“miscarriage.” If we may judge from poets and satirists, it was
not an uncommon practice among the Romans to procure abortion (Plaut.
202; Juv. 2.32
). Cicero (Cluent.
12) relates a case where a testator, leaving his wife
pregnant, endeavours to secure the birth of his son by leaving his wife a
hand--some 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' son may succeed
to the inheritance. A woman at Miletus, who in similar circum-stances
procured abortion by the use of drugs, was condemned to death in the time of
Cicero's proconsulate. Similar cases or charges are recorded in Tac. Ann. 14.63
; Suet. Dom. 22
; Amm. Marc. 16.10
was probably some such dangers that led to the Lex Cornelia making it a
criminal offence to give love-potions or medicines for abortion, the penalty
being death if the patient died; if not, then banishment and partial
confiscation for persons of a higher rank, work in the mines for those of a
lower rank (Paul. Sent.
5.23, 214). And women who procured
abortion (vim visceribus suis intulerunt; partum
) were, by a rescript of Severus and Caracalla,
condemned to exile (Dig. 47
), at least if divorced,
and so acting in order to avoid bearing a son to their estranged husbands
Of the practice and law in Greece still less is known. Lysias in a speech (or
declamation) impeached Antigonus for procuring abortion (κατ̓ Ἀντιλόνου ἀμβλώσεως,
10, ed. Bait. and Sauppe). Plato recommended it in
certain circumstances in his ideal Republic (Rep.
5.9, p. 461
c), and so also Aristotle, but only πρὶν αἴσθησιν
ἐγγενέσθαι καὶ ζωήν
iv. (vii.) 16).