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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2003 May;107(5):323-30.

Searching for schizophrenia in ancient Greek and Roman literature: a systematic review.

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  • 1School of Nursing, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia.



The aim of this study was to systematically examine ancient Roman and Greek texts to identify descriptions of schizophrenia and related disorders.


Material from Greek and Roman literature dating from the 5th Century BC to the beginning of the 2nd Century AD was systematically reviewed for symptoms of mental illness. DSM IV criteria were applied in order to identify material related to schizophrenia and related disorders.


The general public had an awareness of psychotic disorders, because the symptoms were described in works of fiction and in historical accounts of malingering. There were isolated instances of text related to psychotic symptoms in the residents of ancient Rome and Greece, but no written material describing a condition that would meet modern diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia.


In contrast to many other psychiatric disorders that are represented in ancient Greek and Roman literature, there were no descriptions of individuals with schizophrenia in the material assessed in this review.

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