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Since I Don't Know Too Much About Paganism I Want To Know If What I Read Is Fact.

Since I don't know too much about Paganism, I want to make sure what I read is fact. I don't want my kids and I to believe something untrue.

In the DK Eyewitness Book on Ancient Greece, in the section on family life, it says that fathers determined if their children were to live or die when they were first born; if the newborn was a girl or if the newborn appeared weak or unhealthy, the father could chose to abandon the child, exposed to the elements, to be left for dead. Do you suppose this is true?

If yes, does this 'survival of the fittest' or 'selective breeding' (I don't know of any other better term, sorry) please or displease their gods? Or does it neither please nor displease their gods?

And if yes, this did happen, did any other pagan cultures practice this?

If no, why do you suppose DK books allowed this to be published?



Asked by flatlanderjenn at 5:23 PM on Oct. 10, 2010 in Religion & Beliefs

Level 17 (4,354 Credits)
This question is closed.
Answers (13)
  • Indeed the Greeks had a moral code, as all cultures do. Moral codes are developed by the culture and reflect the values, norms and taboos of that culture. Classical Greek society was extremely patriarchal. Rites of succession by murder of father by son was common and this is reflected in the myths. The role of woman alternated between that of chattel, seductress, slaves without merit, to a necessary evil. It is amazing that any of the Greek Goddesses have the level of power and respect that they do as it was not reflected in the society. Women were feared and were repressed into strict gender roles. For a Greek man, having too many girls was a mark of shame to his manhood and a mark of debt upon marriage. Too many girls could literally bankrupt a man if he sought to make social class equivalent matches for them. But no where I have read indicates it was immoral, just not prudent.

    Answer by isabellalecour at 8:17 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • If a child born was deformed, it would have been a burden on the family to care for the child without any benefit to the family. It would be supreme charity to have done so. Family's in those days, particularity the Greek and Romans middle class were much like small business, in that each member of the family had duties to perform which contributed to the wealth of the house. Such a choice seams cold blooded to us these days in the age of medical technology where most deformities can be corrected or overcome, but life was not so then. It is merciful to have left a child to die at birth than the have prolong it's life in misery.

    But as to the Gods preference, the Greeks were divided on this. The legends alternated between saving the rejected and leaving them to die as honourable.

    I am sure many other cultures practised infanticide. I know some native American tribes did. But I have no links for you.

    Answer by isabellalecour at 6:20 PM on Oct. 10, 2010

  • I think it was a sheer survial back in their day. I do not think it was done with any God in mind but rather would the child help secure their blood line etc. It was cruel but a simple fact of life for ANY family back then

    Answer by pnwmom at 5:29 PM on Oct. 10, 2010

  • flatlanderjenn

    Comment by flatlanderjenn (original poster) at 5:24 PM on Oct. 10, 2010

  • My initial reaction when first reading about this selective infanticide was what both of you said, that all cultures at that time practiced this is some form. They had no means to support a handicapped child; not only would it be a burden on the family, but the child would lead a non-productive life and be a burden on the entire society as a whole. But I re-read the paragraph multiple times and concluded that this could not be true for two reasons: (continued...)

    Comment by flatlanderjenn (original poster) at 11:50 AM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • 1) The book noted that father’s selectively doing away with unwanted children was part of their culture. It seems that infanticide can be more charitable in the fiction book The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck, in which the mother strangles her 5th child immediately after giving birth because they are suffering a famine. The characters practiced a Chinese folk religion and worshiped the Earth god and goddess, and infanticide was not seen as normal, but as a method of survival. The ancient Greeks did not seem to practice this out of survival.

    Comment by flatlanderjenn (original poster) at 11:51 AM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • 2) The book noted that not only the unhealthy, but also the girls, were left (to the elements and wild animals) for dead. This does not demonstrate a merciful act, but a cruel, sexist and apathetic act in which people are treated as disposable objects, and endorsed by their gods and their culture.

    Comment by flatlanderjenn (original poster) at 11:52 AM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • Something else I am pondering is that their gods didn’t intervene to protect their peoples population by preventing the "wrong" sex and less-than-desirable health status to be born, and their gods did not set a rule in place to dissuade infanticide. As far as I can recall, the people of the OT did prefer boys, but never killed their born girls. I cannot recall any OT person giving birth to a unhealthy or handicapped child. Do you suppose that the God of Abraham blessed and protected His people during that period of time (during the same period of time that Ancient Greeks practiced infanticide when they were given a handicapped child) so as to prevent infanticide?

    Comment by flatlanderjenn (original poster) at 11:53 AM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • You concluded this based on one book and one paragraph?
    The acceptability or not of infanticide is cultural. You are trying to equate levels of survival and make a moral judgement on both. The comparison is unbalanced by your own bias.
    It is a merciful act to let the girls die to that cultural when you consider what their life would be as the unwanted daughter.
    People of the past and of today STILL treat people as disposable. Nothing new there.
    The Gods bless and protect who they wish and when they wish.
    Was all this question a way to bring a comparison of the Greek Gods to the God of Abraham?

    Answer by isabellalecour at 2:44 PM on Oct. 11, 2010

  • Was all this question a way to bring a comparison of the Greek Gods to the God of Abraham?

    Absolutely not!  Wondering about the lack of a divine intervention was only an afterthought, and the only comparison I could think of was the God of Abraham.  Similar to what you said, I'm sure instances exist where gods in other religions have intervened with their humans.

    I was wondering about the survival of their people and culture.  If a god wanted his people to continue to worship him, then it only makes sense the god would not want them killing their own.  Even if a god had nothing to do with it, wouldn't people want multiple children, even if they are girls (not handicapped), in order to help sustain their population and help with work?


    Comment by flatlanderjenn (original poster) at 4:51 PM on Oct. 11, 2010