To reanalyze Aristotle’s classic lecture, “On melancholy,” with current clinical interpretations METHOD: The full lecture is described and interpreted in a new translation.
Aristotle’s lecture has been understood to reflect a claim about a link between genius and madness, or more specifically depression and genius. In fact, his concept of melancholia included what today would be called mania, and thus his lecture really is about manic-depressive illness (MD) and genius. He appears to have been the first ancient thinker (not Aretaeus of Cappadocia) to identify manic and depressive states as part of the same disease. Aristotle claims that MDI is necessary in all persons who become great leaders in politics, great thinkers in philosophy, or great inspired poets or artists. Specifically, he sees the mood states as producing such genius especially when mild as part of mood temperaments (dysthymia, cyclothymia, hyperthymia in modern terms), but also sometimes in full-blown mood disease. Though he makes his argument in the language of humoral theory about black bile, his clinical insights mostly coincide with contemporary empirical data on creativity and leadership.
When understood, Aristotle is making a radical claim about MDI, which would have major implications for understanding leadership in particular, and greatness in general.

This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.