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Images in Psychiatry   |    
Therapia, Istanbul
Osman Sabuncuoğlu, M.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2014;171:732. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2013.13091251
View Author and Article Information

The photograph of Therapia and the Bosphorus is from the early 1900s and is in the public domain.

From the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, School of Medicine, Marmara University, Istanbul.

Address correspondence to Dr. Sabuncuoglu (sabuncuoglu2004@yahoo.com).

Copyright © 2014 by the American Psychiatric Association

Accepted December , 2013.

At first glance, the name “Therapia” may seem to denote an imaginary land, but Therapia is real and still alive as a neighborhood on the European coast of the Bosphorus strait (Bogazici) in Istanbul. Although the original name has changed slightly, to “Tarabya,” in modern-day Turkish, this piece of land devoted to the concept of healing has existed since ancient times. In old texts, the nearby area was said to host a temple dedicated to Hecate, the goddess of darkness, fertility, the moon, the underworld, and witchcraft (1, 2). From this, it is possible to assume that there was a tradition of interest in knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants in the area. It is where Medea, in the story of the Argonauts, drops her herbal bag while she is fleeing with Jason, and the former name of the vicinity, Pharmakos, is derived from this legend (13). However, as the name also implied poison, to avoid hesitation in potential settlers the vicinity was renamed Therapia in about A.D. 500 (13). It is possible to regard this story as an indication of early contention or agreement between “pharmacy” and “therapy.” Alternative explanations may be considered regarding the origins of the names. As the land was a piece of paradise overlooking a cove on the Bosphorus, ancient genius might have tried to protect the area by introducing a fearful name, Pharmakos. The beautiful cove and green land might have given a sense of “therapy” to the southbound sailors after the dark and stormy waters of the Black Sea.

While the idea that therapy has a land named for it may be new to some, for those who are familiar with the history of medicine in Anatolia—the shore opposite Therapia—this fact is no surprise, as the mainland has a long-standing tradition of medicine dating back to Hittite times. Several masters of medicine, such as Hippocrates and Galen, were born and raised in Anatolia.

For centuries, Therapia was a favorite refuge for people who fled deadly epidemics, such as smallpox and plague (3). While it is unknown whether this increased the likelihood of survival, more and more people began to settle there over time. And once a person was there, leaving was not easy, as we see from Cavafy’s nostalgic and melancholic verses in “Leaving Therapia” (4):

Good-bye to Therapia & joys of the hotel—

Good dinners that make you exultingly swell,

Good beds that refresh you from the toil of the day

Fine sights near which you’d wish ever to stay—

To all these good things the time is well nigh

I must bid a Good-Bye!

Gyllius  P:  İstanbul Boğazı . Translated by Özbayoğlu E.  İstanbul,  Eren Yayıncılık, 2000
 
Coleman  JA:  The Dictionary of Mythology: An A–Z of Themes, Legends, and Heros .  London,  Arcturus Publishing, 2007
 
Turker  O:  Therapia’dan Tarabya’ya Boğaz’ın Diplomatlar Köyünün Hikayesi .  İstanbul,  Sel Yayıncılık, 2006
 
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References

Gyllius  P:  İstanbul Boğazı . Translated by Özbayoğlu E.  İstanbul,  Eren Yayıncılık, 2000
 
Coleman  JA:  The Dictionary of Mythology: An A–Z of Themes, Legends, and Heros .  London,  Arcturus Publishing, 2007
 
Turker  O:  Therapia’dan Tarabya’ya Boğaz’ın Diplomatlar Köyünün Hikayesi .  İstanbul,  Sel Yayıncılık, 2006
 
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