The word psychopath only dates back to the 19th Century.

It is difficult to imagine, given the Romans' sophistication level in all kinds of matters, that they could not differentiate among various forms of mental disorder.

Surely they knew there was a difference between, say, a wealthy man's penchant for stealing trinkets from his friends' wives just for kicks and Caligula's antics.

Did they have a word for psychopath?

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    It's tempting to answer General or Emperor. :-) – Denis de Bernardy Oct 19 '17 at 9:03
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    The assumptions built into "It is difficult to imagine, given the Romans' sophistication...." undermine this question. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 19 '17 at 13:53
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    Perhaps it's difficult to imagine, but I think that's more of a failure of imagination than anything. The idea of "mental disorder" and its classification seems to be a construct of modern western culture. The Romans might well have viewed things differently. – jamesqf Oct 19 '17 at 18:10
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    A possible starting point for this inquiry: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_temperaments – Felix Goldberg Oct 19 '17 at 21:18
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    Maybe Caligula? – MAGolding Dec 3 '17 at 21:39

While Romans seem quite advanced to us in many fields, especially compared to the Middle Ages, thy still were a culture of antiquity. Ancient cultures, particularly Greece and Rome, viewed mental ilnesses either as a symptom of a physical illness (medical approach, inherited from Greek philosophers), or as a punishment from the gods (traditional approach, which prevailed with coming of christianity). If the patient was treated by an adherent of medical approach, he would be treated as physically ill - which meant bloodletting, emetics and purging, just as any other illness would be treated. In religious approach, no action would be required - the patient would be cured when gods forgave him. As no approach saw mentally ill as something different from norm, neither approach required any special words to be devised to designate mentally ill.

Note that progress does not imply a uniform advancement - while Romans were ahead of their time in areas like architecture and military science, they still were quite level with their neighbors in other fields, like medicine and seafaring, and for the whole existence of Roman Empire, not much changed in medical treatment since the time of Hippocrates.


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