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A tragic case of complicated labour in early Byzantium (404 A.D.)

A tragic case of complicated labour in early Byzantium (404 A.D.)

By J. Lascaratos, D. Lazaris, G. Kreatsas

European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology, Vol. 105 (2002)

Abstract: Objectives: Presentation and comment on the problematic delivery of the Byzantine empress Eudoxia’s stillborn child. Study design: The original Greek language Byzantine histories, chronicles and hagiographical sources were investigated. Comparisons were then made of the knowledge of obstetrics among contemporary and ancient physicians. Results: The case of Eudoxia’s delivery is described in various literary sources with details regarding the fatal clinical picture of the parturient after the embryo’s death. The study of early and contemporary medical texts proves that in similar cases conservative treatment was preferred but embryotomy was followed in the event of failure. Conclusions: Eudoxia’s labour represents a characteristic paradigm of the difficulties involved in the confrontation of complicated deliveries in mediaeval times, often resulting in the death of both the mother and embryo. The treatments follow the ancient Hippocratic, Hellenistic and Roman traditions and influence medieval European medicine, thus constituting significant roots of obstetrics.

Introduction: In the Byzantine state (324–1453 A.D.), the continuation of the Roman empire when Constantine the Great transferred the capital from Rome to Constantinople in the east, medicine was developed following the Hippocratic, Hellenistic and Roman traditions. The study of the works of celebrated physicians of that era reveals that many of them had especially been occupied with the specialties of gynecology and obstetrics. Among them were Oribasius (4th century), Aetius of Amida (who devotes the 16th book of his work ‘Tetrabiblus’ to diseases of women and to obstetrics, 6th century), Alexander of Tralles (6th century), Paul of Aegina (7th century), Leo the Iatrosophista (9th century), Nicolaus Myrepsus (13th century) and some midwives, such as Aspasia (4th century) and Metrodora (6th century).

Click here to read this article from the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology

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