Hidden in Plain Sight

Judith Evans Grubbs

in Children, Memory, and Family Identity in Roman Culture

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199582570
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595271 | DOI:
Hidden in Plain Sight

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This chapter explores the dynamics of infant exposure in the Roman Empire, especially the Roman legal attitude toward those who abandoned newborn infants and the fate of the children themselves. Roman legal sources, especially imperial rescripts (responses) to petitioners inquiring about the situation of abandoned infants, suggest that such expositi were often picked up and reared by others, usually as slaves, and that questions about their legal status could arise much later if the parent or slave-master who exposed the child tried to reclaim him. Ironically, the very fact that some abandoned infants did survive and were even returned to their parents probably increased the frequency of exposure, since those abandoning their newborn did not see it as a necessarily fatal and irrevocable act.

Keywords: abandonment; infant exposure; patria potestas; rescripts; Roman law; slavery

Chapter.  7323 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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