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A Roman Amulet for Protection in Childbirth

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This week, Adam Parker discusses a roman phylactery created by a mother for her pregnant daughter as protection during childbirth. 

 

Discovered by a metal detectorist in 2007 in South Oxfordshire, UK (PAS: BERK-0B6771) this small, inscribed gold sheet is a truly interesting insight into the material strategies of personal protection in Roman Britain. A translation of the text inscribed upon the sheet reveals that this is a phylactery (a protective, magical charm) created by a lady named Terentia to protect her daughter Fabia during childbirth (Tomlin 2008).

The rectangular sheet is tiny. It measures 63.1mm x 28.3mm and weighs 1.41g. The text is all written on one side and is organized in sixteen lines of Greek writing. Although this is the Roman period and we might expect it to be Latin, there are lots of Greek texts from Britain – it might suggest that Fabia had spent time elsewhere in the Roman Empire

 

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The issue of maternal and child mortality: the German sense of the tragic

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This week, Associate Director of the POP Network writes about the ways 18th century art reflects cultural attitudes toward pregnancy and medical intervention in birthing rooms.

Death during childbirth did not respect age or social class; it occurred more often than recently married women liked to think about. The same could be said of child mortality: if a child survived childbirth the perils of the diseases of early life awaited. In the German Territories of the Holy Roman Empire, the promotion of large families was central to the process of recovery after the Thirty Years’ War. Especially in rural communities this was seen as central to economic recovery even though it was a risk for the mother. This was a social belief supported by state policy, academic publications, and popular literature that would continue well into the 19th Century. .

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Review of Adam Kay, This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor (Picador, 2017)

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This week, Sara Read reviews a new memoir by Adam Kay. 

This book is record of life on the wards for a newly qualified doctor in the first decade of the twenty-first century. When it came time to specialise the author Adam Kay decided upon obstetrics and gynaecology, and so the memoir provides a doctor’s eye view of the path from junior doctor to senior registrar helping women deliver babies. It deals with many matter-of-fact details of delivery that are sometimes glossed over even in antenatal classes, such as that most women will open their bowels during delivery due to pressure and that it is to be expected.

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Motherhood as rite of passage

The Perceptions of Pregnancy blog, like the Researchers’ Network, aims to reach beyond boundaries and borders, and to facilitate an international and interdisciplinary conversation on pregnancy and its associated bodily and emotional experiences from the earliest times to the present day. This week, in the second of a two-part series, Margaret O’Connor explores women’s decision making processes. (part one available here)

Motherhood as rite of passage – What about the rest of us?

As discussed in a separate post, motherhood is a powerful concept which affects women throughout their lives, both by its presence and absence. It can now be a conscious choice, theoretically at least. There is increasing accessibility to reproductive technologies for people with fertility issues. Meanwhile, there is a growing proportion of women who actively choose not to become mothers. This choice is relatively new.

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