The Treatment of Infants in Classical and Hellenistic Greece

Milligan, Susan J (1989) The Treatment of Infants in Classical and Hellenistic Greece. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis examines the treatment of infants in the classical and Hellenistic ages of Greece. In the Introduction the scope and aims are described, and my use of ancient literary sources explained. Chapter One deals with the Care of Infants and examines the evidence for the treatment of newborn infants by women carers and medical men, looking in detail at the criteria by which the question of a newborn Infant's viability might have been decided, and what this might mean for the decisions whether to treat a sickly baby and whether to rear or expose the child. Swaddling and Feeding are also studied in this Chapter: the evidence for the practices in the period under study is collected and discussed. In Chapter Two the subject of the decision not to rear Is examined. The practice of killing unwanted Infants in Sparta was subject to special rules, and the related subject of the provision of land to infants who were reared is unique to Sparta, and they form the first part of this Chapter. The second deals with the practice of exposure everywhere else: most of the evidence is from Athens, Including evidence from New Comedy, which has been largely dismissed in modern scholarship and is here surveyed for what it can tell us about contemporary attitudes to exposure and motives for the practice. The laws and political and moral attitudes to exposure are next looked at, with reference especially to Athens, but also in the wider classical and Hellenistic world. The final section of this part surveys and comments on the "exposure debate" In modern scholarship. Part Three discusses the context to which most of the ancient accounts of exposure belong, that of myth and legend. It has been maintained that these tales directly reflect a practice and prevalence once found in real life, but other theories for their existence have recently been put forward which see them as the mythical expression of a ritual connected with puberty Initiation and a primitive form of education in the wilderness. The exposure of Cyrus is an important key to the understanding of this connection between myth and ritual in Greek myths and legends, and the same motives for ascribing exposure to Cyrus's early life apply to the exposure stories told of certain Greek historical characters. Chapter Three deals with the ceremonies performed for infants which admitted them to the family and phratry respectively, and with the significance of the performance of the ceremonies for the legitimacy and citizenship of the child. Orphans are the subject of Chapter Four, and their treatment under Athenian law is reviewed. The state of orphanhood applied to older children as well as infants: it is included here for its value in showing the degree of protection awarded to the most vulnerable class of citizen-children, and the motives which prompted the Athenians to accord them this protection. The concluding chapter of this thesis draws together the implications of some of the evidence collected, In particular regarding the significance of the high neonatal death rate. It is suggested that the subject of exposure and infanticide be looked at In this context (as an alternative, for example, to the more usual context of birth-control and population limitation). An attempt is made to understand the prevalent attitude of parents in ancient Greece to their youngest offspring and the state of Infancy. Some of the child-care practices are assessed, as far as this is possible, for their repressive and indulgent tendencies. Conclusions of a general nature about the treatment of orphans are put forward.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Classical studies, Ancient history
Date of Award: 1989
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1989-77952
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 15:46
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 15:46

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