Legal Evidence for Roman PTSD?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Much writing on the possibility of PTSD in the Roman army has involved simple assertion that such mental trauma was present in antiquity or has used texts anachronistically or uncritically in an attempt to provide evidence of its existence. Examples include the failure to recognise that many accounts of battle in antiquity were written long after the events in question and are highly coloured by the rhetorical conventions of the day. The dangers of using poetry to capture the reality of battle are even greater. In contrast, this chapter focusses on a series of legal texts from the Digest of Roman Law dating to the third century AD. The ‘dry’ and utilitarian nature of this material means that it is devoid of many of the problems which beset other evidence often used to argue for the presence of PTSD. However, it will be shown that while the legislation it records could be used to argue for the presence of PTSD in the Imperial Roman Army, it is by no means unambiguous in its interpretation and that the legislation can be explained in other, more plausible ways.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCombat Stress in Pre-Modern Europe
EditorsOwen Rees, Kathryn Hurlock, Jason Crowley
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783031099472
ISBN (Print)9783031099465
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022

Publication series

NameMental Health in Historical Perspective
PublisherPalgrave MacMillan


  • Roman law
  • PTSD
  • Roman army
  • Imperial Rome
  • combat trauma


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