Michiel Meeusen

Senior Core Fellow
Period of Stay: 
October 2022 – June 2023
KU Leuven, Belgium
Project Title: 
Literature of Hypochondria in the High Roman Empire
Project Abstract: 

Medicine was held in high regard in the High Roman Empire: numerous eminent literary authors (including sophists, philosophers, scholars, politicians, even emperors) wrote extensively about medicine and health related topics, both in Greek and Latin, and expected their readers to share that interest. Within this fascinating, and still under-explored field, my interest is specifically in the literary expression of health anxiety broadly defined, its many psychosomatic manifestations, and its underlying cognitive motivations, as being symptomatic more precisely of what seems to be a heightened awareness, if not alarmism, about physical and mental well-being in a time often contemptuously referred to as an ‘Age of Hypochondria’. The time is right for a revaluation of this fascinating phenomenon based on a more sensitive and contextual reading of the available sources, taking into account both ‘patient’ and ‘doctor’ oriented perspectives, and also by raising a range of transhistorical questions still very relevant today.