If we may judge from poets and satirists, it was not an uncommon practice among the Romans
to procure abortion (Plaut. Truc. 202
; Juv.ii. 32
; vi. 368
). Cicero (
) relates a case where a testator, leaving his wife pregnant,
endeavours to secure the birth of his son by leaving his wife a handsome bequest if his son
become heir, and nothing if he does not. Cicero charges Oppianicus with paying the amount
contingently bequeathed to the widow, and procuring abortion in order that Oppianicus's son
may succeed to the inheritance. A woman at Miletus, who in similar circumstances procured
abortion by the use of drugs, was condemned to death in the time of Cicero's proconsulate. It
was probably some such dangers that led to the Cornelia Lex, making it a criminal offence to
give love-potions or medicines for abortion (Paul.
Sent. v. 23, 214
). All women who procured abortion were, by a rescript
of Severus and Caracalla, condemned to exile.
Of the practice and law in Greece still less is known. Lysias in a speech, or declamation,
impeached Antigonus for procuring abortion (κατ̓ Ἀντιγόνου
10, ed. Bait. and Sauppe). Plato recommended it
in certain circumstances in his ideal Republic (
Rep. v. 9
, p. 461 c), and so also Aristotle (Polit.