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THE PUPULA DUPLEX AND OTHER TOKENS OF AN "EVIL EYE" IN THE LIGHT OF OPHTHALMOLOGY* WALTON BROOKS McDANIELf In the volume of Studies in Honor of Basil L. Gildersleeve, Dr. Kirby Flower Smith published an article on the pupula duplex which exhibits that combination of acumen, erudition, and literary skill which we have learned to expect from his pen. Since the superstition of the evil eye is perhaps second to none in importance, not only to classical scholars but to many workers in modern fields of study, the problems he attacked deserved its lengthy treatment, and if he failed to solve them other attempts are highly desirable. Commenting upon Ovid Amores i. 8. 15-16: oculis quoque pupula duplex fulmin√Ęt et gemino lumen ab orbe venit, Dr. Smith essayed to determine the poet's definition of a pupula duplex, or double pupil, and the reason why this peculiarity was thought to be a sign of the evil eye. Accepting what I hope to show is a misleading, if not an unsound, conclusion of Riess concerning Pliny's reference to persons who have a double pupil in one eye and the figure of a horse in the other, that the presence of the latter phenomenon, as an ailment of the eye, "was ascribed to a horseshaped demon," he has resorted to a similar demonological explanation of the double pupil. He supposes that the primitive man as he gazed into another's eyes identified the pupillary image of himself that he saw therein as the other person's soul. As is well known, many languages derive their word for pupil from this image, but without taking any account of the gender of the person mirrored. It was * Originally printed in Classical Philology, vol. 13 (October 1918). (Editorial note: The oldest living graduate of Harvard University, Dr. McDaniel is professor emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania. He reached the age of 100 on March 4, 1971, and continues to write delightful prose. This is one of several of his essays that we have republished. Numerous notes of the original paper have been omitted with the consent of the author. The postscript by Dr. Albert M. Potts appears by invitation.) + Address: 4082 Malaga Avenue, Miami, Florida 33133. 72 I Walton Brooks McDaniel ¬∑ Tokens of an "Evil Eye" natural to think of the pupil itself as a sort of window or door of exit for the soul, an idea that led the relatives of a dead man to close his eyelids in order to prevent him from returning by that opening for some evil purpose. By way of illustration Dr. Smith repeats the Chinese story of a man who had been blinded but finally regained his vision when a pair of manikins who represented the sight of his two eyes passed out through his nose and later, cracking the film that obscured the left eye, entered and abode therein. The result was that the man now had two pupils in that eye and, according to the Chinese narrator, could actually see better than when they were properly distributed . Turning then to the classical superstition, our author argues that the person with the double pupil is merely one who houses in his eye a demon manikin along with its legitimate occupant , and that the intruder betrays his presence by a difference in the color of his eyes or by a bicoloration of one of the irises. A person with the pupula duplex would therefore be, according to his hypothesis , somebody who had, for instance, a brown eye and a blue, or who united both of these colors in either of his irises. Ingenious, not to say fascinating, as this theory must seem to anybody , it involves troublous elements and depends upon certain assumptions that I believe are unjustifiable. While I should be the last to try to force folklore or primitive superstition to conform to the tyrannical laws of mathematics or physics, yet objection might be made that a female gazer was bound to produce a female image in the pupil and a male a male, and furthermore that, according to the evidence alike of the Chinese story and of our own senses, each individual...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 72-79
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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