I'm looking to find how certain diseases or impairments were viewed during the Roman Empire (circa ~50AD) by the Roman culture prior, during, and after that time.

I'm mainly looking for physical disorders starting with blindness, and then psychological disorders starting with Tourette's syndrome (verbal tics) and ranging to full breakdowns.

I've found some articles on living conditions, treatment, etc. etc. But what I really want to know is how these impairments were viewed by the culture.

Here's a start on mental illness!

  • Welcome to History - Stack Exchange. I could only provide a source for law competency of blind people in Theodosius times, but I believe it's 300 years too late. Good luck with research! Mar 21, 2013 at 7:17
  • Great question & welcome to the site. +1 of course Mar 21, 2013 at 7:34

1 Answer 1


I've focused on blind people status in 1st century, I hope it will help a bit.

According to Catherine Slater's article at Langdon Down Museum of Learning Disability, in the mentioned period (1st century):

Early Roman law gave power to the father to have absolute rights over his children. He could expose any female infant or a child of either sex who was deformed or disabled.

The details are provided in the work "Gynaecology" by Soranus of Ephesus, especially in the chapter entitled "How to recognise the Newborn that is worth rearing". Quoting the linked website further here's what Soranus wrote:

The child should be perfect in all its parts, limbs and senses and have passages that are not obstructed including the ears, nose, throat, urethra and anus.

This way I believe that at least children that were born blind could be killed or abandoned (whatever is closer to the definition of "exposure") by parents in full accordance with the law.

And the presence of such law gives a valuable hint that the status of such people in culture would be very low.

  • For a detailed discussion of what exactly exposure entailed, see history.stackexchange.com/questions/7308/… Mar 21, 2013 at 7:36
  • Thanks, I didn't realize of existence of such topic here. Mar 21, 2013 at 7:39
  • By your logic the prevalence of abortions in modern culture means that the status of every human is low.
    – Anixx
    Mar 21, 2013 at 14:10
  • That was enough for what I was researching! Thanks! Mar 26, 2013 at 2:53

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