Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Child-Exposure in the Roman Empire*

  • W. V. Harris (a1)
Abstract

The exposure of infants, very often but by no means always resulting in death, was widespread in many parts of the Roman Empire. This treatment was inflicted on large numbers of children whose physical viability and legitimacy were not in doubt. It was much the commonest, though not the only, way in which infants were killed, and in many, perhaps most, regions it was a familiar phenomenon. While there was some disapproval of child-exposure, it was widely accepted as unavoidable. Some, especially Stoics, disagreed, as did contemporary Judaism, insisting that all infants, or at least all viable and legitimate infants, should be kept alive. Exposure served to limit the size of families, but also to transfer potential labour from freedom to slavery (or at any rate to de facto slavery). Disapproval of exposure seems slowly to have gained ground. Then, after the sale of infants was authorized by Constantine in A.D. 313, the need for child-exposure somewhat diminished, and at last — probably in 374 — it was subjected to legal prohibition. But of course it did not cease.

Copyright
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

M. Manson , ‘The emergence of the small child in Rome’, History of Education 12 (1983), 149–59

M. Dickeman , ‘Demographic consequences of infanticide in man’, Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 6 (1975), 130

D. B. Redford , ‘The literary motif of the exposed child’, Numen 14 (1967), 213–14

K. Hopkins , ‘The age of Roman girls at marriage’, Population Studies 18 (19641965), 309–27

P. Brulé holds that in Greece children born to slave women were generally exposed if the owner was the father (‘Infanticide et abandon d'enfants’, Dialogues d'histoire ancienne 18 (1992)

M. Golden , ‘Demography and the exposure of girls at Athens’, Phoenix 35 (1981), 316–31

P. Marcy , ‘Factors affecting the fecundity and fertility of historical populations’, Journ. of Family History 6 (1981), 310

K. R. Bradley , ‘On the Roman slave supply and slavebreeding’, Slavery and Abolition 8 (1987), 4264

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The Journal of Roman Studies
  • ISSN: 0075-4358
  • EISSN: 1753-528X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-roman-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 21 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 392 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th July 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.