Physiognomy in Graeco-Roman times

  • François Retief Navorsingsgenoot, Universiteit van die Vrystaat
  • Louise Cilliers


Physiognomy, the discipline which endeavours to deduce from individuals’ exterior features their character, disposition, even destiny, originated in Pre-Socratic times. In this article the development of physiognomy in the Graeco-Roman era is reviewed, with emphasis on seminal publications like the pseudo-Aristotelean Physiognomonica (3rd century BC), Polemon’s works (2nd century AD) and the so-called Anonymus Latinus (4th century AD). Its general impact on society and on the arts, literature and rhetorical techniques in particular is revisited, as well as its connections with medicine and mantic disciplines.

Original Research