of these works have been interpreted as proof of PTSD in the ancient world, most notably by psychologist Jonathan Shay, but also by an increasing number of classical scholars. Modern studies of the causes of PTSD, its definition, and how it is diagnosed provide theories of how combat causes traumatic injury. Along the way students engage with first hand accounts of combatants from multiple periods and battle zones. Each student then writes a research paper that explores a pre-industiral account of combat using the theoretical models from modern psychological and social scientific writing as well as modern comparanda. Students reach their own conclusions, but must argue with sophistication and demonstrate an awareness of the different types of evidence and the particular challenges posed by each source and approach. Is human reaction to trauma situational or inherent or a bit of both?