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by Archaeology Newsroom

The treatment of the mentally deranged in the Greek kingdom of the nineteenth century

In the early nineteenth century , individuals suffering from phychic disorders were usually confined either in their family environment, in monasteries or in communal hospitals. Soon after the foundation of the modern Greek state, the debate on the treatment of the insane led in 1862 to the resolution of the first relevant law on the institution of a state mental hospital, a law which however remained inactive until 1864. It was then that the annexation of the Ionian Islands endowed the Greek state with two lunatic asylums, those of Corfu and Kephallonia, that had been founded in 1840. In 1880 the Chian merchant Zorzis Dromokaitis bequeathed a considerable amount of money for the foundation of a mental hospital in Athens. However, the new perspective the Dromokaiteion Hospital offered, that of the confinement and scientific treatment of the lunatics, was met with suspicion, due to the already existing prejudices and the negative tradition such an institution had in Western Europe. As a result, only a limited number of patients was admitted, who were chosen on the basis of social rather than scientific criteria. Nevertheless, the reinforcement of the charitable character of Dromokaiteion in the following years led to the gradual increase of destitute patients and to the progressive transformation of the hospital to an asylum.