Have you ever heard this claim? I don’t like it, for two reasons:
- There is no such thing as “the ancients” – I really think we should respect people of the past enough to do justice to their particularity, rather than lumping them together as “the ancients” – a term that patronisingly connotes either primitive nobility or barbaric savagery
- Various sources indicate that many people in ancient Greek, Roman, and other cultures were well aware of epilepsy, and distinguished it carefully from demon possession. A couple of examples: 1) Apuleius points out in his Apologia that Thallus suffers from the disease of epilepsy rather than from demon possession; 2) Pliny the Elder, in Natural History 28, points out that “spitting” was used to attempt to combat epileptic fits.