Stories tagged philosophy

Byzantine Medicine, Health and Healing at Istanbul’s Pera Museum

Life is Short, Art Long: The Art of Healing in Byzantium, at the Pera Museum (Pera Müzesi) in Istanbul Turkey, offers visitors a glimpse of Byzantine culture and society through the three traditional methods of healing practiced side-by-side: faith, magic, and medicine. Health has always been a chief concern of humanity, and this landmark show examines Byzantine civilization from the perspective of its approach to the body, in sickness and in health.

In this exclusive English language interview, James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) speaks to Dr. Brigitte Pitarakis, curator of the exhibition, about the ways in which Byzantines understood medicine, health, and healing from ancient Roman times until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE.

JW: Dr. Brigitte Pitarakis, it is an immense pleasure to speak to you on behalf of Ancient History Encyclopedia! This interview marks the first time that we have worked with a curator associated with a cultural institution in Turkey. Merhaba!

Entrance to "Life is Short, Art is long" at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. (Courtesy: Pera Museum/Pera Müzesi.)

Entrance to “Art is long, Life is Short” at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. (Courtesy: Pera Museum/Pera Müzesi.)

The topic of health in the Byzantine Empire is a unique prism through which one can analyze Byzantine history, culture, and identity. Why did the Pera Museum choose to explore this subject? Additionally, I am curious to know if medicine in the ancient and medieval world is an interest of your own.

BP: Despite the tremendous progress of scientific research, we are surrounded by a growing number of people affected by emotional and physical pain. There is also growing interest in various forms of body care (spas and massages), natural foods, and therapy. These are two closely related aspects of a universal phenomenon that seems to have parallels in earlier societies. Byzantium is an interesting example because of its place at the intersection between antiquity and the Renaissance, as well as between East and West. The multifaceted behavior of the Byzantines toward illness and wellness lies at the root of our own behavior today.

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Yoga in Indian Visual Art and Culture

Five_faced Shiva_2014.2.011(1)Yoga is practiced daily by millions worldwide, but few are cognizant of its origins and relative importance to Indian culture and identity. Although its history is long and complex, yoga reflects the rich philosophical and cultural currents that traversed the Indian subcontinent over thousands of years.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Mr. Jeff Durham, Assistant Curator of Himalayan Art at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, about Yoga: The Art of Transformation and Enter the Mandala: Cosmic Centers and Mental Maps of Himalayan Buddhism, which are currently on view at the Asian Art Museum.

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Sublime Sicily: A Hellenic Gem in Antiquity

gm_330941EX1Sicily evokes the fiery majesty Mt. Etna, the wine-dark hues of the surrounding sea, and the delicious flavors of arancini and limoncello. Situated at a pivotal intersection between Greece, Italy, and North Africa, Sicily is not only the largest island in the Mediterranean, but the site of over 5,000 years of human history. Few are aware, however, that Sicily experienced a spectacular golden age from the fifth century to the third century BCE, while under the rule of ancient Greek émigrés. Enriched by its immense agricultural bounty, the sociocultural milieu of Hellenic and Hellenistic Sicily was diverse and innovative, rivaling the sophistication and refinement of the “mother country” during its classical apex.

Sicily: Art and Invention between Greece and Rome — an exhibition at the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, California — presents the grandeur and glory of ancient Sicily or “Sikelia” in all its complexity, beauty, and ingenuity. In this exclusive interview with the Ancient History Encyclopedia, James Blake Wiener speaks to Dr. Alexandra Sofroniew, co-curator of the exhibition, about Sicily’s special role in Mediterranean antiquity.

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Campaigning Across the Ages: An Interview with Professor Philip Freeman

How to Win an Election: An Ancient Guide for Modern Politicians is the latest publication by Professor Philip Freeman, the Orlando W. Qualley Chair of Classical Languages at Luther College, in Decorah, Iowa. In 64 BCE, Marcus Cicero (106-43 BCE) ran for consul and faced the challenge of a lifetime: winning the highest office in the Republic. Fortunately, his younger brother, Quintus Cicero (102 – 43 BCE), was able to impart advice on managing a successful political campaign: The Commentariolum Petitionis. Although the Cicero brothers lived an age in which politics was localized and intensely personal, Quintus’ short maxims to his brother delineate many political truths still valid in modern times. Accessible and entertaining, Freeman translates an “unashamedly pragmatic primer.”
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