Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Caesar, Cesarian section and natural birth

Many still believe that surgery known as "Cesarean section" got its name because it was used when Julius Caesar was born. However, in reality it is only a myth. The future dictator of Rome was born through a natural birth. Moreover, in those days, Caesarean Sections were only performed on dead women.

This myth is not particularly old, but those who claim that the Cesarean Section is directly related to the birth of Gaius Julius Caesar generally refer to Pliny the Elder. However, the venerable Roman historian actually claimed that a distant ancestor of the Roman dictator from the Julian family was born this way. Caesar could not be born this way because at the time the procedure was performed only on dead women, and his mother died ten years before Caesar's murder in the Senate (in 54 BC).

According to historians, this procedure was first performed long before Rome emerged on the map of the world. There is evidence that Caesarean Sections were performed in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and ancient Greece. According to ancient Greek myths, this was the way some of the heroes and even gods, such as Dionysus, were born. However, in those days, this procedure was not performed to save the lives of mothers and children, and only dying pregnant women were operated on.

The surgery was performed not for medical but religious purposes. In those days it was believed that a child that died in the womb and was buried alongside with it would become an evil spirit, preventing normal delivery of other women. The Greeks also believed that such children were later taken by Lamia - the inhabitants of Hades who would get to the surface at night to steal babies.

In ancient times stillborn children were subject to special burial rituals to prevent troubles they would cause after death. This is why unborn children were taken out of the bodies of their dead mothers and buried separately. Sometimes such children could be saved, and these cases are likely reflected in the myth of the birth of Dionysus. 

As for the Romans, in the 7th century BC, they even passed a law that required burial of women who died during pregnancy only after removal of the child by laparotomy (the child, respectively, was buried separately). However, according to Pliny the Elder, sometimes they managed to take the baby out alive. This was considered a miracle, and such children were predicted an unusual fate.

However, it is known for certain that Julius Caesar was born on July 12 100 BC through a natural birth. The word Caesar is not a name (the Roman dictator's last name is often mistaken for the first name - Julius, as he descended from the Julian family), but a nickname.

A variation of this myth is the assertion that the name "Caesarian Section" was given to this surgery because several Roman emperors were born this way (in fact, the word Caesar eventually came to mean emperor). Perhaps, some of them were born this way, but there is no evidence to suggest that the name originated from it. The Romans called it caederea sectio, where the first word means to make a cut and the second means a cut.

The fact that the words caederea and caesarea (i.e., Caesar) are very similar may have caused the confusion. As suggested by some historians and linguists, these words may be related. To this day no one knows what Caesar really means. There is speculation that the word caesare is simply a more ancient form of the verb caedere and means the same thing - to cut or shred.  

However, there is another theory. According to one of the more recent laws of the Roman Empire, doctors must do everything to ensure that a child of a dying mother is saved. This law would be called Lex Caesarea, i.e., "the imperial law." Perhaps, originally it was called Lex Caesarea sectio, that is, the law on autopsy.  

This surgery was first performed on a live woman in 1610 by doctor Trautman from Wittenberg. Despite the fact that it was successful, that is, the child was alive, the mother still died four weeks later. The cause of her death was not related to the surgery - she caught a cold that she was not able to beat. 

Anton Evseyev


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