1st Edition

Body Behaviour and Identity Construction in Ancient Greek and Roman Literature

By Andreas Serafim Copyright 2025
    312 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book offers the first systematic, up-to-date, cross-cultural, and detailed study of “semi-volitional bodily behaviour” (sneezing, spitting, coughing, burping, vomiting, defecating, etc.) in the classical world.

    Examining verse and prose texts, fragments, and scholia from the age of Homer to the second century AD, the central argument put forward in this volume is that semi-volitional bodily acts have the potential to betray individual or collective (ethnic/civic and cultural) identities centred on a variety of different themes. Discussions specifically focus on the following five aspects of the interplay between semi-volitional body language and identity construction: sexuality and gender; the link between sexuality and socioeconomic identity of individuals or groups; the embodied markers of civic/ethnic and cultural collectives and the contrast between “we-ness” and “otherness”; ēthos and emotions; and how dietary habits and illnesses indicate the “somo-psychosocial” identity of individuals or groups. The book offers a comprehensive understanding of representations of the human body in ancient Greece and Rome, while reopening the complex and fascinating discussion about the relationship between intention, mind, body, and identity.

    This book offers a fascinating study suitable for students and scholars of classics and ancient Greek and Roman history. It is also of interest to those in a variety of other disciplines, including body culture studies, gender and sexuality studies, and performance studies, as well as sociology, anthropology, cognitive medicine, and the history of medicine.

    Introduction; 1. Sexual identity in bodily production; 2. Framing collective and clashing identities; 3. Nonverbal behaviour, ēthos, and emotions; 4. Body from the inside out: Identity, diet, and medical conditions; Conclusion.


    Andreas Serafim is Assistant Professor at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. He is the author of several publications, including four monographs, the most recent of which is Religious Discourse in Attic Oratory and Politics (Routledge 2021). He has conducted several projects on Attic oratory, performance, nonverbal communication, identity construction, invective, ancient Greek religion, the reception of ancient rhetoric, linguistics, gender/sexuality, theories of humour and persuasion, and has published widely on these topics.