Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Greek mythology

  • Ancient “achoo”: The photic sneeze response in Greek mythology

    Saty Satya-MurtiSanta Maria, California, United States Sneezing, or “sternutation,” has deep roots in mythology and culture. Often associated with life and health but also with death, various cultures have considered sneezing a good or bad omen. Blessing the sneezer with a long life after they sneeze has long been a familiar, worldwide practice. Depending on…

  • The wounds of Christ and Prometheus – two of a kind?

    Julia van RosmalenThomas van GulikAmsterdam, Netherlands The myth of Prometheus has been a source of inspiration for many visual artists over the centuries. Prometheus, a Titan, was punished by the supreme god Zeus for giving to mankind the Olympic fire, with which they learned to think and feel. He was chained to a cliff in…

  • The snake, the staff, and the healer

    Simon WeinPetach Tikvah, Israel Introduction In some ancient cultures, especially around the Near East, the snake was involved in healing. Today this seems counterintuitive. There are as many as 130,000 deaths from snake bites worldwide each year and three times that number of amputations and severe disabilities. Ophidiophobia is one of the more common phobias,…

  • Omphalos

    Margaret NowaczykHamilton, Ontario, Canada Once, I linked you to the woman who gave birth to you: for forty weeks, a twisted pearly cord, pulsing with two syncopated heartbeats, bound you two together. It fed you and gave you oxygen. It attached you to life. In Greek mythology, the omphalos is the center of the universe,…

  • Ancient Greek plague and coronavirus

    Patrick BellBelfast, Northern Ireland Introduction Homer’s Iliad, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King, and Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War have been termed “the three earliest, and arguably most influential, representations of the plague in Western narrative.”1 This essay uses these historical sources to examine attitudes toward plague in ancient Greece and parallels in the modern response…

  • The trouble with the belly button

    Tonse N. K. RajuGaithersburg, Maryland, United States It is a simple dimple in the mid-abdomen. Yet for medieval artists, it caused mighty headaches while painting portraits of Adam and Eve. Painting the dimple as a natural anatomic feature could be construed as sacrilegious, implying that Adam and Eve were connected by umbilical cords to their…

  • Medicine in Greek mythology

    JMS PearceHull, England, UK Some of the earliest ideas about health and disease lie in Greek mythology. The Greeks of prehistory told, retold, and often remoulded their tales of immortal gods and goddesses that were imaginative, symbolic creations. Stories of the gods probably started with Minoan and Mycenaean writers of the eighteenth century BC. These…

  • “…One must imagine Sisyphus happy”

    Katerina DimaPreveza, Greece   “Sysphus, carrying the weight of his agony, forever.” Sisyphus, 1548, TitanMuseo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. Ancient Greek mythology teems with stories of morality, despair, and the philosophy of the absurd. No story, however, had a greater impact on this young, impressionable medical student than the story of Sisyphus. Sisyphus was a…