Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities - Alexander von Humboldt Professorship

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Faculty of Language, Literature and Humanities | Department of Classics | Alexander von Humboldt Professorship | Events | Archiv | Workshop “Synchronizing the Body in Ancient Medicine and Philosophy” - Einsteincenter Chronoi

Workshop “Synchronizing the Body in Ancient Medicine and Philosophy” - Einsteincenter Chronoi

Organized by Philip van der Eijk, Annette Heinrich, Giouli Korobili and Kassandra Miller

June 13, 2024 – June 14, 2024

Link to the Webpage of Chronoi

Program as PDF



This workshop aims at exploring ancient medical and philosophical ideas about synchronicity of the body with the environment and with the circumstances affecting its health and well-being. At the same time, it investigates synchronizing as the attempt to bring about, manage, influence and manipulate that synchronicity. In this connection, we are particularly interested in deciphering ancient views on the body under three aspects: 1) the healthy body, 2) the gendered body and 3) the sick body.

1) The healthy body

In ancient medicine and natural philosophy, living bodies and their functioning were often believed to be subject to specific time cycles, intervals and rhythms, which were related to similar time patterns in the external world surrounding them. There were some thinkers who developed a number of cosmological and biological accounts in which the macrocosmos of the universe and the microcosmos of human and animal bodies were presented as interacting with each other. In these it is sometimes argued that health and well-being are constituted and enhanced by synchronicity between the body and the universe, while at other times attempts are made to spell out possible causal mechanisms underlying this synchronous relationship.

2) The gendered body

In ancient medical and philosophical views about synchronicity between the body’s time cycles and those of its surroundings, special attention was paid to differences between male and female bodies, with extensive discussion of the internal and external factors affecting the temporal aspects of menstruation, conception, pregnancy and menopause. While some of the ideas in our extant texts were based on observations of gender-specific physical and physiological features, others had less clearly empirical justification and seem to reflect broader cultural attitudes and values embedded within society.

3) The sick body

Like health, disease was believed to display natural patterns, rhythms and time cycles, whose analysis and understanding were the subject of intense medical and philosophical engagement and debate. In the so-called Hippocratic writings from the fifth century BCE on we can see elaborate, meticulous therapeutic regimes being spelled out in which time factors, timing and time‑keeping are explicitly considered in relation to the course of the disease during the treatment.



Please note that the workshop takes place at two different venues



Einstein Center Chronoi: Otto-von-Simson-Straße 7, 14195 Berlin

14.45-15.00  Eva Cancik Kirschbaum / Philip van der Eijk: Welcome and Workshop Opening
  Chair: Philip van der Eijk
15.00-15.45  James Ker (University of Pennsylvania): Synchronizing Diachronies in Seneca’s Consolatio ad Marciam
15.45-16.30 Annette Heinrich (Chronoi, HU Berlin): Hippocrates, De internis affectionibus - temporal characterization and modification of therapy for acute versus chronic diseases?
16.30-17.00  Coffee break
17.00-17.45  Kassandra Miller (Chronoi, Colby College): Untimely Women: Clock Time and Gender Stereotypes in the Roman Empire. (online)


Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, room Unter den Linden 6, 2249a

  Chair: Annette Heinrich
9.15-10.00  Elizaveta Shcherbakova (HU Berlin): The Sōma as a Calendar: Cyclical Changes in the Human Body in the 'Hippocratic' On Regimen and Nature of the Human Being
10.00-10.45 Giouli Korobili (Chronoi, HU Berlin): Turbulence and Indeterminacy at the time of Orion: Ps.-Aristotle Problemata 26.13 and the concept of Synchronicity
10.45-11.15   Coffee break
  Chair: Giouli Korobili
11.15-12.00  Dorian Greenbaum (University of Wales Trinity St David): Timing is Everything: The Uses of Astrology in Ancient Medical Practice
12.00-12.45  Peter Singer (Birkbeck, University of London), The temporal limits of health: age- and season-related variations to the healthy body. (online)
12.45-13.15  Discussion and Closing Remarks