The Duties of Midwives in Ancient Rome

Submitted by: Submitted by

Views: 313

Words: 1536

Pages: 7

Category: World History

Date Submitted: 09/11/2012 07:11 PM

Report This Essay

The Duties of Midwives in Ancient Rome

The medical breakthroughs of the 20th and 21st centuries have been so remarkable that we tend to disregard ancient medical practices as being too primitive. However, the procedures and treatments of the physician Soranus of Ephesus were actually quite modern for his time. Soranus is often regarded as the Father of Obstetrics, and his texts on gynecology were used up until the 15th century (French). In his texts, he not only touches on topics such as menstruation, contraception, pregnancy, and childbirth, but he also discusses the qualities an ideal midwife should have possessed, as well as the duties for which she was responsible. He made a distinction between a good midwife and the best midwife, stating that a good midwife attended to all her tasks, while the best midwife went above and beyond her tasks and was thoroughly knowledgeable about the theory behind her tasks. In this essay, I will describe the characteristics of the best midwife and her duties during the labor and delivery process.

The role of a midwife was to be filled by a woman who “will be literate, with her wits about her, possessed of a good memory, loving work, respectable and generally not unduly handicapped as regards her senses, sound of limb, robust, and…endowed with long slim fingers and short nails at her fingertips” (Soranus). All of these characteristics were needed in order for a midwife to fulfill her most basic duties. It was of utmost importance that she was literate, as midwives most likely had to read Soranus’ material so that they could be well-informed about obstetrics and pediatrics. Childbirth was regarded as an art form by Soranus, who said that a good midwife “…must be literate in order to be able to comprehend the art through theory too” (Soranus). He further explained that a woman who wanted to gain all the information to be a midwife must have “manly patience” (Soranus). The best midwives were well-disciplined and sympathetic. She...