Aristotle ON MELANCHOLY

left: Ajax preparing for suicide -
right: Manic Hercules by Antonio Canova

Aristotle's essay ON MELANCHOLY begins with the famous question:
'Why do all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the arts turn out to be melancholics ?'
Aristotle describes the two poles of melancholy, which can become very hot and very cold. He warns talented and sensitive persons.
'If they are not careful, they can become extremely melancholic.'
Extreme mood can lead to tragedy. Aristotle mentions the hero Ajax whose life ended in suicide. He points to Hercules, who murdered his own family in a bout of mania. The Greek philosopher urges talented persons to avoid extremes, if need be with medicine. 'If their melaina cholè is tempered, they are men of genius.' It is in the mildly elated mood, today known as hypomania, that creativity gets a chance.
This classic essay on creativity and mood is surprisingly relevant today. With the explanations by philosopher Marlies ter Borg the staccato comments by Aristotle gain in depth and meaning.

Download below! - also available in paperback USA - UK or EUROPE
"Why do all those who have become eminent in philosophy or politics or poetry or the arts turn out to be melancholics?"

'Owing to the fact that the effect of black bile (melaina cholè) is variable, melancholic persons also show variation. For the black bile can become very hot and very cold.'

'Melancholics are in perpetual need of medicine. Depending on coincidence, they can become the victim of either an extreme exuberance or deep sorrow. And through medical therapy these extremes become less pronounced.'

'If they are not careful, they can become extremely melancholic. However if their melaina cholè is tempered, they are men of genius.'