Cover image for Abortion in the ancient world
Abortion in the ancient world
Kapparis, K. A.
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Publication Information:
London : Duckworth Academic, [2002]

Physical Description:
viii, 264 pages ; 25 cm.
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HQ767 .K36 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Ethical dilemmas and heated arguments on abortion very similar to our own, exercised Greek and Roman doctors, philosophers, historians, theologians, dramatists, novelists and poets. In this study, Professor Kapparis extrapolates the views of ancient physicians on abortion from a detailed investigation of the medical facts, medical and philosophical theories concerning the human status of the unborn in antiquity, the Hippocratic Oath, and other important documents on Greek medical ethics. He explores the reasons why women in antiquity sought abortions, male concerns and attitudes towards abortion, and religious, social, cultural and demographic trends influencing the legal status of abortion in antiquity. Abortion in the Ancient World thus presents the ancient debate on abortion and its ethics against its historical, legal, economic, social and cultural background, and links it to the modern debate.

Author Notes

Konstantinos Kapparis is Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Florida. He has published a major commentary on the speech Against Neaira, and several articles on Athenian law and constitution.

Table of Contents

1 Methods of Abortion: Science and Superstition
1 Orally administered drugs
2 Pessaries
3 Externally applied drugs
4 Mechanical means
5 Surgical abortions
6 Ancillary techniques
7 Magic and superstition Conclusions
2 When Does Human Life Begin?
1 What is 'human'?
2 Human life begins at conception
3 Human life begins at birth
4 Human life begins while the foetus is growing Conclusions
3 The Doctor's Dilemma
1 The medical practitioner in the ancient world
2 Ancient Greek medical ethics
3 The Hippocratic oath
4 The preservation of human life
5 The health of the woman
6 Morals and money
7 The views of famous doctors of the ancient world
8 The medical woman and the midwife Conclusions
4 The Woman's Point of View Abortion in a Greek village: an anthropological parallel
1 The adulteress
2 The prostitute
3 Abortion for the sake of beauty
4 Abortion for social and economic reasons
5 Abortion as a political statement Conclusion
5 The Man's Point of View
1 The hope of becoming a father
2 Name, succession and inheritance
3 The future citizen
4 Abortion adoption, exposure and infanticide
5 The accessory to the crime Conclusions
6 Abortion and the Law
1 Religion, abortion and the law
2 Was abortion a crime in the eyes of the law?
3 Lysias frr. 19-24 Carey: an abortion trial in classical Athens
4 The trial of Cicero's Milesian woman Conclusions
7 Attitudes to Abortion: A historical Perspective Appendixes
1 Pseudo-Galen: Whether what is carried in the womb is a living being
2 Abortion, the Hippocratic Oath, and the sacred ordinances of the Philadelphia inscription (LSA20)
Select Bibliography
Index of Ancient Authors
Index of Topics