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In Rome, it was not unusual for the wealthy to keep a person with a physical or a mental disability, referred to as a "fool," for their amusement. Later, royal courts commonly kept "fools" or "court jesters" as playthings.


With the rise of Christianity, there was a gradual influence on how persons with disabilities were treated. Jesus Christ (6 B.C. - 30 A.D.), called "The Great Physician," showed compassion for persons with disabilities. In the New Testament, Jesus is frequently credited with showing kindness and performing miraculous cures of those who were "lame, blind, and otherwise disabled". St. Paul directed Christians to "comfort the feeble-minded."

By the fourth century A.D., the rise of Christianity led to more humane practices toward persons with disabilities. Infanticide (the practice of killing children) ceased and helping "the afflicted" became a sign of strength.

Court Jester
Court Jester