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Arch Hellen Med, 33(4), July-August 2016, 675-679


The penalty of blinding of the Emperor Romanus IV Diogenes

N. Stavrakakis
"Venizelio-Pananion" General Hospital, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

The fallen Byzantine Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes was cruelly blinded on the 29th June 1072. This was a penalty to punish him and was designed to deter him from any possible ambition of retaking the throne. Any mutilation would disqualify an individual from taking the throne since an Emperor had to be unblemished. The penalty of blinding was recognized as capital punishment, similar to the various punishments by death. Subject to the Emperor's mercy, the death penalty could be replaced by blinding, which resulted in complete loss of vision and was considered to be a lifelong punishment. Blinding was a recognized penalty for political rivals and for the crime of "high treason" (kathosiosis). All people who were not cleared of conspiracy or who contested the power of the Emperor had to be punished. Blinding was accomplished by gouging out the eyes, often using a hot poker or by pouring a boiling substance, such as vinegar, on them. Despite receiving assurances of his personal safety, Diogenes was blinded on the order of the new Emperor in Kotyaion (Kioutahya) by a Jew, who, due to inexperience, needed three attempts to perform the task, using a sharp metal object. Without medical assistance, the wound became infected and Diogenes soon developed periocular tissue sepsis with head and facial edema and worms falling out of his ocular injuries. Five weeks later he died on Prote Island in the Sea of Marmara, on the 4th August 1072.

Key words: Blinding penalty, Byzantine medicine, Matzikert, Romanos Diogenis.

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