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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 190

Goiter in Ancient Greek art

Department of History of Medicine, Medical School, University of Athens, Athens, Greece

Date of Web Publication12-Dec-2014

Correspondence Address:
Gregory Tsoucalas
62-64 Str. Kononos, Pagrati, 11633 Athens
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8210.146883

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How to cite this article:
Laios K, Tsoucalas G, Karamanou M, Androutsos G. Goiter in Ancient Greek art. Indian J Endocr Metab 2015;19:190

How to cite this URL:
Laios K, Tsoucalas G, Karamanou M, Androutsos G. Goiter in Ancient Greek art. Indian J Endocr Metab [serial online] 2015 [cited 2021 Jun 12];19:190. Available from: https://www.ijem.in/text.asp?2015/19/1/190/146883


Goiter, similarly to numerous modern diseases, appears in Ancient Greek art and thus raises the question whether it represented what is currently called Grave's disease. Three clay figurines have been discovered representing this pathological condition. The earliest archeological finding is a Minoan figurine found in the Peak Sanctuary of Traostalos, dated at the end of the 3 rd millennium BC. This figurine, a votive offering depicting a male head, was carved with a very large goiter in its neck. [1] The second example [Figure 1] is a figurine, dated at the late Hellenistic or the early Roman age, found in Smyrna (Leiden, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden: S 186), also representing a male head with a large goiter on its neck. [2] The third example [Figure 2] is a figurine of a female head, found in Troy and dated in the 1 st century BC (Paris, Louvre: D 556). This third figurine presents not only with a large goiter in its neck, but also an apparent bulging of the eyes (Greek: εξώɸθαλμoς, exophtalmos), raising the hypothesis that these are representations of Grave's disease. [3],[4] While the first figurine was a votive head, the other two represent realistic portraitures of the era. Some researchers believe that goiter also appears on portrait representations on Ancient Greek coins. [5] We, on the contrary, believe that a protuberance in the neck in a coin represents most probably a sing of dynamism of the represented person. It is rather unlikely that a distinguished personality such as a king, a general, or any form of hero, would have allowed to be "immortalized" as an ill figure. An alternative interpretation could be this of artistic miss-representations arising from the difficulty of handling the given material and the small surface on which the artist had to work. As always Ancient Greek art provides detailed realistic representations of various conditions.
Figure 1: Male figurine, dated at the late Hellenistic or the early Roman age, found in Smyrna

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Figure 2: Female figurine, dated in the 1st century BC, found in Troy

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   References Top

Chryssoulaki S. The traostalos peak sanctuary. Aspects of spatial organisation. Aegaeum 2001;22:57-66.  Back to cited text no. 1
Plaiser PG. Les Terres Cuites Grecques et Romaines: Cataloque de la Collection du Musée National des Antiquités à Leiden. Rijksmuseum van Oudheden te Leiden; 1979.  Back to cited text no. 2
Besques S. Musée National du Louvre. Catalogue Raisonné des Figurines et Reliefs en Terre - Cuite Grecs, Etrusques et Romains. Epoques Hellénistique et Romaine, Grèce et Asie Mineure. 3 rd ed. Paris: des Musées Nationaux; 1971-72.  Back to cited text no. 3
Grmek M, Gourevitch D. Les maladies dans l'art antique. Paris: Fayard; 1998.  Back to cited text no. 4
Hart GD. The diagnosis of disease from ancient coins. Archaeology 1973;26:123-7.  Back to cited text no. 5


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

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