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670px-Nuremberg chronicles - Strange People - Umbrella Foot (XIIr)

A monopod

Monopods (also sciapods, skiapods, skiapodes, Monocoli) are mythological human creatures with a single, large foot extending from a leg centered in the middle of their body. The name Skiapodes is derived from σκιαποδες - "shadow feet" in Greek, monocoli from μονοκωλοι - 'one legged' in Greek.

They were described by Pliny the Elder in Naturialis Historia. Pliny describes how travelers have reported their encounters or sights of Monopods in India, and he records their stories. Pliny remarks that they are first mentioned by Ctesias in his book Indika (India), a record of the view of Persians of India which only remains in fragments. Pliny describes Monopods as thus (Natural History 7:2):

He [Ctesias] speaks also of another race of men, who are known as Monocoli, who have only one leg, but are able to leap with surprising agility. The same people are also called Sciapodae, because they are in the habit of lying on their backs, during the time of the extreme heat, and protect themselves from the sun by the shade of their feet.

Sciapode

Shading himself from the sun.

Philostratus mentions Skiapodes in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana, which was cited by Eusebius in his Treatise Against Hierocles. Apollonius of Tyana believes the Skiapodes live in India and Ethiopia, and asks the Indian sage Iarkhas about their existence.

St. Augustine mentions the "Skiopodes" in The City of God, Book 16 in the 8th chapter entitled, "Whether Certain Monstrous Races of Men Are Derived From the Stock of Adam or Noah's Sons." Reference to the legend continued into the Middle Ages, for example with Isidore of Selville in his Etymologiae.

It is possible that the myth derived from a misinterpretation of the practice of Indian yogis (sadhu) who sometimes meditate on one foot.

John of Marignolli (1338–53) provides an explanation of these creature. Quote from his travels from India:

"The truth is that no such people do exist as nations, though there may be an individual monster here and there. Nor is there any people at all such as has been invented, who have but one foot which they use to shade themselves withal. But as all the Indians commonly go naked, they are in the habit of carrying a thing like a little tent-roof on a cane handle, which they open out at will as a pro­tection against sun or rain. This they call a chatyr; I brought one to Florence with me. And this it is which the poets have converted into a foot."

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