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The Open University

Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World

The Open University via FutureLearn


Understand Greek and Roman approaches to health and well-being

What did being healthy in ancient Rome or Greece look like? How can we tell what well-being meant in ancient times?

This online course will help you investigate these questions, using both literary and archaeological evidence, to uncover details of real life in ancient societies.

We will divide the body up into organs and systems, using each to explore ancient theories on the structure and function of the human body.

We will discover what ancient societies thought about topics that we still wrestle with today – from the relationship between mind and body, to sexuality, ageing and gender.

There are no special requirements for this course, but an interest in the ancient world or classics might be useful.


  • What is health? Using the evidence
    • Defining health
    • Hearing ancient voices
    • Keeping your finger on the pulse
  • Health and identity: the face and eyes
    • Vision in ancient times
    • Healing the eyes
    • Modifying the body
  • Eating and drinking
    • A regimen for everyone
    • Archaeological evidence for food and health
    • Food and drugs
  • Sanitation
    • Toilets and waste
    • Sewage
    • Doctors and excrement
  • Conception, generation and sexuality
    • Conception
    • Birth
    • After birth
  • The ideal body: disability and wounding
    • The ideal body and the real body
    • The disabled body
    • Recruiting and treating the soldier

Taught by

Helen King


4.5 rating, based on 4 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at FutureLearn based on 197 ratings

Start your review of Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World

  • Anonymous
    Very stimulating material led to lively discussions among learners. No knowledge of Ancient Greece and Rome was necessary but a little bit helped. This is a very different way of thinking about the past!
  • An interesting insight into the ancient world and health and wellbeing. Good involvement of the instructor and mentors and some reasonably good discussions on the forum.
  • Anonymous
    This was an excellent introduction to health in Classical Antiquity. No knowledge of history of medicine, or ancient history was required, and after completing the course one actually do get a basic grasp of what medical history and classics are abo…
  • Brigitt
    This course is engaging and provides interesting insights to the concept of illness and health; and daring recipes for remedies!

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