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.
The website's articles on visual impairment include:
Maimed in His Sight, Maimed in His Legs: Demodocus and Hephaestus in Homer
The Evil of the Muse – whether Thamyris was truly a blind musician
The Good, the Bad and the Divine Emperor – a note on the role of damaging and restoring eyesight in the establishment of a Roman emperor's image
The One-Eyed Shaman in Rome – on the connections between Roman legends of one-eyed generals and ancient Indo-European beliefs
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