Roman attitudes to disability – a good article from a wheelchair

Teachers who are aware of the need to discuss moral and social questions in the context of the ancient world will do well to read and perhaps print out this piece from the New Statesman Extracts follow, but you will want the whole article.

View from my wheelchair – Victoria Brignell on life as a disabled person.

Victoria Brignell works as a radio producer with the BBC. After reading classics at Downing College, Cambridge, she undertook journalism training at Cardiff University. She lives in West London and is 30 years old and is a tetraplegic wheelchair-user.

Since I was a child I’ve been fascinated by the ancient world. Indeed, spurred on by two evangelical Latin teachers, I decided to read Classics at university – and proceeded to spend numerous happy and fulfilling hours translating the rude and sexually explicit parts of Latin poetry. (I can say with total confidence that you’ll never hear Catullus’s poem 41 read out on Radio 4’s Poetry Please).

Many aspects of ancient Rome are familiar to us. Think of the Romans and we conjure up images of mosaics, baths, aqueducts, the Coliseum and Pompeii. But what do we know about disability in the Roman Empire? What role did disabled peopleplay in Roman society? What were Roman attitudes towards disability?

The whole article is a hard look at the less than attractive way that disabled people were treated, from a lover of the Classics. Do read it here.

By the way, the three comments already posted on the New Statesman site are all enthusiastic, e.g.

What a fantastic article and the first time I've heard a good argument for learning Latin!

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