Web Theoi
BLEMMYES
 
Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Βλεμμυας
Βλεμμυαι Βλεμμυες
Blemmyas
Blemmyai, Blemmyes
Blemmyas
Blemmyae, Blemmyes
Gazing from Middle
(blemma, mesos)
Blemmyes  from the Nurenburg Chronicle 1493
Blemmyas from the Nurenburg Chronicle of 1493

THE BLEMMYAI or STERNOPHTHALMOI "chest-eyes" were a tribe of headless men whose faces were set upon their chests. They were said to dwell in either Africa or India.

The Chest-Eyes were very popular in Medieval bestiaries and in the illustrations filling the Terra Incognita of old maps.


Herodotus, Histories 4. 191. 3 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :
"For the eastern region of Libya [i.e. North Africa], which the nomads inhabit, is low-lying and sandy as far as the Triton river; but the land west of this, where the farmers live, is exceedingly mountainous and wooded and full of wild beasts. In that country are the huge snakes and the lions, and the elephants and bears and asps, the horned asses, the Dog-Headed (Kynokephaloi) and the Headless (Akephaloi) men that have their eyes in their chests, as the Libyans say, and the wild men and women, besides many other creatures not fabulous."

Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7. 23 (trans. Rackham) (Roman encyclopedia C1st A.D.) :
"Ctesias [Greek historian C4th B.C.] writes that . . . westward from these [the Troglodytoi of the Red Sea coast of Africa] there are some people without necks, having eyes in their shoulders."

Greek Name Transliteration Latin Spelling Translation
Στερνοφθαλμος
Στερνοφθαλμοι
Sternophthalmos
Sternophthalmoi
Sternophthalmus
Sternophthalmi
Chest-Eyes
(sternos, thalmos)
Ακεφαλος
Ακεφαλοι
Akephalos
Akephaloi
Acephalus
Acephali
Headless
(a-, kephalê)

Sources:

  • Herodotus, Histories - Greek History C5th B.C.
  • Pliny the Elder, Natural History - Latin Encyclopedia C1st A.D.