Childbirth in Ancient Rome
Relief image, Necropolis of Isola Sacra: Tomb 100, Ostia (Rome), Italy. Copyright Ostia Foundation
Found on the face of a brick tomb in Ostia (neighborhood in Rome, Italy), this relief image of birth depicts a laboring woman seated on a birthing chair while attended by midwives. The two occupants of the tomb, Ulpius Amerimnus and Scribonia Attice, were both medical practitioners, and this image likely depicts Sribonia Attice performing the duties of a midwife (1).
Birthing chairs were frequently used in ancient times, encouraging the woman to rest upright during labor and birth, thereby aiding delivery of the child through the help of gravity. Midwifery care was also common, and childbirth was considered “women’s business” during these times (2).
In this image we see the pregnant woman supported by two midwives. The image reminds other pregnant women who view it in contemporary times that birth is a process that women have been undergoing throughout human history. This simple idea can be a comfort because the pregnant woman sometimes feels isolated or alone in her pregnancy.
Also helpful is the viewing of support in the form of midwifery care. The two midwives here both touch the laboring woman, supporting her with their arms and bringing strength and community to the woman as she goes through the birthing process.
I would like to use the above photo in the Korean version of the book “Week in the Life of a Roman Centurion.” Can you tell me how I can get permission?
Hi Namho, you would need to find out who owns the copyright of that one. Back when I wrote the post, I found it listed with the Ostia Foundation.
However, you can go to the Wellcome Collection and find an image there that you can use. I found this one, which is another one I have written about on my own website. You do not need to get permission from them, though you should list them under the image: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/aky3vwe4
If you use that image, I would list it in this way under the photo in your book:
“Ancient Roman relief carving of a midwife attending a woman giving birth”
Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
I hope that this helps, You can also write to the Ostia Foundation if you prefer the other image.