ABANDONED INFANTS


Miriam tells us about the Phoebe’s origins in THE DEADLIEST LIE:

Phoebe was the Greek foundling my mother rescued. Finding her wrapped in a soiled blanket when she was hardly more than a day old, my mother brought her home and hired a wet nurse for the newborn’s first three years. Then she herself undertook to rear Phoebe as a domestic slave.

Historians cite five reasons for infant abandonment under the Roman occupation:

  1. Economic: The most common reason was that a poor family did not have the resources to rear an additional child. But that was hardly the only reason.

  2. Birth defects: Infants were considered healthy enough to rear only if the baby cried vigorously, its limbs and organs appeared sound, its orifices opened, and the movement of each part was brisk.

  3. Illegitimacy

  4. Evil omens at the time of birth

  5. Gender: Many regarded having to provide a dowry for a daughter as too heavy a burden.

Generally, exposed infants were left clothed to increase their chance of survival. But Emperor Claudius insisted that his wife’s daughter by a freed slave be cast out naked. Here the intention was to kill the infant rather than to hope that another would find and care for the baby. By contrast, sometimes parents left a token with their infants in the hopes of being able to identify and claim the child later.

We learn of the exact circumstances surrounding Phoebe’s abandonment in THE DEADLIEST THIEF, to be released this year. For now, to learn more, click here.

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Venture with Miriam into the claustrophobic underbelly of Alexandria at night.