This page cannot be viewed in frames

Go to page

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Galen and mental problems

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)


Galen was a Roman physician of Greek descent who lived in the 2nd century CE. He was considered in his time to be a great expert in human anatomy and a physician. Interestingly, he also dealt with mental health disorders.

As we read in one of his treatises (De Locis Affectis), one of his patients suffered from constant anxiety. As it turns out, the reason for his anxiety was the fear that the mythical Atlas would eventually get tired and drop a sky, crushing the earth and humanity in the process.
He also had patients with very strange behavior. One of them, hearing a rooster crowing, began to beat his hands on the sides of his body and imitated the voice of the bird. Another person believed that she had grown a shell for herself and for this reason, she avoided anyone who came near her so as not to break it.

Reading Galen’s records, we can get the impression that fear and mental problems existed in ancient times. As Galen notes, for some, the main source of fear and depression is the fear of death. Interestingly, there are also those who both fear death and want it.

The factor predestinating the occurrence of depression and omnipresent fear is the melancholy of a person, which in turn results from bile. Galen promoted the theory of Hippocratic “humors” that human behavior and character traits are dictated by the level of body fluids:

  • blood – optimist, extrovert
  • black bile – melancholic, creative, kind and considerate
  • yellow bile – choleric, full of energy and passion
  • phlegmatic – phlegmatic, reliable, kind and emotional.
  • Galen, De Locis Affectis, VIII.190-191

IMPERIUM ROMANUM needs your support!

If you like the content that I collect on the website and that I share on social media channels I will be grateful for the support. Even the smallest amounts will allow me to pay for further corrections, improvements on the site and pay the server.



Find out more!

Check your curiosity and learn something new about the ancient world of the Romans. By clicking on the link below, you will be redirected to a random entry.

Random curiosity

Random curiosity

Discover secrets of ancient Rome!

If you want to be up to date with newest articles on website and discoveries from the world of ancient Rome, subscribe to the newsletter, which is sent each Saturday.

Subscribe to newsletter!

Subscribe to newsletter

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: