Dominik Opatrny, «The Figure of a Blind Man in the Light of the Papyrological Evidence», Vol. 91 (2010) 583-594
This article presents the status of a blind man in ancient society. There are three characteristics often associated with blind persons in the Bible: anonymity, passivity and beggary. The aim of this study is to confront these characteristics with the evidence found in Greek papyri. The author discusses both similar and opposite cases and comes to a more detailed conclusion on the situation of these people.
THE FIGURE OF A BLIND MAN
seems to be as persistent as the widow in Jesusâ€™ parable (Luke
Another distinct example of an active attitude of a blind man is
the letter of a certain Mark to his mother Antonia (3rd century AD,
P.Ross.Georg. III 1, unknown provenance, maybe Alexandria) 18.
And Apollonius the blind came to me and told me: â€œSerapiakos
relinquished fields to your motherâ€. If he really relinquished them
and if you know the character of this blind Apollonios, that he is
sensible, farm out them to him, if he didnâ€™t (relinquish them) to
you, try (to persuade him) giving the grain.
In this case the blind Apollonios seems to be leased a field,
whose owners were not able to guard it against the flocks of neigh-
bours. Therefore he visits Mark (without knowing him), who dwelt
as a soldier away from his home, reveals the situation at home to
him and probably suggests that he rent the field and relieve Mark
and his mother of the worries.
Is this scenery possible at all? We will see in the following ex-
amples that it is 19. The intent of this part was to show the way, how
in ancient times a blind person could face life actively, resist those
who wanted to abuse them because of their handicap and try to
supply themselves with a form of sustainability to make ends meet.
Even a lame man, though assisted by his family or friends, had to
beg actively (cf. Acts 3,2).
4. Low social status: a beggar
According to modern current opinion, blind people in Antiqui-
ty were either poor or beggars. In this sense some commentators
This text is more known because it describes the way how scrolls were
maintained â€” the author asks his mother to shake out his medical books, which
are stored in a niche; cf. M.-H.M. MÃ‰LARD, â€œLa mÃ©dicine dans lâ€™Ã‰gypte ro-
maine â€, ANRW II, 37 (ed. W. HAASE) (Berlin 1995) 2728; O. BOUQUIAUX-
SIMON, Les livres dans le monde grÃ©co-romain (Cahiers du CeDoPaL 2; LiÃ¨ge
2004) 44; M.-H. MARGANNE, Le livre mÃ©dical dans le monde grÃ©co-romain
(Cahiers du CeDoPaL 3; LiÃ¨ge 2004) 83.
How the blind people travelled we can learn from the Greek literature â€”
Teiresius is said to be able to walk with his cane as good as seeing while others
used the service of a guide (mainly a relative, but never an animal) â€” cf. ES-
SER, Das Antlitz der Blindheit in der Antike, 81-84.