The ocular disease of Aristodemus and Eurytus 480 BC: diagnostic considerations
Objective In the historic description of Herodotus on the battle of Thermopylae at 480 BC two formerly healthy warriors suffer from “ophthalmia”. The purpose of this study is to assess the possible aetiologies of this disease. Design We studied Herodotus’ description in translation and offer a differential diagnosis. Results From the text we deduced that the “ophthalmia” was a condition in two physically fit males with a bilateral decreased or distorted vision, lasting longer than an hour, with an acute or subacute onset in Ancient Greece. The condition ultimately went into remission in one of the two patients, whereas the other subject deceased in combat not long after the onset of the disease, still suffering from the disease. The differential diagnosis consists of (1) anticholinergic syndrome secondary to an intoxication with the berries of the plant Atropa belladonna, (2) automutilation and (3) psychogenic loss of visual acuity. Conclusion It is impossible to assess the ultimate cause of the “opthalmia” after 2500 years, but we suggest the anticholinergic syndrome by intoxication with Atropa belladonna is the most likely.
KeywordsAnticholinergic syndrome Atropa belladonna Ancient history Medicine in literature
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