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Combat trauma and the ancient Greeks

Combat trauma and the ancient Greeks

Konstan, David; Meineck, Peter, 1967-

This text applies trauma studies to the drama and literature of the ancient Greeks. Diverse essays explore how the Greeks responded to war and if what we now term 'combat trauma,' 'post-traumatic stress,' or 'combat stress injury' can be discerned in ancient Greek culture

eBook, Electronic resource, Book. English. Electronic books.
First edition.
Published New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014
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Statement of responsibility: edited by Peter Meineck and David Konstan
ISBN: 1137398868, 9781137398864
Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Note: Formerly CIP.
Physical Description: xiv, 310 pages : illustrations
Series: The New antiquity
Subject: Literary studies: ancient, classical & medieval; Literary theory; Greek literature History and criticism.; Ancient Greece; Europe; Ancient (Classical) Greek; Literature; BCE period - Protohistory; Social & ethical issues; Sociology; Ancient history; Literature: history & criticism; Post-traumatic stress disorder in literature.; European history
Reproduction: Electronic reproduction. Askews and Holts. Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Series Title: New antiquity.
Other formats: Also available in printed form ISBN 9781137398857


  1. Introduction: Combat Trauma: The Missing Diagnosis in Ancient Greece?
  2. David Konstan1. War and the City: The Brutality of War and Its Impact on the Community
  3. Kurt A. Raaflaub2. Phaeacian Therapy in Homer's Odyssey
  4. William H. Race3. Women After War: Weaving Nostos in Homeric Epic and in the Twenty-First Century
  5. Corinne Pache4. "Ravished Minds" in the Ancient World
  6. Lawrence A. Tritle5. Beyond the Universal Soldier: Combat Trauma in Classical Antiquity
  7. Jason Crowley6. Socrates in Combat: Trauma and Resilience in Plato's Political Theory
  8. S. Sara Monoson7. The Memory of Greek Battle: Material Culture as Narratives of Combat
  9. Juan Sebastian De Vivo8. Women and War in Tragedy
  10. Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz9. "He gave me his hand but took my bow": Trust and Trustworthiness in the Philoctetes and Our Wars
  11. Nancy Sherman10. Combat Trauma in Athenian Comedy: The Dog That Didn't Bark
  12. Alan H. Sommerstein 11. The Battered Shield: Survivor Guilt and Family Trauma in Menander's Aspis
  13. Sharon L. James12. When War Is Performed, What Do Soldiers and Veterans Want to Hear and See and Why?
  14. Thomas G. Palaima13. Performing Memory: In the Mind and on the Public Stage
  15. Paul Woodruff

Author note

Peter Meineck is Associate Professor of Classics at New York University, USA and Honorary Professor of Classics at the University of Nottingham, UK. He is the founding director of New York's Aquila Theatre and has directed and/or produced over 60 professional stage productions. He has published widely on ancient performance and the application of cognitive studies to theatre in antiquity.

David Konstan is Professor of Classics at New York University and Professor Emeritus of Classics and Comparative Literature at Brown University, USA. His research focuses on ancient Greek and Latin literature, especially comedy and the novel, and classical philosophy. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


The effects of what we now term 'combat trauma' are well represented in the literature of the Ancient Greeks: the madness of Heracles, the rage of Achilles, the suicide of Ajax, the isolation of Philoctetes, and the trials of Odysseus, to name a few. Much of the narrative of the Greek world, particularly Athens, reflects a preoccupation with the consequences of violence and war. In this book, a diverse group of scholars, who specialize in different aspects of ancient Greek culture, explore how the Greeks responded to war and the various manifestations of 'post-traumatic stress' and 'combat stress injury' in ancient Greek culture.


"BRAVI TUTTI to this all-star cast and to the editors, Meineck and Konstan! This is a feast of wonderfully written, energetic, and varied pieces addressing the impact of constant wars on mind, society, and spirit in ancient Greece, as voiced in its written and material culture. I foresee interdisciplinary courses being built around this collection with enthusiasm from all the disciplines in play. The authors are suitably cautious in their use of modern mental health concepts in this distant context, without losing the relevance of what is universally human, when hammered by war." - Jonathan Shay, MD, PhD, 2009 General Omar N. Bradley Chair of Strategic Leadership, US Army War College and author of Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America
"This rich collection of informed, probing essays revises, extends, and greatly deepens our understanding of combat trauma both in the classical world and in our own." - Stanley Lombardo, Professor Emeritus of Classics, University of Kansas, USA
"War is the context in which Greek authors composed their works and their audiences received them. To assess the impact of continuous and extremely violent warfare on the minds and souls of the Greeks may be more difficult than to estimate the extent of material destructions. But no study of Greek texts and images can be complete, if it ignores the impact of war trauma. The studies collected in this volume break new ground by addressing selected aspects of this subject, thus contributing not only to a better understanding of Greek literature but also to the history of emotions and the cultural history of ancient warfare." - Angelos Chaniotis, Professor of Ancient History and Classics, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University, USA

"The use of ancient Greek poetry and drama as therapy for modern sufferers of combat trauma is one of the most unexpected and moving chapters in the history of the classical tradition. The essays in this insightful, thought-provoking collection return to antiquity to uncover the varied ways in which the psychological damage of combat was represented, addressed, and sometimes avoided in a society that knew war as an all-encompassing and inescapable fact of life." - Sheila Murnaghan, Allen Memorial Professor of Greek, University of Pennsylvania, USA