International Orthopaedics

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 957–965 | Cite as

Congenital anomalies of the limbs in mythology and antiquity

  • Andreas F. Mavrogenis
  • Konstantinos Markatos
  • Vasilios Nikolaou
  • Ariadne Gartziou-Tatti
  • Panayotis N. Soucacos
Orthopaedic Heritage


Congenital anomalies of the limbs have been observed since ancient human civilizations, capturing the imagination of ancient physicians and people. The knowledge of the era could not possibly theorize on the biologic aspects of these anomalies; however, from the very beginning of civilization the spiritual status of people attempted to find a logical explanation for the existence of such cases. The next logical step of the spiritual and religious system of the ancients was to correlate these anomalies with the Gods and to attribute them to a different level of existence in order to rationalize their existence. In these settings, the mythology and religious beliefs of ancient civilizations comprised several creatures that were related to the observed congenital anomalies in humans. The purpose of this historic review is to summarize the depiction of congenital anomalies of the limbs in mythology and antiquity, to present several mythological creatures with resemblance to humans with congenital anomalies of the limbs, to present the atmosphere of the era concerning the congenital anomalies, and to theorize on the anomaly and medical explanation upon which such creatures were depicted. Our aim is to put historic information in one place, creating a comprehensive review that the curious reader would find interesting and enjoyable.


Congenital anomalies Limbs Mythology Antiquity 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© SICOT aisbl 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas F. Mavrogenis
    • 1
  • Konstantinos Markatos
    • 2
  • Vasilios Nikolaou
    • 3
  • Ariadne Gartziou-Tatti
    • 4
  • Panayotis N. Soucacos
    • 5
  1. 1.First Department of OrthopaedicsNational and Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of MedicineAthensGreece
  2. 2.Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of AthensAthensGreece
  3. 3.Second Department of OrthopaedicsNational and Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of MedicineAthensGreece
  4. 4.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Ioannina, School of PhilosophyIoanninaGreece
  5. 5.Orthopaedic Research & Education CenterATTIKON General University Hospital, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of MedicineAthensGreece

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