How Were the Deaf Treated in Ancient Times?

Deafness is a condition that has been present in human history for centuries. In ancient times, the treatment of the deaf was not as advanced as it is today. This article takes a look at how deaf people were treated in ancient times.

Treatment of the Deaf in Ancient Times

In ancient times, the deaf were often seen as outcasts. They were viewed as being cursed or possessed by evil spirits, and were therefore shunned by society. It was believed that the deaf could not learn or communicate effectively, and as such, they were relegated to a life of isolation.

The Ancient Egyptians

The ancient Egyptians had a more positive view of the deaf than most other cultures of their time. They believed that the deaf had a special connection to the gods and that they possessed magical powers. As such, they were often employed as scribes and priests.

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, the treatment of the deaf was much more negative. The Greeks believed that disabilities were punishments from the gods, and as such, the deaf were often seen as being cursed. They were excluded from society and denied access to education.

Ancient Rome

In ancient Rome, attitudes towards the deaf varied depending on social class. The upper classes saw them as being intellectually inferior and unable to learn or communicate effectively. However, some members of the lower classes saw them as being capable of learning and communicating through sign language.

The Development of Sign Language

Despite societal attitudes towards them, many deaf people in ancient times developed their own methods of communication. In some cases, they created their own sign language systems that allowed them to communicate with each other.

The Origins of Sign Language

The origins of sign language are difficult to trace because it was not until relatively recently that sign languages began to be recorded in writing. However, it is known that sign language has been used by deaf people for centuries.

Sign Language in Ancient Cultures

There is evidence to suggest that sign language was used by deaf people in ancient cultures such as those of the Native Americans and the Maori of New Zealand. These cultures developed their own sign language systems that were used to communicate within their communities.

The Modern Treatment of the Deaf

Today, attitudes towards the deaf have improved significantly. In many countries, they are given access to education and employment opportunities. Sign language has been recognized as a legitimate language, and is taught in schools for the deaf.

The Importance of Accessibility

The modern treatment of the deaf highlights the importance of accessibility for all members of society. By providing access to education and employment opportunities, we can ensure that everyone is given an equal chance to succeed.

The Role of Technology

Technology has played a significant role in improving the lives of the deaf. Advances in hearing aids and cochlear implants have made it possible for many deaf people to hear for the first time. Video conferencing software has also made it easier for deaf people to communicate with others around the world.


The treatment of the deaf in ancient times was often harsh and exclusionary. However, through their own ingenuity and determination, many deaf people developed their own methods of communication that allowed them to thrive within their communities. Today, attitudes towards the deaf have improved significantly, but there is still more work that needs to be done to ensure that they are given equal opportunities in all areas of life.