Nyctalopia in antiquity: a review of the ancient Greek, Latin, and Byzantine literature

Here we present the ‘Abstract‘ of the corresponding paper by Brouzas D, Charakidas A, Vasilakis M, Nikakis P, Chatzoulis D.



To investigate the original definition and use of the term nyctalopia in ancient medical literature in view of the controversy between the English and some continental European literatures.


Historical manuscript.


We review the use of the term in ancient Greek, Roman, and early Byzantine medical literature (5th century BC-7th century AD) and include a quick reference to the theories on its etymology.


Physicians of antiquity defined as nyctalopia the symptom of defective dark adaptation, most commonly in the clinical setting of vitamin A deficiency. An alternative definition, the improvement of vision at night, is not recorded before the 2nd century AD and seems to result from a broader interpretation of the word, lacking medical acceptance at that time.


We propose to the ophthalmic community the use of the term nyctalopia exclusively for the description of defective dark adaptation.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: