18 September 2013

The Twins

I have been accompanying the Book of Ceremonies with the pictures from the Skylitzes Chronicle (download it here).  Admittedly, they were taken out of context, but they nicely illustrate the text even if painted much later.

I came across these pictures of conjoined twins Skylitzes, and immediately wrote John Burke in Melbourne to find out what is going on. John knows more about Skylitzes than just about anyone ever. John sent back this:

From Wortley's translation:
"In those days a monstrous thing came to the imperial city from Armenia: a pair of Siamese twins, males sharing a single belly, but they were driven out of the city as an evil portent. Then they came back in the [sole] reign of Constantine [VII]. When one of the twins died, some experienced doctors tried to excise the dead portion -- and they were successful, but the living twin survived only a short while and then died." 

Leo the Deacon (Talbot-Sullivan translation) offers a little more, though they may be  different  twins:
"At this time male twins, who came from the region of Cappadocia, were wandering through many parts of the Roman Empire: I myself, who am writing these lines, have often seen them in Asia, a monstrous and novel wonder.  For the [various] parts of their bodies were whole and complete, but their sides were attached from the armpit to the hip, uniting their bodies and combining them into one.  And with their adjacent arms they embraced each other's necks, and in the others they carried staffs, on which they supported themselves as they walked.  They were thirty years old and well developed physically, appearing youthful and vigorous.  On long journeys they used to ride on a mule, sitting [sideways] on the saddle in the female fashion, and they had indescribably sweet and good dispositions.  But enough about this."


  1. What a treat it is to read your blog: I always marvel at the beams you shine upon that strange and wonderful (and terrible) time.


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