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The ERC-granted Project

GEOANATOMY - The Body as a Model in Greco-Roman Conceptions of the Earth and the Environment

One of the most ancient, still puzzling, philosophical questions concerns how one should explain the structure of the surrounding world while being herself part of it. Believing that all bodies are part of the cosmos in the sense that they are governed by the same causal principles, ancient scientists communicated their observations by using analogy. Evidence of the various forms of communicative analogical scientific exposition is traditionally taken to reveal that medicine and natural science, though sharing a common interest in accounting for natural phenomena, manifest a keen eagerness to delimit their boundaries. There is, however, a largely underexplored type of analogical reasoning in which these disciplines are seen to create a trans-boundary scientific mixture, enabling us to speak of cross-disciplinary influence and assimilation.


This project aims to determine the impact of ancient Greek and Roman medicine on the causal explanations of meteorological and geological phenomena offered by Aristotle (4th c. BCE), Lucretius (1st c. BCE) and Seneca (1st c. CE) by investigating the course of reasoning within which such explanations are embedded (‘the medical argument’). An analysis of this single, unified cross-disciplinary argumentative system will ultimately lead to a redefinition of our present historical knowledge about the beginnings of modern environmental conscience and consciousness.


As its strategic intent, GEOANATOMY encompasses the following set of specific goals:

(a) To reassess the relationship between ancient medicine and natural philosophy, two disciplines which are traditionally thought to have had clearly demarcated boundaries;

(b) To bring to light for the first time and clearly identify the ‘fruit’ of this cross-boundary scientific collaborative amalgam; and

(c) To advance awareness in both the academic world and the wider public of issues concerning proto-ecology and care for the environment.

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Image by J. Stefou

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