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I got a CD full of Tarantella music as a present :) The liner notes were fairly interesting.

Tarantella: A remarkable example of early music therapy that originated in the region of Taranto, a city in southeastern Italy, in the 15th to 17th centuries. There it was believed that the bite of the tarantula spider caused a dire affliction called tarantism that was characterized by profound melancholy, a sense of imminent death, stupor, madness, and convulsions. The stated belief of the time was that victims needed to engage in frenzied dancing to prevent death from tarantism. Only dancing to a special type of music could cure the victim. The dancing was typically energetic and went for 3 or 4 days. The music to which the victim (and others) danced was the tarantella, a fast piece in 6/8 time with a lively and turbulent rhythm. The tarantella was performed on appropriate instruments, often with a shrill timbre. The music was selected to be in tune with the particular temperament of the victim. Thus, the tarantella was a type of music therapy tailored to the individual patient.

Many of the victims of the affliction manifested a distinct tendency towards exhibitionism. Bedecked with garlands of rushes and coronets of vine-leaves, and more or less naked, they behaved with frenzied abandon, making obscene gestures and movements improvised by a subconcious completely liberated from all prejudices.

Dancing the tarantella alone was said to be unlucky, and thus it was always a couples dance, involving either a man and a woman, or two women. The music is generally led by a mandolin. Goethe describes the dance as, "Three girls, one with a tambourine (with bells on it) and castanets are used by the other two. The two girls with the castanets execute the steps. The girls steps are not distinctive or even graceful, basically they step in time and spin around in place using the castanets, when one tires, she trades places with the tambourine Girl. (They do this for fun for hours, 20-40 hours at times.)"

Many people have suggested that the whole business was a deceit to evade religious proscriptions against dancing. It is suggested that ancient Bacchanalian rites that had been suppressed went underground under the guise of emergency therapy for bite victims.
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Galen (130 - 200 A.D.) hailed from Pergamon, an ancient center of civilization, containing, among other cultural institutions, a library second in importance only to Alexandria itself. Galen's training was eclectic and although his chief work was in biology and medicine, he was also known as a philosopher and philologist. Training in philosophy is, in Galen's view, not merely a pleasant addition to, but an essential part of the training of a doctor. His treatise entitled That the best Doctor is also a Philosopher gives to us a rather surprising ethical reason for the doctor to study philosophy. The profit motive, says Galen, is incompatible with a serious devotion to the art. The doctor must learn to despise money. Galen frequently accuses his colleagues of avarice and it is to defend the profession against this charge that he plays down the motive of financial gain in becoming a doctor. Galen's first professional appointment was as surgeon to the gladiators in Pergamon. In his tenure as surgeon he undoubtedly gained much experience and practical knowledge in anatomy from the combat wounds he was compelled to treat. After four years he immigrated to Rome where he attained a brilliant reputation as a practitioner and a public demonstrator of anatomy. Among his patients were the emperors Marcus Aurelius, Lucius Verus, Commodus and Septimius Severus.

Galen divides his exercises into categories, which we may term "strong", "rapid", "violent" (which is a combination of the preceding two), and "other". Galen's listing of the exercises gives us a fascinating glimpse into the everyday activities of the Paleastrae, Gymnasia and other more leisurely-areas of the ancient world. The affinities they have with the various sporting events can be made out: kicking of the legs for Pankration, rope-climbing for wrestling, holding the arms up for boxing.
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