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Combat Trauma and PTSD traced back to Ancient Iraq ca. 1300 BC
CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND—Soldiers have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder for at least 3,000 years, according to a paper written by Jamie Hacker Hughes, director of Anglia Ruskin University’s Veterans and Family Institute, and psychiatrist Walid Abdul-Hamid of North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust. The team at Anglia Ruskin University analysed 3,000 year old texts from ancient Iraq, or Mesopotamia. Historians often cite Herodotus’ account of Epizelus, an Athenian spear carrier who experienced psychological problems after the Marathon Wars in 490 B.C., as the first recorded case of PTSD. Referring to the warrior Epizelus during the battle of Marathon in 490BC Herodotus wrote: "He suddenly lost sight of both eyes, though nothing had touched him." However, texts from Mesopotamia’s Assyrian Dynasty (1300-609 B.C.) record traumas suffered by soldiers who were called upon to fight every third year during their military service, long before the time of Greek or Roman Civilizations.
In their paper entitled “Nothing New Under the Sun,” the authors Hughes and Abdul-Hamid write, “Ancient soldiers facing the risk of injury and death must have been just as terrified of hardened and sharpened swords, showers of sling-stones or iron-hardened tips of arrows and fire arrows. The risk of death and the witnessing of the death of fellow soldiers appears to have been a major source of psychological trauma. Moreover, the chance of death from injuries, which can nowadays be surgically treated, must have been much greater in those days. All these factors contributed to post-traumatic or other psychiatric stress disorders resulting from the experience on the ancient battlefield.”
The reference for the full paper (behind a paywall):
Abdul-Hamid, WK and Hacker Hughes, JGH (2014). Nothing new under the sun? Post traumatic stress disorders in the Ancient World. Early Science and Medicine, 19, 6, 54–557
Abdul-Hamid, W. K. and Hacker Hughes, J. G. H. (in press). Nothing new under the sun? Post traumatic stress disorders in Ancient Iraq and Mespopotamia. History of Psychiatry.
The symptoms were thought by the ancients to have been caused by the spirits of the enemies whom the sufferer had killed in battle. In that era Assyrian men spent a year being toughened up by building roads, bridges and other projects, before spending a year at war and then returning to their families for a year before starting the cycle again. Prof Hughes told the BBC News website: "The sorts of symptoms after battle were very clearly what we would call now post-traumatic stress symptoms.They described hearing and seeing ghosts talking to them, who would be the ghosts of people they'd killed in battle - and that's exactly the experience of modern-day soldiers who've been involved in close hand-to-hand combat.”
Assyrian Cuneiform Tablet containing the name of King Ashurbanipal. 669-626BCE
Wall relief from the palace of Nimrud, showing Assyrian soldiers attacking the city of Lachish. 8th cent. BCE
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Eternal Soldier Image Wall In Allentown, PA
The new Military and Veterans Resource and Information Center (MAVRIC) in Allentown, PA is also the home of the first Eternal Soldier image wall. The facility is completely devoted to Veteran care and is part of the Lehigh Valley Health Network. The Center Operations Director Eric Johnson, stated that as military Veteran he personally found Eternal Soldier's message exploring the timelessness and universality of war experience to be powerful and cathartic (read Eric's story here.) Dedicated on November 10, 2017 in conjunction with the grand opening of the center, the display features excerpts from articles on our website as well as additional essays and book excerpts accompanied by artwork and illustrations selected by the Veterans who come to MAVRIC for care and guidance. Images and warrior narratives from Ancient Rome, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam Afghanistan and Iraq are intended to showcase the continuity of the warrior stories. If you are in the area of 1628 W. Chew Street in downtown Allentown, stop in for a visit.
Eternal Soldier Board Members Featured in Penn Alumni Magazine!
Roman site Vindolanda important in recovery of military personnel injured in Afghanistan
By Ben Miller
From: Culture 24
When the annual excavations begin at the archaeologically fertile Northumberland Roman fort of Vindolanda this weekend, an operation in the late 4th century barrack blocks, codenamed Exercise Mars Tablet and focusing on the south-east quadrant where an incredibly rare gold coin was found last year, will enlist military help.Organisers the Vindolanda Trust have given ten places on the quest to members of Operation Nightingale, an initiative for serving personnel and veterans who have sustained physical and mental injuries in Afghanistan and elsewhere.‘They will be involved in everything we do,” says Dr Andrew Birley, the Director of Excavations.“There will be challenges for individuals and for us as a team. We are aware that one gentleman has no upper limbs due to his combat injuries and another is registered blind.
The Defence Archaeology Group exists to promote the recuperative possibilities of digging.“Our programme uses archaeology as a pathway to their recovery, giving individuals something useful and rewarding to do which in turn can help them rebuild their self-esteem,” says Sergeant Diarmaid Walshe, the Project Manager of the group – a committed archaeologist who says the collaboration is “very fortunate” at a “unique” site.
“It provides them with a sense of purpose and gives them something positive to strive for.
“It also has the added benefit of providing a focus to both our service personal and veterans to put something back into the community as a way of showing their gratitude for all the public support shown to them.”
Extending the sense of mutual appreciation, the public will be welcome to visit the excavations, with free admission offered to serving personnel.
Hundreds of volunteers are expected to join this year’s excavations at Vindolanda, which will run until September 25.
“But support is in place to ensure that all participants can gain as much as possible from the experience within their individual abilities.“As well as introducing the skills of excavation, surveying, artefact handling and recording, the volunteers at Vindolanda also foster mutual support, lasting friendships and take away with them some of the pride and passion which Vindolanda has in abundance.”