Since medicine during ancient times did not benefit from the technological or scientific advancements of today, views on bearing child differed greatly. In this article, we will take a look at some of the traditions and techniques associated with the ancient Romans.
Procreating was very important to the ancient Romans and played a significant role in their approach towards marriage. When it came to marriage, the potential for a woman getting pregnant was factored in. According to Greek physician Soranus, who practiced in Alexandria and later in Rome, he suggested that women “from the ages of fifteen to forty”¦not mannish, compact, oversturdy or too flabby and very moist,” with uteri as, “neither very moist or dry, not too lax or constricted” gave the best chances for producing offspring.
Soranus served as one of the primary representatives of the Methodic school of medicine during the 1st/2nd century. Many of his writings have survived over time, including a treatise on gynecology that stretched four volumes. In regards to female sterility, Soranus believed that there were outward signs that identified prime candidates for making babies. He noted the size of head, as well as the proportions of eyes and other features. For example, he viewed small heads and eyes as bad signs. Not all women with large heads were considered ideal. If her forehead protruded, then her desirability for bearing children was diminished in his eyes.
Soranus wrote that the best time to conceive a child was at the end of a woman’s menstruation when the flow was slowing down. The desire to have sex needed to be present at well, which was associated with the ending of menstruation. If conception was the goal, both the man and woman needed to feel comfortable. No alcohol should be involved in the act. Soranus believed women should be “sober during coitus.” He felt the soul became “the victim of strange fantasies” in a state of drunkenness, and that the offspring will resemble the mother in body and soul.
It was also said that eating a snack and rubbing down the body would encourage conception. During intercourse, both parties should feel “pleasant”.
One of the main goals of married couples during ancient Roman times was to produce a healthy male heir. Because of this, the people had their own views on how to influence the gender of a baby. A few theories emerged involving different beliefs, such as the dominant sperm and heat.
The Romans believed in a double-seed theory, where both parents produced semen that joined in the womb and contributed to the traits of their children. This process was thought to occur at the time of orgasm. The parent with the “dominant sperm” was thought to contribute the characteristics that outwardly shown in a child.