Foot, Disease, Knowledge, and Sophocles' Philoctetes (II-II)

Project: National Science and Technology CouncilNational Science and Technology Council Academic Grants

Project Details


The prime objective of this project is to cast light on how the themes of foot disease, snakebite, friendship, knowledge, and technology are elaborated in Sophocles’ tragedy Philoctetes. Convinced that Sophocles’ works can be deemed as the barometer of entire intellectual milieu in the fifth-century Greece, I will try to elucidate a subtle interplay between text and history, between tragedy and medicine, and between the etymology of some terms and the evolution of related concepts. During the first year, the main focus of my study and research is on an investigation of Sophocles’ characterization of foot disease, a comparison of Philoctetes’ festering wound and Oedipus’ clubbed feet, and an analysis of varying medical concepts and their related epistemological fulcrum. For the second year of this project, the issues are basically framed under the following two problems: (1) Suffering from the snakebite, Philoctetes was deserted and marooned in a solitary island; and, what is worse, Odysseus, in order to defeat the Trojans, attempts to deceive wounded Philoctetes. Does such a case exemplify the violation of the codes in ancient Greek medical ethics? (2) Is Philoctetes’ snakebite treated properly? How are the mythic and religious contents implicated in the pathogenesis and therapy of Philoctetes’ disease? By comparing certain results of current studies pertaining to ancient Greek medicine and to Sophoclean scholarship, we can reach a fuller understanding of the way how diseases were perceived in the fifth-century Greece and how Sophocles’ works showcase the very intellectual revolution taking place in his time. Therefore, the focus of this project is not only on what the disease-related vocabulary, images and metaphors are fleshed out in Sophocles’ plays, but also on how the medical ideas are taking shape under the historical and cultural contexts of the classical period.

Project IDs

Project ID:PE9906-0325
External Project ID:NSC99-2410-H182-006
Effective start/end date01/08/1031/07/11


  • Sophocles
  • Philoctetes
  • disease
  • foot
  • deus ex machina
  • Heracles
  • hero


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