Visual Impairment

In the modern imagination, visually impaired people occupy a special place in the ancient world.


The stories of the blind seer Tiresias, the poet Homer, and singer Thamyris have been the centre of most discussions of blindness in antiquity, which has led to anachronistic assumptions about the treatment of the blind and visually impaired in ancient Greece and Rome. Modern interpretations have served as underpinnings for discrimination, as 'historical precedents' for segregating and alienating people living with a visual impairment. 

At the same time, visual impairment was linked to magic and prophecy in the Indo-European religions. From Odin, who gained wisdom through loss of an eye, to Lugh, who closes an eye when performing magic, to legendary Roman generals, loss of an eye was seen in the ancient world as a mark of supernatural honour. In connection with magic, the one-eyed were also closely linked to the one-legged or lame. 

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© 2019 by Alexandra Zhirnova