By Clark Lawlor

Melancholy is an adventure identified to hundreds of thousands. yet arguments rage on elements of its definition and its influence on societies current and earlier: do medicines paintings, or are they purely placebos? Is the melancholy we've at the present time only a build of the pharmaceutical undefined? Is melancholy less than- or over-diagnosed? should still we be buying pricey 'talking therapy' remedies like psychoanalysis or Cognitive Behavioural treatment? the following, Clark Lawlor argues that realizing the heritage of melancholy is critical to knowing its current conflicted prestige and definition. whereas it truly is real that our glossy knowing of the note 'depression' was once shaped within the overdue 19th and early 20th centuries, the situation used to be initially referred to as melancholia, and characterized by way of center indicators of power causeless disappointment and worry. starting within the Classical interval, and relocating directly to the current, Lawlor exhibits either continuities and discontinuities within the realizing of what we now name melancholy, and within the manner it's been represented in literature and paintings. diverse cultures outlined and developed depression and melancholy in methods occasionally so diverse as to be virtually unrecognisable. Even the current remains to be a dynamic background, within the feel that the 'new' type of melancholy, outlined within the Eighties and taken care of by means of medications like Prozac, is less than assault by way of many theories that reject the biomedical version and insist a extra humanistic suggestion of melancholy - one who possibly returns us to a sort of depression.

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He is not to be equated with the modern conception of manic depression. Nevertheless, the influence of Problemata 30 has reverberated throughout Western culture. 131–201). Galen we have examined already in relation to his refinement of humoral theory, while the others lent their own inflections to the broad classical discourses on melancholy as the product of black bile. 13 Some of these treatments seem modern, a variation of ‘positive thinking’ and distraction strategies. We should also note the recurrence of the idea that depression is excessive sadness, ‘without cause’, although one doubts that being ‘gently reproved’ for it would make much difference.

Orestes, as depicted on a fourth-century bc red-figure Apulian vase (now in the Louvre), is undergoing a rite of religious purification in order to rid him of the murder of his mother, Clytaemnestra, who had been party to the murder of his father, Agamemnon (see Fig. 3 Orestes’s depression is manifested in his posture, the downcast eyes and drooping 24 ‘poor w r etch’ body, drained of all energy. This depression masks his inner turmoil, and it is true that in our own time depression is often interpreted as hiding psychic conflict (not that the concept of the Freudian unconscious was available to the Ancients even if Freud did cull his most famous ‘complex’—that of Oedipus— from Greek drama).

Women, in the Galenic model, suffered in the same way as men for the most part: humours were common to both sexes after all. The womb was a complicating factor, as it could lead to humoral imbalance and the burning of black bile if women were not sexually satiated and the menstrual blood 48 genius and despair duly evacuated. Earlier in the period, women were thought to be especially lustful and in need of male semen to restore the correct balance of heat and moisture. In representation at least, the broader patriarchal stereotypes of women as disruptive and passionate (as opposed to rational men) dovetailed with the Galenic conception of the dangers of the female reproductive system to bring disorder and melancholy.

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