The image and role of the midwife in the ancient Greek and Byzantine art
The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the function and multifaceted role of the midwife in Greek culture as portrayed in art. Traditionally, midwifery has been recognized as a female occupation in every civilization and is one of the most ancient sciences or arts. Diachronically, the midwife has always been present during labour in order to help and support the pregnant woman. Midwifery is deeply linked to the very mystery of life and its advent to the world and has always been a well respected profession. Most ancient Greek writers speak highly of midwives and Socrates himself proudly states that he is the son of a midwife. During Byzantine times the image of the midwife continues to gain respect and recognition. Her position is greatly estimated as deduced by the presence of midwives in Byzantine icons of the nativity of Christ. Through various works of art, this chapter focuses on the image and social position of the midwife in Greek art, as well as her much appreciated profession.
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