Podcast Season 3, Episode 9 – (Not so) Risky Business: the Potential Perils of Childbirth in Ancient Rome with Anna Bonnell Freidin

A professional photo of Dr. Anna Bonnell Freidin, a white woman which dark brown hair, which is piled on top of her head in a bun. She wears a black suit and an orange shirt.
Dr. Anna Bonnell Freidin
(Photo credit: Leissa Thompson)

On this episode of the Peopling the Past Podcast, we are joined by Dr. Anna Bonnell Freidin, an assistant professor of history at the University of Michigan, where she held the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies Faculty Fellowship in 2021-22. Dr. Bonnell Freidin research and teaches on themes concerning gender, childbearing, domesticity, and science and medicine. Her publications include a recent article in Classical Philology on the cultural connections between animals and the human uterus in Greece and Rome, and an article for Eidolon titled “Well-born: The Ancient History of Making the Best Babies”. She also has a forthcoming book, entitled Birthing Romans: Childbearing and Risk in Imperial Rome that explores risk and risk assessment connected to childbirth in ancient Rome.

Listen in, as Dr. Bonnell Freidin talks about risk, pregnancy, and childbirth in the ancient Roman empire, and the ways in which we might engage with notions of community care in the ancient Roman world. Content warning: this episode discusses infant and maternal death.

Interested in learning more? Check out these related works by Dr. Bonnell Freidin:

Freidin, A. B. 2016. “Well-Born: The Ancient History of Making the Best Babies.” Eidolon. 

———. 2020. “Carrying Risk in Antiquity and the Present.” The Immanent Frame: Secularism, Religion, and the Public Sphere.

———. 2021. “Animal Wombs: The Octopus and the Uterus in Graeco-Roman Culture.” Classical Philology 116, no. 1: 76–101. 

These Boots were Made for Walking: Women's Mobility and Migration in the Roman Empire with Marie-Adeline Le Guennec Peopling the Past

Travel, displacement, religious pilgrimage – these are just some of the motivations for ancient migration, but how and why did people move from one place to another in antiquity? This week, Chelsea and Melissa are joined by Dr. Marie-Adeline Le Guennec, a historian of Roman mobility and migration. Listen in as Dr. Le Guennec talks about the ways in which women moved around the Roman Empire, the few sources that document this movement, and how modern scholars examine issues of mobility in the Roman world. We guarantee: this episode will really move you! 
  1. These Boots were Made for Walking: Women's Mobility and Migration in the Roman Empire with Marie-Adeline Le Guennec
  2. (Not so) Risky Business: the Potential Perils of Childbirth in ancient Rome with Anna Bonnell Freidin
  3. Not a Puella, Not Yet a Femina: Roman Girlhood with Lauren Caldwell
  4. Do Not Afflict the Widow: the Women of Ancient Nubia with Jacke Phillips
  5. Beyond the Bare Bones: Women in the Osteological Record with Efthymia Nikita
Looking for a transcript of this episode? Click here.
Additional Materials Related to this Podcast

Bettini, M. 2013. Women and Weasels: Mythologies of Birth in Ancient Greece and Rome. Translated by E. Eisenach. Chicago.

Boatwright, M. T. 2005. “Children and Parents on the Tombstones of Pannonia.” In The Roman Family in the Empire: Rome, Italy, and Beyond, edited by M. George, 287–318. Oxford.

Buckner, C. 2022. “‘Send me a rule’: Risk and Blame in Maternal Healthcare.” The Rootcutter.

Caldwell, L. 2015. Roman Girlhood and the Fashioning of Femininity. Cambridge.

Carroll, M. 2018. Infancy and Earliest Childhood in the Roman World: “A Fragment of Time.” Oxford.

Dasen, V. 2009. “Roman Birth Rites of Passage Revisited.” Journal of Roman Archeology 22, no. 1: 199–224.

Faraone, C. A. 2018. The Transformation of Greek Amulets in Roman Imperial Times. Philadelphia.

Flemming, R. 2000. Medicine and the Making of Roman Women: Gender, Nature, and Authority from Celsus to Galen. Oxford.

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

Hin, S. 2013. The Demography of Roman Italy: Population Dynamics in an Ancient Conquest Society (201 BCE–14 CE). Cambridge.

Hopwood, N., R. Flemming, and L. Kassell, eds. 2018. Reproduction: Antiquity to the Present Day. Cambridge.

Huebner, S. R. 2013. The Family in Roman Egypt: A Comparative Approach to Intergenerational Solidarity and Conflict. Cambridge.

Mulder, T. 2016. “Midwifery, Then and Now.” Eidolon.  

Phang, S. E. 2001. The Marriage of Roman Soldiers (13 B.C.–A.D. 235): Law and Family in the Imperial Army. Leiden.

Richlin, A. 2014. Arguments with Silence: Writing the History of Roman Women. Ann Arbor.

Published by Peopling the Past

A Digital Humanities initiative that hosts free, open-access resources for teaching and learning about real people in the ancient world and the people who study them.

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