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date: 22 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Since antiquity, speculations on the emergence of human life and the status of the embryo have prompted intense debates. How does fetal matter grow into a human being? When does it have a soul? Was it treated as a potential person or as just an extension of the mother’s body? No general agreement existed, but there was a plurality of viewpoints according to different medical, philosophical, and legal perspectives and to gender. Neither aborted nor newborn babies had their own right to life before social recognition by the father about one week after delivery. The absence of legal provision on infanticide until the third century CE is consistent with the uncertainties of the human status of the unborn displayed in ancient literature. Various written and iconographic sources, however, reflect the possible perception of the unborn child as a living being, worthy of divine protection, and directly addressed.

Keywords: Abortion, birthmark, Caesarean section, contraception, embryo, exposure, gynecology, infanticide, multiple births, twins, obstetrics, superfetation

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