The antiquity of poliomyelitis is disputed, since only inconclusive evidence has been adduced for the Ancient World so far.1 A ca 480 BC Attic pelik´e vase imported into Etruria (ancient Central Italy) depicting the mythical rendezvous between Heracles and Geras (figure, A) shows the latter (figure, B), the personification of Old Age, helping himself with a stick. The high degree of realism of this artwork, emerging in this historical period, allows one to identify extensive lower limb muscular atrophy and an unnatural eye-catching kyphoscoliotic spinal deformity. While previously considered—prudently yet perhaps too hurriedly—but a depiction of senile emaciation and pulmonary emphysema,2 the characteristically vivid clinical association leads us to hypothesize that Geras’ anatomical features are compatible with those of a polio survivor exhibiting the incapacitating and long-term outcomes of the spinal form of paralytic poliomyelitis.

Varotto E., Nizzo V., Galassi F.M. (2019). Poliomyelitis in ancient Greece (5th century BC)?. NEUROLOGY, 92(14), 678-679 [10.1212/WNL.0000000000007350].

Poliomyelitis in ancient Greece (5th century BC)?

Varotto E.
;
2019-01-01

Abstract

The antiquity of poliomyelitis is disputed, since only inconclusive evidence has been adduced for the Ancient World so far.1 A ca 480 BC Attic pelik´e vase imported into Etruria (ancient Central Italy) depicting the mythical rendezvous between Heracles and Geras (figure, A) shows the latter (figure, B), the personification of Old Age, helping himself with a stick. The high degree of realism of this artwork, emerging in this historical period, allows one to identify extensive lower limb muscular atrophy and an unnatural eye-catching kyphoscoliotic spinal deformity. While previously considered—prudently yet perhaps too hurriedly—but a depiction of senile emaciation and pulmonary emphysema,2 the characteristically vivid clinical association leads us to hypothesize that Geras’ anatomical features are compatible with those of a polio survivor exhibiting the incapacitating and long-term outcomes of the spinal form of paralytic poliomyelitis.
2019
Settore L-ANT/10 - Metodologie Della Ricerca Archeologica
Settore BIO/08 - Antropologia
Settore MED/02 - Storia Della Medicina
Varotto E., Nizzo V., Galassi F.M. (2019). Poliomyelitis in ancient Greece (5th century BC)?. NEUROLOGY, 92(14), 678-679 [10.1212/WNL.0000000000007350].
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/10447/641944
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