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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

Congenital anomalies Limbs Mythology Antiquity 

Notes

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.

References

  1. 1.
    Gishen K, Askari M (2014) Congenital hand anomalies: etiology, classification, and treatment. J Craniofac Surg 25(1):284–294CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Goldfarb CA (2013) Congenital hand anomalies: a review of the literature, 2009-2012. J Hand Surg Am. 38(9):1854–1859CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Müller G, Olsson L (2003) Epigenesis and epigenetics. In: Hall B, Olson W (eds) Keywords and concepts in evolutionary developmental biology. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, pp 114–123Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Huneman P (2013) Preformation and epigenesis. Encyclopedia of systems biology. Springer, New York, pp 1734–1735CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ekblom AG, Laurell T, Arner M (2010) Epidemiology of congenital upper limb anomalies in 562 children born in 1997 to 2007: a total population study from Stockholm Sweden. J Hand Surg 35(11):1742–1754CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Koskimies E, Lindfors N, Gissler M, Peltonen J, Nietosvaara Y (2011) Congenital upper limb deficiencies and associated malformations in Finland: a population-based study. J Hand Surg 36(6):1058–1065CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Froster-Iskenius UG, Baird PA (1990) Amelia: incidence and associated defects in a large population. Teratology 41(1):23–31CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Giele H, Giele C, Bower C, Allison M (2001) The incidence and epidemiology of congenital upper limb anomalies: a total population study. J Hand Surg Am 26(4):628–634CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Vasluian E, van der Sluis CK, van Essen AJ, Bergman JE, Dijkstra PU, Reinders-Messelink HA, de Walle HE (2013) Birth prevalence for congenital limb defects in the northern Netherlands: a 30-year population-based study. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 14:323CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Stahl A, Tourame P (2010) From teratology to mythology: ancient legends. Arch Pediatr 17(12):1716–1724CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Sendrail M (1956) Teratology and the genesis of myths. Concours Med 78(49):5173–5175PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Briggs K (1976) An encyclopedia of fairies. Pantheon Books, New York, pp 22–23Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Briggs KM (1976) An encyclopedia of fairies, hobgoblins, brownies, boogies, and other supernatural creatures. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Morfaw FL, Nana PN (2012) Sirenomelia in a Cameroonian woman: a case report and review of the literature [v2; ref status: indexed, http://f1000r.es/QcTFxB] F1000Research. 1:6
  15. 15.
    Gallant GG, Bora FW Jr (1996) Congenital deformities of the upper extremity. JAAOS 4(3):162–171PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Kozin SH (2003) Upper-extremity congenital anomalies. J Bone Joint Surg Am 85:1564–1576CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    (2015) Pliny the elder. Natural history. VII: 2. Andesite PressGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Philippe de Thaon (1965) Le bestiaire de Philippe de Thaun. Printed in Wright, Popular Treatises on Science. 1841. LondonGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Eckstein H, Eckstein FMP (1946) Foetal dysplasia of leg. Lancet 1:52CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Aterman K (1965) Why did Hephaestus limp? Am J Dis Child 109:381–392PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Bartsocas CS (1972) Hephaestus and clubfoot. J Hist Med Allied Sci 27(4):450–451CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Bazopoulou-Kyrkanidou E (1997) What makes Hephaestus lame? Am J Med Genet 72(2):144–155CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Hendrickson Publishers (ed) (2010) The Holy Bible. Genesis, vol. 6. King James Version, 1611 Edition, Hendrickson Publishers, Edinburgh, UK, pp 1–4Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Available at: http://www.genesisandgenetics.org/2011/09/. Accessed November 5, 2017
  25. 25.
    Donnelly DE, Morrison PJ (2014) Hereditary gigantism-the biblical giant goliath and his brothers. Ulster Med J 83(2):86–88PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Chahal HS, Stals K, Unterländer M, Balding DJ, Thomas MG, Kumar AV, Besser GM, Atkinson AB, Morrison PJ, Howlett TA, Levy MJ, Orme SM, Akker SA, Abel RL, Grossman AB, Burger J, Ellard S, Korbonits M (2011) AIP mutation in pituitary adenomas in the 18th century and today. N Engl J Med 364(1):43–50CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Evelyn-White HG (translator) (1914) Hesiod, theogony, in the homeric hymns and homerica. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA; William Heinemann Ltd., LondonGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Burridge A (1995) Did Akhenaten suffer from Marfan’s syndrome? Akhenaten Temple Project Newsletter No 3Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Lorenz M (1996) The mystery of Akhenaten: genetics or aesthetics? Available at: Heptune.com. Accessed on 5 November 2017
  30. 30.
    Viljoen D, Ramesar R, Behari D (1991) Beals syndrome: clinical and molecular investigations in a kindred of Indian descent. Clin Genet 39(3):181–188CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Homer, Odyssey 9.331–333Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    de Herder WW (2009) Acromegaly and gigantism in the medical literature. Case descriptions in the era before and the early years after the initial publication of Pierre Marie (1886). Pituitary 12(3):236–244CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Shirley ED, Ain MC (2009) Achondroplasia: manifestations and treatment. J Am Acad Orthop Surg 17(4):231–241CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Bamshad M, Van Heest AE, Pleasure D (2009) Arthrogryposis: a review and update. J Bone Joint Surg Am 91(Suppl 4):40–46CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Soucacos PN, Gartziou-Tatti A, Paschopoulos M (2017) Hybrid and extraordinary beings: deviations from “normality” in ancient Greek mythology and modern medicine. Konstandaras Medical Publications, AthensGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Hernigou P (2017) History of clubfoot treatment; part III (twentieth century): back to the future. Int Orthop (SICOT) 41(1):2407–2414CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Tsoucalas G, Sgantzos M (2017) Paul of Aegina (ca 625-690 AD), and his orthopaedic surgical reconstruction of the preternatural fingers. Int Orthop (SICOT) 41(1):211–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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

Personalised recommendations