The Staff of Oedipus
Transforming Disability in Ancient Greece
Publication Year: 2003
Published by: University of Michigan Press
List of Abbreviations
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A newspaper article from January 2001 outlines the ethical debates around saving the lives of high-risk infants who, if they survive, are at risk for later disability.1 Diana Aitchison concludes that decisions over whether or not to let a baby die rest on a gamble: “Which babies will, even with disabilities, grow to make major contributions to society, like Helen Keller, Stevie Wonder...
1 The Landscape of Disability
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Our mental image of the ancient Greek landscape is shaped by indelible literary and artistic Renaissance and Neoclassical depictions of the idealized Greek physical form. Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the eighteenth-century scholar of art history, wrote that the most beautiful body of ours would perhaps be as much inferior to the most beautiful Greek one. . . . The forms of the Greeks, prepared to beauty, by the influence of the mildest and purest sky, became...
2 Killing Defective Babies
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The Greeks practiced exposure, the discarding of unwanted infants. The story of Oedipus, as central a legend to the Greeks as the story of Cinderella is to us, rests on the assumption that unwanted babies were put out to die. Oedipus’s ankles were pierced and he was exposed to the elements to die on the orders of his father, because his patricide had been foretold. The story of Oedipus, though, does...
3 Demosthenes’ Stutter: Overcoming Impairment
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Demosthenes, the fourth-century Athenian orator, is today both an emblem of rhetorical skill and a model of overcoming disability. The story that is told about Demosthenes overcoming his physical impairment feeds into the stereotype that disability is a personal hardship that can, and should, be overcome. It is commonly reported that Demosthenes overcame...
4 Croesus’s Other Son: Deafness in a Culture of Communication
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In the previous chapters, I have pointed out that in the absence of medical categorizations of disability, people with disabilities were generally seen on their own terms, rather than as part of a pitiable group. If I have painted a utopian picture of ancient Greek attitudes to people with disabilities, this chapter will serve as a corrective. In the case of deafness, physiological and cultural misunderstanding...
5 Degrees of Sight and Blindness
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The blind bard Homer, the blind seer Teiresias, and Oedipus Rex, who was blinded by divine punishment, dominate most discussions of blindness in the ancient Greek world. By supplying an apparent historical precedent, generalizations made from the tales of these figures support modern attitudes toward blindness and blind people, such as the idea that blind people are special but horrifying...
Conclusion: Ability and Disability in Lysias 24
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Moses I. Finley points out that because the elderly are not isolated from society, it is difficult to consider them separately.1 This is the crux of the problem in looking at people with disabilities in Greek society. One of the reasons why it is difficult to find information about people with disabilities in Greek society is that they were integral to the society. There is no indication that people...
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Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2003
Series Title: Corporealities: Discourses of Disability