As an imperial Greek author of both cultural and stylistic interest, Aretaeus deserves to be more widely read. His most riveting disease descriptions bring before our eyes the spectacle of the human body in extreme states of suffering and dehumanization. These descriptions achieve a degree of visual immediacy and emotional impact unparalleled among ancient medical writers. This essay considers them as examples of ekphrastic rhetoric, designed to create enargeia. To intensify immediacy and impact, Aretaeus deploys a set of techniques that invite the reader’s active engagement with the spectacle he describes. This engagement has the potential to generate a corporeal response that destabilizes the boundary between the body of the reader and the body in the text. The modern concept of “empathy” is perhaps too anodyne to convey the complexity of the response involved.

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