Sean Coughlin, Philip van der Eijk, Ricardo Julião, Uta Kornmeier, Giouli Korobili, Orly Lewis, Thomas Schnalke, Chiara Thumiger and Christoph Geiger, The Soul is an Octopus. Ancient Ideas of Life and the Body, Berlin: Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité, Berlin: Edition Topoi, 2016


In antiquity, doctors and philosophers identified the physical body as the space in which life was located and originated. They used the word psychê or ‘soul’ to refer to the force in spiring, organising and energising the body. It was the soul that provided living beings with the structures and functions enabling them to live, grow, develop and exercise the full range of their natural capacities. This book is a companion to the exhibition ‘The Soul is an Octopus’ at the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité. It provides an introduction to ways of thinking about life, body and the soul in antiquity. It presents ancient texts, images and objects that allow us a glimpse into the fascinating world of anatomy, physiology and medicine as conceived by philosophers and physicians roughly 2,000 years ago.