Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Uncertain Beginnings: Childbirth and Risk in the Roman World
Authors: Freidin, Anna Bonnell
Advisors: Shaw, Brent D
Contributors: Classics Department
Keywords: Childbirth
Subjects: Ancient history
Classical studies
Gender studies
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Most Romans understood childbearing as a woman's telos, her end purpose, as well as the greatest threat to her wellbeing. This double valuation prompts questions about how Romans responded to the risks of giving birth. Mistakes, misfortunes, and interventions in the process of human generation were seen to have far-reaching consequences, reverberating for generations, altering the course of people's lives, their family history, and even the fate of an empire. In this dissertation, I examine how the risks of childbirth were constructed, understood, and mitigated in the Roman world, and how they were subject to intense debate and a variety of techniques, often sharing assumptions about the female body. The project focuses on approximately the first three centuries of the common era. I argue that the unseen process of generation - and its risks - were often understood through analogies and metaphors drawn from phenomena in the non-human environment. This viewpoint can help us understand the variable network of actors involved in the birth process and approaches to mitigating its dangers and uncertainties. Along with the complex relationship of the maternal-fetal pair, I move between the dynamics of the birthing chamber on the micro scale to demographic trends and Roman pronatalist ideology, setting the stage for close studies of medical approaches to the risks of childbearing, how amulets were understood to disrupt and affect childbirth, and perceptions of fortune, fate, and divine intervention. The dissertation offers a multifaceted perspective on what it meant to give birth in the Roman world - a key process in the generative cycle that shaped and defined the lives of the vast majority of women living under the empire.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Classics

Files in This Item:
This content is embargoed until 2022-04-23. For more information contact the Mudd Manuscript Library.

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.