Calls for Papers

Society of Classical Studies 154th Annual Meeting

JANUARY 5-8, 2023


Call for Papers for Panel Sponsored by the Society for Ancient Medicine

“Addiction, Dependency, and Habit”

Organized by Colin Webster (UC Davis) and Aileen Das (Michigan)

The opioid crisis has been devastating American families for almost two decades now, but despite its incredible human toll, it has barely made a ripple in academic debates, even as we enter another revolution in the use of psychotropic drugs to treat issues of mental health. We live in the conceptual shadow of moralizing prohibitions, the war on drugs, the medicalization of substance abuse, and the consequences of all these approaches. This panel seeks to explore the discourses around addictions, habits, and dependencies in antiquity, attempting to analyze these issues without the familiar frames of modern psychology and modern biomedicine. How were such issues conceptualized in antiquity? Without the categories of “psychoactive” or “psychotropic” substances, what counts as a problematic substance dependency? The Lotus-eaters of the Odyssey (Od. 9.82–104) stand as an early warning against pharmacologically induced bliss. Yet, ancient physicians frequently prescribed drugs that are high-risk for habit-formation, most notably opium and alcohol. Marcus Aurelius reportedly consumed the opium-containing drug theriac every day, and this “habit” [ethos] both created a potential addiction and allowed him to endure the hardships of military campaign (Gal. De antidotis 14.4K; cf. Diod. Sic. 71.6.3–4). Mithridates, in order to keep himself immune to poison, consumed toxic substances every day so that, as Pliny says, “he might render them harmless through habit itself [consuetudine ipse]” (Pl. NH 24.3.6; cf. Gal. De antidotis 14.4K). What does it mean when medical treatments produce dependencies or create harms? What are the dangers presented by long-term therapeutic interventions? How can we think about these issues using disability and chronic illness as frames, where the boundary between addictions and life-improving treatments is even less clear? Moreover, regimen-based medical approaches enforce near-constant attention to health in a way that itself flirts with the pathological. Eating-for-health can easily slide into a compulsive eating disorder. How do philosophical and medical notions of habit, dependency and immoderation interact? Is “moderation” the only morally-tinged principle guiding medical consumption patterns? Beyond philosophy, are there literary or mythic reflections on the dangers or benefits of pharmacological or medical dependencies? How do intraregional and intracultural drug trades shape attitudes toward particular substances? How do religious rituals involving pharmacological and therapeutic substances structure their use more broadly, either mitigating or promoting dependency? How did the prevalence of wine in Greek medicine affect its reception within Islamic tradition? Proposed papers are welcome to address these issues or any other related topics, including, but not limited to questions of chronic illness, pain, mortality, harm-reduction, risk-assessment, mental illness, gender, economics, and trade, whether in Greek, Roman, or other pre-modern contexts. Please send abstracts that follow the guidelines for individual abstracts (see the SCS Guidelines for Authors of Abstracts) by email to Colin Webster (UC Davis) at by March, 11, 2022. Ensure that the abstracts are anonymous. The organizers will review all submissions anonymously, and their decision will be communicated to the authors of abstracts by March 28, 2022.

Society for Classical Studies 2022 Annual Meeting

Jan. 5–8, 2022

Call for Papers for Panel Sponsored by the Society for Ancient Medicine and Pharmacology

Infection, Pandemic and the Borders of Medicine

Organized by Colin Webster, UC Davis

Viral infections are so wedded to our modern disease ontologies that most histories of ancient medicine start by marking their absence. In fact, plagues and pandemics sit uncomfortably within the history of Greek and Latin medicine. As Vivian Nutton states, there was “little or no connection between the practitioners of ancient medicine and public health” (2000: 70–71). Yet, as Parker (1983), Nutton (1983) and Leven (1993) discuss, ancient authors—medical and otherwise—did promote various theories to account for widespread illnesses, whether attributing them to miasma, environmental effects, noxious airs or simple transmission by contact. Greek responses to plagues included purifications, paeans, temple dedications and ritual sacrifice. Roman sources, too, describe historical pandemic-averting measures, whether scapegoating, religious propitiation, or the importation of foreign rites. Multiple ancient authors cast pandemics as external infiltrations, attacks on the homeland from without. Yet such foreign pathogens quickly become endemic, as diseases get woven into the fabric of local life, social systems and physical architecture (cf. Sallares 2002). Plagues reveal the connections between European, Asian and African populations and highlight the shared world of antiquity. They also show how local communities face and conceptualize these diseases in unique ways.

This panel seeks to open up the discussion of plagues and pandemics relative to the faults lines that have opened in light of our current crisis. The plagues of antiquity have been characterized as “great levelers” (Scheidel 2017) and empire enders (Harper 2017), as well as windows into the shared community of human vulnerability. Yet our own pandemic has highlighted how unequal the distribution of such vulnerability can be and who makes money from public medical crises. Livy catalogues the various social and economic vectors along which plagues travelled in antiquity. Does recent work on bioarcheology and genetic analysis (Grmek 1991; Salares 2006; McCormick 2006; Morelli, Song, and Mazzoni et al. 2010; Gourevitch 2011) or cross-cultural comparative analysis (Little, ed. 2012) help us further understand how pandemics affected (and assembled) different social and ethnic groups? Plagues are public health crises that move through political, religious, economic and social geographies. In so doing, they dismantle any notions of medicine as a field in isolation and instead disclose the connectedness of bodies, cultures and spaces. Michelakis (2019) and Gardner (2019) have recently examined the compression between narratives of disease and social unrest in Greek and Latin literature respectively. Raza Kolb (2021) has traced the modern (post-)colonial compression of terrorism and disease. What other phenomena in antiquity get expressed in terms of plagues? Do ideas get described this way? Ideologies? Religions? Piracy? Can these disease-like phenomena be treated by (quasi-)medical means? What can the relative absence of medical responses to plagues say about the recognized limits of physicians and other healers? Can the chaotic transmission of (mis)information through current media channels help us rethink the implied rationality of the “medical marketplace” model? How do physicians treat the trauma pandemics leave behind? What forms of therapy supplemented or dovetailed with medicine? Proposed papers are welcome to address these issues or any other topics related to plagues and pandemics, including, but not limited to, questions of race, ethnicity, slavery, disability, gender and migration.

Please send abstracts of 500 words maximum (excluding bibliography) by email to Colin Webster at by March 1, 2021. Ensure that the abstracts are anonymous and follow all guidelines for individual abstracts (see the SCS Guidelines for Authors of Abstracts). The organizers will review all submissions anonymously, and their decision will be communicated by March 15, 2021.

Select Bibliography

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Bradley, Mark. (2012). Rome, Pollution and Propriety: Dirt, Disease and Hygiene in the Eternal City from Antiquity to Modernity. Cambridge University Press.

Duncan-Jones, Richard P. (1996). “The Impact of the Antonine Plague.” Journal of Roman Archaeology 9: 108–136.

Flemming, Rebecca. (2010). “Pliny and the pathologies of empire.” Papers of the Langford Latin Seminar 14: 1-24.

_____ (2018).Galen and the plague.” In C. Petit (ed.), Galen's Treatise Περὶ Ἀλυπίας (De indolentia) in Context (Leiden: Brill), pp. 219-244.

Gourevitch, Danielle. (2011). Pour une archéologie de la médecine romaine. Paris. Editions de Boccard.

_____ (2013). Limos Kai Loimos: A Study of the Galenic Plague: 10 (Collection Pathographie). Paris. Editions de Boccard.

Gardner, Hunter. (2019). Pestilence and the Body Politic in Latin Literature. New York: Oxford University Press.

Grmek, Mirko D. (1991) Diseases in the Ancient Greek World. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Harper, Kyle. (2017). The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Leven, Karl-Heinz. (1993). “Miasma und Metadosis—antike Vorstellungen von Ansteckung.” Medizin, Gesellschaft und Geschichte 11: 44-73.

Little, Lester. (Ed.). (2006). Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541–750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Littman, Robert J., and Maxwell L. Littman. (1973). “Galen and the Antonine Plague.” The American Journal of Philology 94.3: 243-255.

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McCormick, Michael. (2003). “Rats, Communications, and Plague: Toward an Ecological History,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 34: 1-25.

_____ (2006). Toward a Molecular History of the Justinianic Pandemic. In L. Little (Ed.), Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541–750 (pp. 290-312). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Michelakis, P. (2019). Naming the Plague in Homer, Sophocles, and Thucydides. American Journal of Philology 140(3), 381-414.

Mikalson, J. D. (1984). “Religion and the Plague in Athens, 431-423 BC.” Studies Presented to Sterling Dow 1: 217.

Morelli, G., Song, Y., Mazzoni, C. et al. (2010). “Yersinia pestis genome sequencing identifies patterns of global phylogenetic diversity.” Nature Genetics 42: 1140–1143.

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Nutton, Vivian. (1983) “The seeds of disease: an explanation of contagion and infection from the Greeks to the Renaissance.” Medical History 27.01: 1-34.

_____ (2000). “Medical Thoughts on Urban Pollution.” In Valerie M. Hope and Eireann Marshall, eds., Death and Disease in the Ancient City. Routledge, pp. 65-73.

Parker, Robert. (1983). Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Raza Kolb, Anjuli Fatima. (2021) Epidemic Empire: Colonialism, Contagion, and Terror, 1817–2020. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

Sallares, Robert. Malaria and Rome: A History of Malaria in Ancient Italy: A History of Malaria in Ancient Italy. Oxford University Press, 2002.

Sallares, Robert. (2006). “Ecology, Evolution, and Epidemiology of Plague.” In L. Little (Ed.), Plague and the End of Antiquity: The Pandemic of 541–750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 231-289.

Scheidel, Walter. (2003). “Germs for Rome.” In C. Edwards and G. Woolf (eds.), Rome the Cosmopolis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 158-176.

_____ (2018). The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Scobie, Alex. (1986). “Slums, Sanitation, and Mortality in the Roman World,” Klio 68.2: 399- 433.

Stathakopoulos, Dionysios. (2004). Famine and pestilence in the late Roman and early Byzantine Empire: A Systematic Survey of Subsistence Crises and Epidemics. Aldershot.