Sunday, September 24
Occasionally in the news one hears about an infant that has been abandoned by its parents—left at a church door, perhaps, or found on a side street somewhere, or even in a garbage can. If the parent or parents are found (usually in our North American context it is the mother), she or they are prosecuted. And we shudder and think, “What sort of heartless person could do a thing like that?”
In the ancient world, however, abandonment of infants was a normal practice, a postnatal method of birth control, and no particular stigma was attached to it. Oedipus is perhaps the most famous example—the heir to the throne of Thebes was exposed to the elements as a newborn because of the terrible prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Infants might be abandoned for a number of reasons, including illegitimacy, but usually they were simply the offspring of parents who lacked the resources to feed them.
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