Podcast Season 3, Episode 2 – Call the (Roman) Midwife: Ancient Delivery and Childbirth with Tara Mulder

Dr. Tara Mulder

For our next episode of the Peopling the Past podcast, we are joined by Tara Mulder, an Assistant Professor of Teaching in Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia. Her work focuses on gender, sexuality, and medicine in ancient Greece and Rome, and she has published scholarly and popular articles on sex, gender, reproduction, abortion, breastmilk, and medicinal ingredients in the ancient world. She is currently working on a book about childbirth in the Roman Empire, and was recently awarded a Public Humanities Fellowship from UBC for 2022-23.

Listen in, as Dr. Mulder talks to us about what a Roman birth may have looked like for different classes of people, who would have been a midwife and what their role was, and how things have changed or stayed the same regarding women and pregnancy from the Roman times to current day.

Interested in learning more? Check out these related work by Dr. Mulder:

Mulder, Tara. 2016. “Midwifery, Then and Now.”  https://eidolon.pub/midwifery-then-and-now-7c3447b84675 

Mulder, Tara. 2017. “Adult Breastfeeding in Ancient Rome.”  Illinois Classical Studies. 42.1: 227-43. 

Mulder, Tara. 2021. “Flabby flesh and foetal formation: body fluidity and foetal sex differentiation in ancient Greek medicine.” In Bodily Fluids in Antiquity, edited by Mark Bradley, Victoria Leonard, and Laurence Totelin. London: Routledge.

Looking for a transcript of this episode? Click here.
Additional Materials Related to this Podcast

Bonnell Friedin, Anna. 2020. “Carrying risk in antiquity and the present.” The Immanent Frame. https://tif.ssrc.org/2020/09/11/carrying-risk-in-antiquity-and-the-present/ 

Dasen Véronique. 2013. ‘Becoming Human: From the Embryo to the Newborn Child’, in Grubbs J. E. and Parkin T. G. (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Childhood and Education in the 

Classical World. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press: 17–39. 

French, Valerie.1986, ‘Midwives and Maternity Care in the Roman World’, Helios 13 (2): 69–84. 

Grubbs, Judith Evans. 2002. Women and the Law in the Roman Empire: A Sourcebook on Marriage, Divorce and Widowhood. London; New York: Routledge.         

Hanson, H, and Ann Ellis. 1994. “A Division of Labor: Roles for Men in Greek and Roman Births.” Thamyris 1: 157–202. 

Hopwood, Nick, Rebecca Flemming, and Lauren Kassell, eds. 2018. Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Laes, Christian. 2010. “The educated midwife in the Roman Empire. An example of differential equations.” Studies in Ancient Medicine.35: 261-86.  

Nifosi, Ada. 2019. Becoming a Woman and a Mother in Greco-Roman Egypt: Women’s Bodies, Society, and Domestic Space. London: Routledge. 

Rowlandson Jane (ed.) 1998. Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt: A Sourcebook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 

Scullin, Sarah. 2016. “‘She’s Only a 4’: The Objectification of Birthing Bodies.” Eidolon.pub. https://eidolon.pub/shes-only-a-4-f534333fb298 

For images of the Scribonia Attice tomb in Isola Sacra of Ostia: http://www.ostia-antica.org/valkvisuals/html/tombe_100_1.htm 

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