Saturday, November 19, 2005

Melancholia in Homer

Jean Starobinski in his History of the Treatment of Melancholia, which was originally published in 1960 notes that,"melancholia, like so many painful states tied to the human condition, have been experienced and described before having received its name and medical explanation." As an example he cites the Iliad (ch. vi) where Belerophon submits inexplicably to the anger of the gods: "but when Bellerophon came to be hated by all the gods, he wandered all desolate and dismayed upon the Alean plain, gnawing at his own heart, and shunning the path of man." According to Starobinski Belerophon's desolate wandering is a senseless disaster because he is a courageous and just hero, who has done nothing to anger the gods.

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