Childbirth was a dangerous business. Doctors tended not to be involved, being more concerned with matters of disease. Instead, the Greeks relied on midwifery. For uncomplicated births, this worked well, but the Greek understanding of hygiene and anatomy was rudimentary in the 5th century, and mortuary data from the ancient world suggests a spike in deaths among women in their late teens, at the time of the firs confinement of many. Cesarean sections were unknown, and the death of mother and child was more commonplace than now. Childbearing was associated with Eileithyia, a goddess to whom pregnant women prayed and who was connected with Artemis. Abortifacients, magic spells, and exposure were all used in an attempt to control fertility.
The birth of a child was a significant event for the whole family and had to be marked accordingly. The child was not just an individual but a member of the family and was accepted by the father, who lifted the child up and bestowed upon it a name. The child was accepted into the family at a ritual called the amphidromia, about a week after birth.The house and all those associated with the birth were washed to rid them of pollution.When the child was 10 days old, he or she was named. Boys were often named for their paternal grandfathers, attesting to the strong intergenerational bonds within the family.
[Courtesy Professor Jeremy McInerney]