Rethinking Achilles and PTSD - No, no, no.

Rethinking Achilles and PTSD | rogueclassicism:

In his book chapter Beyond the Universal Soldier: Combat Trauma in Classical Antiquity, Dr Jason Crowley argues against the commonly-held idea that sufferers of PTSD can be found as far back in history as Achilles and Odysseus.
Having looked at Crowley's bio (here), he's obviously a very young academic, and so  whilst one should encourage new researchers ... as someone who's been diagnosed and treated for PTSD, and has a decent knowledge of history, I think he is talking out of his arse.

PTSD may be a 'new' label, but shell shock is pretty well documented during the first World War and there are plenty of descriptions of the symptoms from Antiquity that are clearly PTSD, so no, it wasn't 'invented' after Vietnam.

I've blogged about ancient PTSD here and here and briefly here ... but if you don't want to take my word for it, take that of Dr Jonathan Shay, who has decades of experience working with people suffering from PTSD and can speak from experience. The BMCR review of his Achilles in Vietnam is here; Achilles in Vietnam at Amazon UK and Achilles in Vietnam at Amazon US.

I can respect people having different views on most issues - for example who's buried at Amphipolis - but it takes a prize twat to dismiss a well attested and well studied illness that so many of our veterans suffer from. When everyone else is campaigning for better treatment for veterans, one has to wonder what kind of narcissist insists on pushing this kind of crappy pseudo-scientific nonsense - and why


  1. Hmmm - maybe you should check your facts before you write. Dr. Crowley isn't "very young" - he's had another career before academia and is a very experienced and intelligent man.
    However, that is probably expecting too much from someone who purports to be an academic and uses phrases like "talking out of his arse" and "prize twat"- not clever or funny, by the way - just vulgar.

  2. Dr. Crowley did not state that PTSD was invented after Vietnam, he stated that the idea of its universality was. I'm not sure if this was an oversight or a willful misreading on your part, but I suspect the latter. This is an incredibly childish and unprofessional attempt to discredit an academic who's work challenges your own, and I don't think its fooling anyone.

  3. The main thrust of Dr Crowley's argument is that the causes of PTSD are cultural. I would try to refute your argument, but you don't appear to have one.

  4. I am perfectly aware that using academic lingo sounds better, but I don't think it is worth wasting the time arguing against nonsense of this kind - any more than it is worth wasting time arguing against the pseudo-scientific papers against psychiatry that the Scientologists fund.

    I started volunteering on projects working with veterans working with PTSD five years ago, and before that I did a lot of group therapy with them, so I have a great deal of experience of how dangerous these sorts of theories are. It is hard enough convincing men who feel they should be tough to seek treatment without creating some illusion of PTSD being a modern social construct - which makes them feel worse and less likely to seek treatment. As it is too many of them self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, and end up on the streets before finally falling through the cracks and ending up with the groups I work with.

    So yes, I also object to the army and the NHS prescribing six sessions of CBT because they show some short-term 'results' which can theoretically be measured on paper - but that's why I pushed so hard for better treatment.

    I have plenty of friends who have had PTSD - some military, some journalists who worked in war zones - so maybe I was being too generous.

  5. 'I have a great deal of experience of how dangerous these sorts of theories are'...

    What sorts of theories are you referring to here, for it can't be Crowley's - he doesn't deny the existence of PTSD.

    Yet according to your original post, Crowley supposedly does deny the existence of an illness 'that so many of our veterans suffer from'. The key word here is 'our', our veterans do indeed suffer from it, but Crowley is suggesting (and he is not alone in this) that veterans of other times and cultures may not have suffered in exactly the same way.

    When modern studies examine the effects of psychological trauma amongst peoples of diverse cultures today we see the manifestation of very different (often overtly culture-specific) symptoms. If these people exhibit such differing reactions to trauma, why should ancient Greeks be the exception? Why should they exhibit the exact symptoms of modern western PTSD instead of their own culturally specific variant?

    Forgive me if I've missed something, but you might like to clarify your argument, for at the minute it looks rather like you've created a straw man to argue against, and verbally abused an academic whose prime motivation seems to be the furthering of our knowledge on psychological trauma.

    Finally, regarding the 'danger' to veterans that you obviously feel such theories hold, let's not forget that knee-jerk baseless accusations, and the attempted shutting down of further debate, can carry a danger all their own.

  6. Past veterans did suffer from it - it used to be named Shell Shock.

    Based on the press release that went out, PTSD is a modern construct, which implies it's a modern problem those pre Vietnam didn't suffer from.

    It carries on from earlier work that claimed PTSD was linked to explosives - it often is, but not always.

    You really must be a weak little thing if my refusing to give credence to this is "shutting down of further debate" - I'd say all the messages and emails mostly coming from one IP address are more of an attempt to shut down debate by bullying me into agreeing. If PRs just want people to post their press releases, good luck to them. I also 'got' the message that as a woman I should shut up, be 'nice' and not dare express my opinions but respectfully kowtow and waste my time sucking up to men.

    PS - for those who have been kind enough to write and let me know that they're going to fuck me until I see sense ... that's called rape, it's illegal and ... oh gosh, darn it, rape is generally accepted by most experts as often resulting in PTSD, but what do they know.

    I also spend time way back helping people do the trials for and then to convince people the HPV vaccine was a good thing - so I also don't worry about the wild claims made by the Michele Bachmanns of this world about it either.

  7. Sorry - I should be clear that the emails were not from the person who left the message I was replying to above.

    But I'm closing down the comments on this post for a simple reason: if people want to threaten to rape me, would they be kind to make the threat by email, as it's so much easier for the police. Thank you.