- 1. MOTHER AND CHILD IN THE GREEK WORLD Historical Perspectives
on womanhood and children in the ancient world
- Who or what was a woman during the time of the ancient
- What were the common ways and means related to womanhood?
- What status did they have?
- What were the commonsense beliefs on conception, pregnancy,
childbirth, abortion, and perils of womanhood?
- What is a child in ancient Greek society?
- Did children have any significance in the Greek society?
- On Virgins by Hippocrates 4 thcentury BC...
- Unmarried girls at menarche are liable to become delirious and
to throw themselves down wells and drown, since the menstrual blood
cannot properly flow until the orifice of egress has been openedup
through intercourse. Unable to find release, the blood settles
around the heart and becomes a burden to the body, producing
heaviness, torpor and insanity...my prescription is that virgins
should marry as soon as possible...if they become healthy they are
cured...if not, then at puberty or shortly afterwards they will
4. MALE POINTS OF VIEW OF WOMEN
- More male doctors , less female midwives
- Primary procreating function of the male sperm over female
- a. Eumenidesof Aeschylusmother is not the parent of that which
is called the child, but only nurse of the newly implanted seed. It
is the one who mounts who is the true parent
- b.Myth of Zeus 1 stwife MetisZeus upon learning that his wife
is pregnant was advised by Ouranus & Gaia to swallow her
otherwise she bears a child that would be mightier than its father(
Athena, the child)
- c. Birth of Dionysius sewn as an embryo to Zeus thigh which
implies the perception that male can function after females
function is done.
- d. AristotlesHistory of Animals - stated that male is
instrumental in enducing labor pains
- - from SoranusGynaecology-conception is most likely when ones
period is coming to an end and after taking little food; must be
sober during intercourse otherwise the offspring will be
- -Hippocrates- environmental elements determine conception
exposure to hot wind and hard water results to barrenness,
miscarriages, and hardening of breast.
- -strenuous activity prevents conception
- -food conditions the uterus-beans and water made into a dough
as contraceptive measure.
- - extended pregnancy is possible( a misconception of
- - Hippocrates Obstetrics:
- On test for pregnancy water mixed with honey
- To determine sex of the unborn healthy complexion means male;
poor complexion means female
- How to cure infertility excessively thin women can easily
miscarry; excessively fat women cannot conceive
- Health of the embryo if mothers breast is hard it is healthy;if
milk flows plentifully then it is unhealthy
- On test for fertility-cover her with blanket and burn perfume
beneath her. When the scent passes through her body up into her
mouth and nostrils, the she is not sterile
- -home delivery- unassisted by doctor; done by midwives
- - maiaasks mother to seat upright on a stool with a
crescent-shape cut into it; calms the mothers fear; draws the
amniotic sac with forefinger of left hand then catches infant in a
towel; revives mother with scents
- - Childbirth was so risky partly because standards of hygiene
were so inadequate, and partly because majority of mothers were
still pubescent when they first gave birth(age 14 or 15).
Miscarriages were extremely common as were the deaths of women in
- - Generally despised and summed up in the Hippocratic oath, I
will not give to any woman a pessary to cause abortion
- -selective abortion only for health risk, adultery, or
aesthetic recovery reasons
- -How? Walking about energetically and be shaken by draught
animals; or leap violently or carry things which are too
- GREEK ATTITUDE TOWARDS ABORTION
- Abortion is done only after authorization from father to ensure
father, not the mothers rights.
- Abortion is permissible only before the fetus received life and
feeling(Aristotle)- fear of increasing population and not much on
the concern for the right of the unborn.
- Abortion pollutes household- abortion of fully developed unborn
heavily pollutes, while that of less developed fetus lightly
- Termination is least likely through abortion otherwise there
will be blood-guilt
- Resorted instead toekthesisor exposure where a child will be
brought to a desolate place to be left to die of cold and lack of
food or be devoured by beasts.
- Q: what validated such immorality and cruelty to children
- Girls were abandoned far more frequently than boys:
- -girls are more expensive to be brought up than boys
- -range of jobs for girls are limited
- -when they get married, substantial dowry is needed(lower
- Possidipus, if you have a son, you bring him up, even if you
are poor, but if you have a daughter, you abandon her, even if you
- Who decides whether to abandon child or not?
- FATHER since he owns the child
- 1.Inscriptions in Miletus Turkey where a noticeable low number
of female as membes of population;
- 2.Presence of mercenaries whose tasks were to ensure the
listing of names to account for citizenship;
- 3. Legality of abandonement of handicapped in Sparta,the life
which nature had not provided with health and strength was of no
use either to itself or to the state
- OnEkthesisand membership to the family
- -the decision whether to put down a child had to be done before
the 10 thday from birth because right on the 10 thday a membership
ceremony had to be performed.
- AMPHIDROMIA - membership ceremony which sought guidance from
Hestia, the goddess of hearth(fireplace fire as purificant &
fireplace as center of home)
- Why the need to purify the child? to ensure that the childs
birth has not polluted the community at large.
- Why was there the idea of polluting or uncleanliness in
childbirth? Greeks believed that a woman giving birth is unclean
both in the physical and religious sense.
- -main cause: perpetual warfare among Greeks
- - Orphanosfatherless child further indicates prejudice against
the status & importance of mother in Greek social
- -In Athens orphans of those who died in war were taken care of
the state until they come of age, but those left behind by parents
who died of disease or accident were not necessarily taken care by
- ON NURSING AND REARING CHILDREN
- -mothers generally nursed but if well-off, a nurse is
- -nurse must be self-controlled, sympathetic, well-tempered, and
Greek nursing is a simple transmission of character.
- 1.Greek myth, Greek philosophy and Greek medicine all combine
to produce an image of the mother which to modern eyes emphatically
suggests an undervaluation of women.This interpretation is
suggested most strikingly by the perception of the female as
biologically defective and subservient organism whoseproper
functioning requires the intervention and subservience of male; and
for the low emphasis placed on ties of affection which our society
are believed to exist naturally between a motherand her child.
- 2. Consequently, there has been very little and insignificant
portrayal of mother and child theme before the 10 thcentury of
Christianity revealing the irrelevance of such theme in Greek
21. Thoughts to ponder
- Are the forgoinganalysis of details of Greek society relative
to women and children really reflective of the weak capabilities of
- Could it not be that such views may have been the necessary
result of the all-too frequent occurence of child death which may
have also been the reason for the dearth of artistic
representations of mother and child?
- Could it also be that the Greek medical ascriptions on women
were their means of expressing their compassion towards the great
biological constraints inherent to women?