Heterochromia of the eye was first described as a human condition by Aristotle, who termed it heteroglaucos.
The word Heterochromia is derived from Ancient Greek: heteros "different" and chroma "colour".
It is a harmless genetic mutation that affects the way pigment develops in a person’s irises, but it can also be a side-effect of an injury or a disease later in life.
Notable historical figures thought to have heterochromia include the Byzantine emperor Anastasius the First, dubbed dikoros (Greek for 'having two pupils).
"His right eye was light blue, while the left was black, nevertheless his eyes were most attractive", is the description of the historian John Malalas.
A more recent example is the German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, and critic, Johann Wolfgang Goethe.
The Alexander Romance, an early literary treatment of the life of Alexander the Great, attributes heterochromia to him.
In it he is described as having one eye light and one eye dark. However, no ancient historical source mentions this.
It is used to emphasise the otherworldly and heroic qualities of Alexander.
In the Ars Amatoria, the Roman poet Ovid describes the witch Dipsas as having 'double pupils'.
Kirby Flower Smith suggested that this could be understood as heterochromia, though other scholars have disagreed.
The Roman jurist and writer Cicero also mentions the same feature of 'double pupils' as being found in some Italic women. Pliny the Elder related this feature to the concept of 'the evil eye'.
- Posted earlier in Archeology & Civilizations Facebook Group about heterochromia in folklore: "Different cultures have had different traditions around mismatched eyes throughout history. Eastern European pagans thought they were witch eyes, while many Native American cultures believed they were ghost eyes that granted a person the ability to see into heaven and earth."