Galen Roadshow. Talks to extend Galen in Rome/Galen in Crediton for GCSE students in History to big presentation in Exeter (organised by QE teachers) and to Cornwall (organised by Callington College). Talks to extend beyond 15-year olds to over 60s. Plans with Exeter branch of U3A for March 2014.

Galen in Hounslow: Kevin Sarwar-Polley of Independent Activities Project came to Exeter in May 2014 for consultation, and plans to roll out Galen Diet to public health and NHS venues in Hounslow.

In Cambridge, Andrew Brown plans a Galen Diet for October, within the Cambridge and Age initiative. John Wilkins will give a presentation on Galen and his challenge to Epicurus, who is at the philosophical heart of Andrew’s project. David Leith will also contribute to Andrew’s project.

Galen thus now combines with Epicureans as well as Stoics within our project.

Collaboration with the Exeter Medical School has also strengthened. Our medical collaborators believe Galen can offer much to health and wellbeing within the NHS provision. We have joint papers on the possible contribution Galen might make to preventive medicine. Professor Paul Dieppe, a rheumatologist is our principal collaborator in the Medical School. Drs Debbie Marsden, a medical chemist, and Linda Long, an assessor for NICE and complementary health practitioner, are key members of Paul’s team who have worked with us.

In April 2015, a conference on Aristotle, Galen and Health is being organised by David Leith, Dr Gabriele Galuzzo (another really nice addition to the Department, specialising in Aristotle and ancient philosophy) and Paul Dieppe.

Current Projects Update

Our team has been strengthened  by the appointment of Dr David Leith to the Classics Department. He is a Medical Historian with particular strengths in papyrology; the Hellenistic doctors Erasistratus and Herophilus, who provided Galen with much of his understanding of muscles and nerves; and Asclepiades of Bithynia, with whose particulate model of the body Galen profoundly disagreed (a model close to that of Epicurus’ atomic theory: see below).

Success of Westbank with Sarah Bird.  Approved by Head of National Lottery. Sarah is now working in Devon Public Health, but was reunited recently in meeting at Westbank with Kevin Sarwar-Polley from the Independent Activities Project.

Ancient Healthcare and Modern Wellbeing

This video presents recent work by academics in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Exeter, drawing on the insights of ancient Greek healthcare for addressing modern problems. A central theme in this work is Galen’s idea that health consists of a ‘balance’ between six factors in our lives – food and drink, exercise and rest, sleep, our internal and external environment, and our state of mind. Healthcare, in other words, requires a ‘holistic’ approach to the management of our lives, and not just a piecemeal or formulaic approach. Another important insight is that health is an individual matter, depending on age, physique and so on; it is not a matter of ‘one size fits all’. Also, we can all work on our healthcare – and doing so is a necessary basis for living a full, active and busy life.

Professor John Wilkins, working in collaboration with his colleague Professor Christopher Gill and graduate student Patrick Ussher, has been exploring the usefulness of these insights with a variety of groups in the Exeter area; these include school children in Crediton Academy, and volunteer and patients groups in the West Bank Health Centre, Exminster. In a recent development, the usefulness of Galenic healthcare principles is to be trialled in a large-scale questionnaire to the University of Exeter community. This will be followed up in Autumn 2013 by an intervention with a patients group, based on the findings of the questionnaire. Those involved in this project include Exeter Medical School Professor of Healthcare and Wellbeing, Paul Dieppe and Professor Willem Kuyken, Professor of Psychology in theUniversityofExeter Mood Disorders Centre. This represents an exciting extension of the project of applying ancient Greek and Roman ideas for modern healthcare.

Conference – On the Psyche: Studies in Literature, Health and Psychology

4th – 7th July 2013
University of Exeter

Registration is now open for On the psyche: Studies in literature, psychology and health. This international conference will celebrate the work of Professor Christopher Gill and build on his studies of the psyche and the self in the ancient world.

The conference presents papers on the development of the psyche from Homer to tragedy and Plato, on the underworld, on medical and philosophical debates on psychology; on modern medical understanding of ancient wellbeing; on happiness, hope and truth, and freedom, and on Neoplatonic approaches to the self and the human relationship with the divine.

For more information, visit the Centre for Medical History website.

What can we learn from the Ancient Greeks today?

Wednesday 27 February 2013 –Great Hall, Hellenic Centre, London

University of Exeter scholars illuminated the background of the current financial crisis and the contemporary usefulness of ancient Greek healthcare methods. The event featured two short lectures followed by discussion by scholars from the University of Exeter, bringing out key insights from ancient Greece for modern society.

Organised by the University of Exeter and the Hellenic Centre, the event formed part of the Initiative on the Impact of Greek Culture in the ancient and modern world, which is sponsored by the A. G. Leventis Foundation.


Professor Richard Seaford

Professor Richard Seaford: ‘Money: from its invention by the Greeks to the crisis of today’

The first society in history to be monetised was the ancient Greek polis. And so the Greeks – unlike us – did not take money for granted, and so could sometimes see the nature of money more clearly than we can. Though aware of it convenience, they were also shocked by its impact. They noted its tendency to replace all other values, and its unlimitedness: one can have enough of just about everything, but not of money, and this insatiability is, they believed, both unnatural and potentially destructive of society. Something like the ancient Greek culture of limit is precisely what we need if we are to avert economic crises and environmental catastrophe.

Professor Chris Gill

Professor Christopher Gill: ‘Healthcare and wellbeing: can the ancient Greeks help us?’

World-wide concern about the massive rise in obesity and depression, among other conditions, is leading people to look again at preventive medicine and the role of a healthy life-style. The ancient Greeks had highly developed ideas on this subject, including Galen’s ‘six-factor’ method for maintaining a healthy and balanced life. Classics scholars at Exeter have been exploring the usefulness of the Greek (especially Galenic) method under modern conditions, and are working with medical experts and community health groups to see what contribution the ancient approach can make to modern problems. This presentation sets out current work in this area and its larger implications.

Download Professor Gill’s Paper (93KB)

Download Professor Chris Gill’s Slides (PDF 14.1MB)

Introductory Video

A short trailer detailing the work of Professor Chris Gill and professor John Wilkins at the University of Exeter. They draw on insights from ancient Greek and Roman healthcare to promote health and wellbeing in the modern world. The full length video will be released soon!

Event: Can the Ancient Greeks and Romans Help Us?

Chris Gill and John Wilkins held a session on ‘Healthcare and Wellbeing – Can the Ancient Greeks and Romans Help Us?’ on Tuesday Dec 11, 2012, 19:00-21:00.

This forms part of the ‘Town Meets Gown’ series at the Global Centre, 17 St David’s Hill, Exeter, EX4 3RG. 

Stoic philosophical therapy and its modern uses workshop


A workshop on ‘Stoic philosophical therapy and its modern uses’ was held at the University of Exeter on Oct 5-6 2012.

The aim was to bring together scholars and practitioners to develop ways to draw on insights from Stoic philosophy to enhance modern practice and concerns. The participants included psychotherapists Gill Garratt, Alexandra Hart, Tim LeBon, Donald Robertson, Jenny Wilks, writer on practical philosophy Jules Evans, Exeter scholars in Classics and Ancient History, Philosophy and Theology including Chris Gill, Patrick Ussher and John Wilkins, and John Sellars (Stoicism expert from Birkbeck College London).

There were some very stimulating exchanges and presentations and a very positive atmosphere, with many ideas for taking this forward the dialogue between Stoicism and the modern age. A dedicated blog has been set up to help this process, which contains a full report on the workshop and a video record of the event. Visit the Stoic blog here.

Galenic Times!

  • Read the final report on the Galen experiment (PDF 0.97MB), complete with graphs, analysis and discussion of those who lived the Galenic life for two weeks!

For more information, visit the Galen Project website.