Ancient autism

Hi Cecil, are there any examples in ancient literature such as Greek plays, the Bible or even Shakespeare of characters who fit the autism and Asperger spectrum syndromes?

Alex Downunder

Plenty are somewhere on the spectrum, but full-blown autism was normally perceived as either an extreme form of insanity or as an extreme form of idiocy. (Note that both “autism” and “idiocy” have the common original sense of “being wrapped up in one’s self”.) So they weren’t seen as interesting from an artistic viewpoint.

Trying to read the original column, but, despite being a Charter Member in good standing, I cannot do it because of all the popups that prevent it! My first click should’ve indicated I wanted nothing to do with such conference. I gave up after six tries. I have no ideas of the tortures newbies must endure JUST TO READ YOUR FUCKING COLUMN!

This is precisely NOT how you attract new readers.

I suspect that most kids on the autism spectrum didn’t survive more than a few years.

I also suspect that many “mutes” were in fact non verbal autism spectrum.

Just my wag as a parent of someone on the spectrum.

It’s not ancient by any means, but I’ve always been fascinated by the Hall-Mills murder case of the 1920s. Besides the central mystery of who murdered Rev. Hall and his lover (still unsolved), there was a primary witness, the brother of the widowed/suspected wife, who became a central figure in the news reporting.

Willie Carpender fascinated the reporters and public because he was obviously intelligent and well-read, but had endless bizarre behaviors and quirky responses to questions. From our perspective, there’s no question he was somewhere between severely Aspergers and high-functioning autistic, but the lack of understanding of this disability led to all kinds of strange stories, including ones about his testimony in court. It’s an interesting read along with the main thrust of the case, it’s prosecution and its murky conclusion.


Boo Radley?

Probably isn’t “ancient,” but people have speculated that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may have been portraying autistic/Asperger’s people that he may have known in real life, in his fictional character Sherlock Holmes.
As for the truly ancient days, I would guess that autistic people were in for beatings, punishment and ostracization.

Temple Grandin has said that arrowheads and other tools were probably invented by those people who sat in the back of the cave and never talked to other people.

As for people with more severe autism not living long, that would make sense because many of them nowadays have seizure disorders, digestive issues, self-injurious behaviors, and other issues that are not compatible with a long life.

A bit of Maslow’s Law in there, somewhere.

I’m not seeing any such thing, and never have. There are viruses that can cause what you’re seeing.

The OP is referring to:

and possibly:

I think I’m going to have to disagree with that, except in cases of severely impaired people. In the ancient world, if they can hand you a hoe, point you at a patch of ground and say “get to it”, it was all good. That would include quite a lot of the spectrum - certainly nearly anyone with an Aspergers diagnosis. You wouldn’t be living independently - but neither did anyone else.

In many ways, I think the ancient world would be a lot easier to cope with for an ASD person than the modern world. It’s simple, structured, and one day goes pretty much like the next one. I bet those who could find their niche in terms of useful work would find it a whole lot less stressful and aggravating than he 21st century.