Greece and Rome (Second Series)

Research Article

Deformity in the Roman Imperial Court*



Over the past two decades, the study of deformity and disability in the ancient world has stimulated intense scholarly debate. Recognizing a relatively unexplored body of ancient evidence, scholars have sought to reintegrate the anomalous human body (placed rather unceremoniously under the broad category of ‘Other’) into the (art-) historical record, classical scholarly consciousness, and our understanding of ancient representation more broadly. This article works towards that end, considering the representation of deformity as documented in extant literary sources of the Roman world. It will employ the hunchback as linchpin, since the figure of the hunchback has remained essentially outside this (albeit still developing) field of research.

(Online publication September 26 2011)

LISA TRENTIN is Lecturer, in the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada


* This article is based on a chapter of my doctoral thesis. I am indebted to my supervisor, Dr Caroline Vout, for her guidance in shaping its original form. Versions of this paper were delivered at the Annual Meetings of the Classical Associations of Canada and the UK. For the comments and insights from the audiences on both of these occasions, I am most grateful. Sincere thanks also to the anonymous readers at Greece and Rome for their recommendations towards its publication here. All translations are my own.