Julius Caesar Suffered from Strokes, Not Epilepsy, New Study Says

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In a paper titled “Has the Diagnosis of a Stroke been overlooked in the Symptoms of Julius Caesar?” doctors Francesco M. Galassi and Hutan Ashrafian of Imperial College London argue that the Roman general may have been afflicted by cerebrovascular disease. Their study, published in the journal “Neurological Sciences,” offers a provocative new take on Caesar’s mysterious illness, which began in the years after his meteoric rise through the ranks of the Roman power structure. Conventional wisdom has long held that he suffered from epilepsy, but Galassi and Ashrafian suggest that his symptoms are more in line with Transient Ischemic Attacks, more commonly known as “mini-strokes.” 

“The theory that Caesar was epileptic appears not to have very solid philological foundations,” Dr. Galassi told Discovery News. “If carefully re-examined, the facts appear to suggest a simpler and more logical diagnosis of stroke.”

Caesar wrote widely about his life and military campaigns, but he never addressed his health. What little evidence historians have on his physical condition comes from ancient chroniclers, a few of whom make reference to a sickness that plagued him in his later years. Suetonius tells of “sudden fainting fits” and “nightmares”; Appian writes of “convulsions”; and Plutarch describes Caesar as suffering from “distemper in the head” and “epileptic fits.” According to Plutarch, Caesar collapsed while on campaign in Cordoba, Spain in 46 B.C., and he later had to retire from the Battle of Thapsus in modern day Tunisia after “his usual sickness laid hold of him.”




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