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

CV and Project description


Krystal Marlier was born in Western Canada. She graduated with a BSc in Psychology and a BA in Classics from the University of Calgary in 2017. Following this, she worked as a clinical research assistant for the Calgary Cumming School of Medicine in psychosocial and neurodevelopmental research. Despite this illuminating work, she sought to continue her research in the narratives and history of mental health and illness in ancient medicine. Returning to her alma mater, she obtained an MA in Classics (2020) with a dissertation entitled “Melancholia and Mania: The Historical Contributions of Aretaeus of Cappadocia and Emil Kraepelin.” She began working as a doctoral student and researcher at the Christian-Albrecht-University of Kiel in late 2021, under the direction of Chiara Thumiger. The research project, with Chiara as PI, is entitled “Mental Health in Late Antique Medicine: Caelius Aurelianus on Mental Disorders.


The Project

“Mental Health in Late Antique Medicine: Caelius Aurelianus on Mental Disorders” is a project concerned with Caelius Aurelianus, a fourth/fifth century(?) medical author in the tradition of the Methodist school of medicine. His monumental nosological work, On Acute Diseases and On Chronic Diseases is, to an important extent, a Latinisation of a lost Greek treatise written by Soranus of Ephesus (first/second century). Thus far, the scholarly discourse has primarily focused on whether Caelius is simply a translator or an adapter of Soranus. However, several recent scholars (and more frequently Latinists) propose that he was an original thinker. Caelius’ late antiquity work displays his great knowledge of medical tradition up to the time of Soranus and of his keen critical mind. The bilingual and intercultural nature of the text also makes it an invaluable contribution to the study of Graeco-Roman medicine. This project will redirect the focus onto Caelius’ development of medical ideas regarding mental health. We will thoroughly examine Caelius’ stance on the nature of mental and bodily health by highlighting his rich accounts of the nosology, causation, and therapeutics of diseases. The aim is to bring this author—who is largely overlooked outside the small circle historians of ancient medicine—into the spotlight, by providing a detailed analysis of his work and to contribute to filling in a gap that exists in studies of ancient medicine.


The Dissertation

I am preparing a dissertation which will examine Caelius Aurelianus through a psychological perspective. I will attempt to investigate how psychopathology and emotions are framed by Caelius.  His work On Acute Diseases and On Chronic Diseases contains a full and orderly discussion of mental illnesses and upon further inspection, it becomes evident that Caelius had an innovative approach to the understanding and treatment of diseases. How much did Caelius contribute to the semiology of psychopathological states? Which aspects (i.e., theoretically, ethically, therapeutically) were fundamental to his approach to mental illness? To what extent did his therapeutics reflect social and historical reality? What role did emotions have in the causation of mental illness, and did they lead to somatic or psychic diseases? Did emotions play a role in the different therapies described by Caelius? These are the research questions I intend to answer. I hope the dissertation will demonstrate how Caelius significantly contributes to the broader and developing field of ancient psychiatry. Furthermore, I hope it will initiate a dialogue between Caelius’ ancient medical perspectives and the current Western psychological perspectives on mental illness and health.  


Research Interests

Ancient medicine, history of psychiatry, history of psychology, history of nosology, history of emotions.