From Fortean Times 199 (August, 2005):

"Eyes are the windows of the soul" (Cicero, Orator, ch18 para60). What did. Shelley see via the female acquaintance with (the story went) eyes instead of nipples - a womb with a view? Greek mythology is polyopthalmic. The Three Grey Sisters shared one eye between them. Blind Homer's (Odyssey, bk9) monocular Cyclops had his brogged out. Argos had 100. Lynceus's sharp pair could spot subterranean objects.

"A library-myth that irritates me most is the classification of books under `fiction' and `non-fiction"' -Fort, Books, p863). Herodotus (Histories, bk3 ch116) reports widespread belief in the one-eyed tribe of Arimaspians. The Roman Julius Obsequens (Book of Prodigies, ch24) records a boy born (136BC) with four. In Herodotus's Athens, draft-dodgers feigned opthahnia to evade military service (Aristophanes, Frogs, w190-2).

"The most warlike and successful generals have been one-eyed men," declared Plutarch (Life of Sertorius, chl para4), adducing with his Roman hero the Macedonians Philip II (Alexander's father) and Antigonus (dubbed `Monopthalmos' by historians). Hannibal was half-blinded in his famed Alpine-elephantine transit; not so Ian Botham in his re-creation.

Pliny (Natural History, bk7 ch2l para85) and Aelian (Historical Miscellany, bkll ch13) mention a fellow, nicely called Strabo ('Squintyeyed'), who could count the ships leaving Carthage from Sicily 123 miles away. Pliny (bkll ch54 pass 142.4) credits Tiberius with the ability to wake in the night and see things clear as day, adding two gladiators who never blinked. He further (bk7 chll paral2) attributes extraordinary night-vision to Albanians, perhaps some consolation for their being bald from birth.

Living B(efore) P(olitical) C(orrectness), Nero (himself visually defective -- that Quo Vadis monocle is authentic) was able poetically to lampoon Clodius Pollio as `The One-Eyed Man' (Suetonius, Life of Domitian, chl paral), while Juvenal (Satire 4 vv113-5) ridiculed a notorious blind politician as "burning with desire for a girl he'd never seen" - step forward, David Blunkett. John Malalas (Chronicle, ch392) says emperor Anastasius (AD 491-518) had one grey eye and one black one. A later Byzantine ruler, Theodore Lascaris, had similar disparity (George Acropolites, Chronicle, ch34).This attribute was often thought to denote supernatural powers, though one anonymous ancient physiognomist (Codex Parisianus 2991) thought it betokened insubstantial character. For more mundane diagnoses,

`Google' the term Heterochromia. It had earlier been shared by (e.g.) the legendary bard Thamyris, Hector of Troy,Alexander the Great (Malalas, ch195), and Nysia, wife of Lydian king Candaules, who acquired it from a mysterious snake-stone (Ptolemy Chennus, in Photius, Library, ch190 para150b). Anastasius was nicknamed `Dikoros', a rare word meaning rather 'Double-pupilled', a condition implied by its equally uncommon cognate nouns in the anonymous medico-magico treatise Cyranides (chs 34,75). Pliny (bk7 chll parasl6-8) quotes sources for double-pupilled tribesmen with the evil eye, also Scythian women double-pupilled in one optic, the likeness of a horse in the other-what was their pupil-teacher ratio?

Elagabalus (Historia Augusta, Life of E, ch29 para3) threw a party for eight monoculars, an example of this teenaged ruler's morbid humour. The Byzantines held legalised blindings, the vilest case being Basil II ('The Bulgar-Slayer') who (Gibbon, ch55) "Inflicted a cool and exquisite vengeance on the 15,000 captives.They were deprived of sight, but to one of each hundred a single eye was left, that he might conduct his blind century to the presence of their king, Samuel, who expired of grief and horror" - prefiguring Erasmus: "In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king".

"Detectives... were searching for a glass-eyed man named Jackson. A Jackson, with a glass eye, was arrested in Boston. But he was not the Jackson they wanted, and pretty soon they got their glass-eyed Jackson in Philadelphia" - Fort, p847

Barry Baldwin
(reprinted with permission of the Author; blame any typically graphic transcription errors on dm)

dm adds:

On the double-pupilled folk -- I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought of Pliny's account when visiting any one of many Ripley's museums ...