Ewch i’r prif gynnwys
Dr Laurence Totelin

Dr Laurence Totelin

Lecturer in Ancient History

Ysgol Hanes, Archaeoleg a Chrefydd

+44 (0)29 2087 5631
4.03, John Percival Building
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I am a historian of Greek and Roman Science, Technology and Medicine. I focus on the history of pharmacology and botany. My work is influenced by gender theory, and I have a particular interest in gynaecological treatments, aphrodisiacs, and the properties of milk (especially breast-milk).

I have a background in Classics/Ancient History (BA); History and Philosophy of Science (MPhil); and History of Medicine (PhD). I have published both on the history of ancient pharmacology (in particular on gynaecological pharmacology) and the history of botany. I am currently interested in the ancient history of milk, with a focus on its symbolism in ancient cultures. My approach to research is cross-disciplinary and I enjoy collaborating with people from various disciplines. I am an experienced blogger, writing posts for the Recipes Project, my own blog Concocting History, and guest posts on other blogs. I was involved in the design of the FutureLearn MOOC Health and Wellbeing in the Ancient World.

Education and qualifications

  • 2002–2005 PhD, Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL
  • 2001–2002 MPhil in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge
  • 2000–2001 Teaching degree in History and Classical languages, Free University of Brussels
  • 1996–2000 BA in Ancient History, Free University of Brussels

Career overview

  • 2015–present Senior Lecturer in Ancient History, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University
  • 2009–2015 Lecturer in Ancient History, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University
  • 2006–2009 Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and bye-fellow at Newnham College. I combined my postdoctoral research with teaching at various UK institutions (Cambridge, UCL, Imperial College, and Reading)

Anrhydeddau a Dyfarniadau

  • ISSF Cardiff Wellcome Trust Grant for ‘Ancient-biotics, re-evaluating traditional medicines for future antibacterial therapies’, collaborative project led by Professor Les Baillie (Pharmacy), 2016
  • Wellcome Trust small grant to organise the conference 'Bodily Fluids/Fluid Bodies in Greek and Roman Antiquity', 2016
  • Classical Association grant to organise the conference 'Bodily Fluids/Fluid Bodies in Greek and Roman Antiquity', 2016
  • ICS grant to organise the conference 'Bodily Fluids/Fluid Bodies in Greek and Roman Antiquity', 2016
  • ISSF Cardiff Wellcome Trust Grant for ‘Nain, Mam and Me: infant feeding in Wales, social history and modern practices’, collaborative project with Dr Julia Sanders (consultant midwife) and Ms Heather Trickey (DECIPHer). Smaller grants were awarded to this project by the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff and Cardiff Engagement Team, 2015
  • Cardiff University Research Leave Grant, 2014-2015
  • Wellcome Trust Grant to organise the ‘Approaches to Ancient Medicine’ conference 2012 (Cardiff University), 2012
  • Classical Association grant to organise ‘Approaches to Ancient Medicine’ conference 2012 (Cardiff University), 2012
  • Classical Association grant for ‘Approaches to Ancient Medicine’ conference 2010 (Cardiff University), 2010
  • Wellcome Trust Grant to organise ‘Approaches to Ancient Medicine’ conference 2010 (Cardiff University), 2010
  • Wellcome Trust Grant to organise panel entitled ‘History of ancient science and medicine vs economic history’ at the Classical Association Conference 2010 (Cardiff University), 2010
  • Wellcome Trust Grant to organise panel on Ancient Medicine at the Classical Association Conference 2007 (University of Birmingham), 2007
  • Wellcome Trust Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, 2006-2009
  • Wellcome Trust Centre PhD Studentship, 2002-2009
  • Maurice Wiener–Philippe Anspach Studentship, 2001-2002
  • Medal of the Free University of Brussels for Excellence, 2000
  • Erasmus Studentship, 1998
  • Marguerite Bervoets Prize for the best first-year result in the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, Free University of Brussels, 1997

Ymrwymiadau siarad cyhoeddus


  • 'Climbing up the ladder: the ladder as medical machine in classical antiquity', Medical machines in antiquity workshop, University of Glasgow
  • 'Breastmilk: a healing and poisonous substance in late antiquity', Society for the History of Medieval Technology and Science, London


  • 'The poor man's bees', The London Renaissance Seminar: In search of early modern honey
  • 'A sea of synonyms: naming plants in Galen's pharmacological texts', Conference: Parlare la medicine, University of Parma, Italy
  • 'Anti-abortion and abortion laws: some historical insights', Abortion Rights Cardiff
  • 'Mother and nurse plants in Latin literature', Classical Association 2016, University of Edinburgh
  • 'Crying over spilt milk: analogies between tears and milk in ancient literature’, Departmental Seminar, Swansea Department of History and Classics


  • ‘Concocting History and other blogging adventures’, Work in Progress Seminar, School of History, Archaeology and Religion, Cardiff University
  • ‘The she-wolf at the Eisteddfod’, Conference: UWICAH, Cardiff University
  • ‘What will the neighbours say? Middle-distance drug trade in the ancient world’, Conference: Trade, Discovery and Influences in the History of Herbal Medicine, the Herbal History Research Network, Wellcome Trust
  • 'Baah baah black Sheep, have you any Wool: wool in ancient medicine’, Conference: Technologies of Daily Life in Ancient Greece, Swansea University
  • ‘Castoreum or the testicle of the Istrian beaver: ingredient presentation strategies in ancient recipes’, Conference: Towards a history of epistemic genres: the textbook, the commentary, the case and the recipe in the making of medical knowledge,Max-Plack Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin
  • ‘Easy remedies – difficult texts: the pseudo-Galenic Euporista’, Conference: Pseudo-Galenic texts and the formation of the Galenic Corpus,Warburg Institute
  • ‘Crying over spilt milk: analogies between tears and milk in ancient literature’, Classical Association 2015, University of Bristol
  • ‘Back to Cleopatra’s kitchen: what I have learnt experimenting with ancient medical and cosmetic recipes’, Remaking History: using re-enactment in historical research and engagement, Symposium, Art Workers Guild, London

Selected earlier speaking engagements

  • June 2014: ‘Etouffement et empoisonnement au lait dans le monde Gréco-Romain’, Journée d’étude internationale, les ambiguïtés du lait, Université de Fribourg
  • April 2014: ‘Ethnic and hybrid vegetables: reading ancient botanical texts with a historian’s eye,’ Departmental Seminar, Classics, Princeton University
  • December 2013: ‘The Third Way:  Galen’s influence on gynaecological pharmacology in late antiquity and early Byzantium’, Conference on Late Antique – Early Byzantine Pharmacology and its Reception in the Talmud Tradition, Humboldt University
  • October 2013: ‘Selling pharmaka – buying health: pharmacology, wealth and branding in the ancient world’, Ancient Drugs: Pharmacology across the Ancient World, Penn Museum, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Pwyllgorau ac adolygu

  • 2015-present Erasmus/Study Abroad coordinator, History 
  • 2015-present Postgraduate coordinator, Ancient History
  • 2015-2016 Chair of Equality and Diversity Committee, School of History, Archaeology and Religion
  • 2015-2016 Member of the School Board, School of History, Archaeology and Religion
  • 2013-2014 Senior Tutor, Ancient History Department
  • 2010-2015 Chair of the Cardiff and District Classical Association Branch
  • 2010-2013 Member of the Equality and Diversity Committee
  • 2010-2012 Ancient History Part One Coordinator
  • 2009-2012 Third-Year Dissertation and Second-Year Independent Study Coordinator, Ancient History Department
  • 2009-2012 Exams Convener, Ancient History Department



  • Totelin, L. 2018. Botany. In: Jones, A. and Taub, L. eds. The Cambridge history of science. Volume 1. Ancient Science.. Cambridge University Press, pp. 238-247.
  • Totelin, L. 2018. Animal and plant generation in classical antiquity. In: Hopwood, N., Flemming, R. and Kassell, L. eds. Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 53-66.
  • Totelin, L. 2018. Therapeutics. In: Pormann, P. E. ed. The Cambirdge Companion to Hippocrates.. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 200-216.
  • Totelin, L. 2018. Gone with the wind: laughter and the audience of the Hippocratic treatises. In: Bouras-Vallianatos, P. and Xenophontos, S. eds. Greek medical literature and its readers: From Hippocrates to Islam and Byzantium.. Routledge, pp. 30-47.
  • Totelin, L. M. V. 2018. Tastes in ancient botany, medicine and science. In: Rudolph, K. C. ed. Taste and the Ancient Senses.. London: Routledge, pp. 60-71.











  • Totelin, L. M. V. 2008. Parfums et huiles parfumées en médecine. In: Verbanck-Piérard, A., Massar, N. and Frère, D. eds. Parfums de l'Antiquité: La rose et l'encens en Méditerranée.. Morlanwelz-Mariemont: Musée Royal de Mariemont, pp. 227-232.





  • Introduction to Ancient Greek History - 20 credits (HS3101)
  • Introduction to Roman History - 20 credits (HS3102)
  • Investigating the Ancient World - 20 credits (HS3103)
  • The Ancient World in 20 Objects - 20 credits (HS3104)
  • Gods and the Polis - 10 credits (HS3330)
  • Gender and Sexuality - 20 credits (HS3362)
  • Science and Technology in the Graeco-Roman World - 10 credits (HS3373)
  • Greek and Roman Medicine - 20 credits (HS3376)
  • Pots, Poems and Pictures: using Evidence for Ancient History - 20 credits (HS4336)


  • Themes and Approaches in Ancient History - 20 credits (HST002)
  • Gender, Sexuality and Society in Ancient Greece and Rome - 20 credits (HST018)
  • Special Topic: Medicine and Society in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages - 20 credits (HST039)
  • Postgraduate Greek II - 20 credits (HST025)

Research supervision

I welcome PhD proposals relating to Greek and Roman medicine, science and technology. In particular I am interested in topics relating to pharmacology, botany and gardening, especially if they have a gender element. I would also be interested in topics relating to the reception of ancient botany and pharmacology, especially in the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Ancient botany

In collaboration with the botanist Gavin Hardy, I am working on an overview book entitled Ancient Botany for Routledge. Rather than presenting the topic in a chronological manner (as is the case of many overviews of the history of botany), we are adopting a thematic approach. Topics covered will include: naming, describing, and depicting plants in antiquity; ancient plants classifications; the life of ancient plants; and botanical discoveries in the ancient world.

Endoxa pharmaka: fame and fortunes of Greek and Roman remedies

Ancient pharmacological recipes may appear to be a very dry topic of research, but they are a mine of information for any ancient historian interested in social or economic history. I have published a book on the earliest recipes preserved in Greek, the recipes of the Hippocratic Corpus (Hippocratic Recipes: Oral and Written Transmission of Pharmacological Knowledge in Fifth- and Fourth-Century Greece, 2009). This study brought together my interests in the history of Greek medicine, social, cultural and economic history, studies of ancient literacy, and gender studies. I am currently working on a book manuscript resulting from my postdoctoral research. It will discuss the strategies adopted by those involved in the Greek and Roman pharmacological 'business' (i.e., medical writers, drug sellers, consumers of drugs, etc.) to promote remedies.

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