Origins of Byzantine blinding

Nov 2015
45
Regnum Hiemis
What are the origins of Byzantine blinding (with hot irons)? Did the Byzantines create it as a political mutilation or did it exist before Byzantines? (Sassanid maybe?)
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,550
Republika Srpska
What are the origins of Byzantine blinding (with hot irons)? Did the Byzantines create it as a political mutilation or did it exist before Byzantines? (Sassanid maybe?)
It became popular in the late 7th-early 8th century, but it was used by Emperors such as Phocas and Heraclius. The reasoning behind the blinding was the same like the reasoning behind any other mutilation, it prevented the blinded person to become Emperor. Emperors were seen as figures of great authority that derives from God himself. And any mutilation would render them "unperfect" and unfit for rule. That's why eunuchs were so trusted, they could never be a threat.
 
Feb 2017
427
Rock Hill, South Carolina
Attila the Hun did it, it's much older than that. We know the Romans, etc. blinded people too. I can think of it going back to at least Ancient Persia.
 

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,550
Republika Srpska
An interesting bit of trivia. The practice of blinding was adopted by neighboring countries from Byzantium, such as Serbia and Bulgaria. For example, Serbian king Milutin attempted (failed) to blind his son Stefan to prevent him from taking the throne. Byzantines also used blinding to indimidate their opponents, such as the famous blindings of Bulgarians/Macedonian Slavs by Basil II. This goes on to show how influential the Byzantines were in the Balkans.
 

Tulun

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
3,861
Western Eurasia
An interesting bit of trivia. The practice of blinding was adopted by neighboring countries from Byzantium, such as Serbia and Bulgaria. For example, Serbian king Milutin attempted (failed) to blind his son Stefan to prevent him from taking the throne. Byzantines also used blinding to indimidate their opponents, such as the famous blindings of Bulgarians/Macedonian Slavs by Basil II. This goes on to show how influential the Byzantines were in the Balkans.
there were also a few cases in Hungary, a relative of Stephen I, Vazul was also blinded by the king. Later king Kálmán/Coloman also blinded prince Álmos and his child son, the later king Béla II (therefore nicknamed Béla the Blind). in these cases i can imagine direct Byzantine inspiration... But it also happened farther away, Alfred Aetheling was blinded in England, in Norway Magnus IV was blinded and castrated. But looking back earlier, the Frankish ruler Louis the Pious also blinded a rebel nephew, Bernard in the 9th century. I wonder if Louis also got the idea from Byzantium?
 
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Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,550
Republika Srpska
there were also a few cases in Hungary, a relative of Stephen I, Vazul was also blinded by the king. Later king Kálmán/Coloman also blinded prince Álmos and his child son, the later king Béla II (there for nicknamed, Béla the Blind). in these cases i can imagine direct Byzantine inspiration... But it also happened farther away, Alfred Aetheling was blinded in England, in Norway Magnus IV was blinded and castrated. But looking back earlier, the Frankish ruler Louis the Pious also blinded a rebel nephew, Bernard in the 9th century. I wonder if Louis also got the idea from Byzantium?
Well, blinding as a political tool was used by many nations and cultures. It is even mentioned in the Bible with the story of Samson and Romans used the blindings to indimidate certain groups like early Christians. I mentioned Serbia and Bulgaria because they clearly got their blinding traditions from Byzantium, a country that influenced them profoundly.
 
Feb 2017
427
Rock Hill, South Carolina
Not that the Byzantine practice was any different from the Roman practice considering they were the same state...

It appears to have originated in the fertile crescent or ancient Persia, as I can't think of any Far Eastern accounts of blinding. However it is a punishment I suspect may have developed independently in several cultures.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,867
Blachernai
It's a bit more complicated than merely making someone unfit to rule. Corporal punishment makes a return in the seventh century, but it's properly enshrined into law under the Isaurians. The guiding principle of that law is philanthropeia, love of man, and it probably finds inspiration in Jewish ideas of bodily pollution and the Christian idea of cutting off whatever part causes you to sin. In the Ekloga, punishments tend to match the sort of crime being committed, so perjurers lose tongues and so on. The mutilation of individuals to disqualify them from imperial office happens at the same time as this and thus cannot be separated out. It's a peculiarly Byzantine phenomenon that needs to be understood in the context of Byzantine legal and religious thinking.

In general, see Mark Humphreys, Law, Power, and Imperial Ideology in the Iconoclast Era, c. 680-850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 117-125.
 

At Each Kilometer

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
3,930
Bulgaria
In Bulgaria Boris I blinded his first born son Vladimir Rasate, allegedly because of his apostasy. Rasate rejected new christian faith and returned to old pagan ways. Thus his other son Simeon became khan/khagan/tzar. Reading posts above probably this mutuliation was popular punishment in the ere area of influence.
 
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At Each Kilometer

Ad Honorem
Sep 2012
3,930
Bulgaria
What exactly is macedonian slavs? Samuil was tzar of Bulgaria, and nickname of Basil II isnt macedonian slavs slayer /in medieval greek of course/