2 U. C. Dublin L. Rev. 92 (2002)
Evidence of Infanticide and Exposure in Antiquity: Tolerated Social Practice, Uncontrolled Phenomenon or Regulated Custom

handle is hein.journals/ucdublir2 and id is 98 raw text is: EVIDENCE OF INFANTICIDE AND EXPOSURE IN ANTIQUITY:
TOLERATED SOCIAL PRACTICE, UNCONTROLLED PHENOMENON
OR REGULATED CUSTOM?
Karen Brennan*
I. INTRODUCTION
..we find ourselves in [the] presence of that practice of infanticide which
was one of the deepest stains of the ancient civilisation'
Potential parents in Ancient Greece and Rome faced the same problems
parents the world over do when contemplating the appropriate family size.
However their task of family limitation, in the absence of knowledge on fertility,
the availability of safe, effective and affordable contraceptives and abortion,
supportive social services and government policies meant that they had to come to
grips with fewer choices and bleaker prospects. Yet the evidence indicates that
they successfully restricted family size and that population growth, particularly in
Greece where arable land was scarce,2 rarely exceeded the capabilities of these
great nations. Although primitive forms of birth control and abortion existed they
could hardly have been entirely successful in restraining family size. Two other
methods have long been accepted as widespread practice in antiquity: infanticide
(the killing of an infant usually in its earliest days of life) and exposure of newborn
and young children to the elements. Until recently most writers agreed that
exposure and infanticide were used extensively by Greeks and Romans without
much state or community interference or censure. Other writers have tried to refute
these claims3 only to be lambasted by mainstream academic opinion devoted to the
evidence that these habits were pervasive in ancient times:
BCL (NUI). Tutor in the Faculty of Law. The author is currently researching for an LL.M on
the Law of Infanticide under Professor McAuley at UCD.
Lecky, History of European Morals, Vol. 2 (12' ed., 1911), at p. 24.
2 Tam, Hellanistic Civilisation (London, 1927), at p. 86.
3 For differing view points on the extent and existence of infanticide and exposure in antiquity
see: Tarn, ibid.; Gomme, The Population of Athens in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries BC
(Oxford, 1933), at pp.79-82; Brunt, Italian Manpower 225 BC-AD 14 (Oxford, 1971), at pp.
148-154; Engels, The Problem of Female Infanticide in the Graece-Roman World (1980)
75 Classical Philosophy, at pp. 112-120; Golden, Demography and the Exposure of Girls at
Athens (1981) 35 Phoenix, at pp.316-331; Harris, The Theoretical Possibility of Extensive
Infanticide in the Graeco-Roman World (1982) 32(i) Classical Quarterly, at pp. 114-116;
Pomeroy, Infanticide in Hellenistic Greece in Cameron and Kuhrt, Images of Women in
Antiquity (London and Canberra, 1983), at pp.207-219; Patterson, Not Worth the Rearing:

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