The historical phenomenon of conjoined or “Siamese” twins is a fascinating medical mystery that dates back centuries. The earliest documented case of conjoined twins, according to historical records, was in the 10th century, originating from Armenia.
The birth rate of conjoined twins is approximately one in every 200,000 births. Of these births, around half of the twins are stillborn, making their survival rate extremely low. In the past, the occurrence of conjoined twins was seen as a congenital anomaly, often believed to be a bad omen. As a result, these infants were often left to die. However, advancements in modern medicine now provide the possibility of survival and separation, giving these individuals a chance at independent lives.
The first recorded case of conjoined twins were Armenian brothers born in the year 945 AD. Not much is known about their lives, including their names, but it is documented that they were conjoined at the back. Despite the adversities they faced due to their physical condition, the brothers survived into adulthood and became a spectacle at the imperial court of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus in Constantinople.
During this era, people with physical abnormalities often had limited opportunities for making a living. The brothers supplemented their service at the imperial court by traveling through the countryside, drawing attention and curiosity due to their unique physical condition.
In the mid-10th century, one of the twins tragically passed away. In an effort to save the surviving twin, an historical attempt was made at separation – likely the first of its kind. Despite the medical intervention, the surviving twin lived for only three days following the procedure.
This poignant tale of the Armenian conjoined twins from the 10th century illuminates the difficult lives of conjoined twins in history. Today, with the advances in medical technology and surgical techniques, many conjoined twins have a chance at separation and independent lives, a stark contrast to the fate of the Armenian twins in the Byzantine era.
by Lilit Mkrtchyan
Image source: barev.today
Translation and editing of text by Vigen Avetisyan