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The fate of sickly and disabled new-born babies in ancient Greece (Sparta and Athens)

Trikkaliotis, D.1*, Mouratidou, A.A.2, Anastasiou, A.2

1Department of Early Childhood Education, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,
University Campus – Education Faculty Tower (Thessaloniki City Centre), 54124
2Department of Physical Education & Sport Science, Faculty of Physical Education & Sport Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, New Thermi facilities Thessaloniki,
57001 Thessaloniki

*Contact Corresponding Author: email


Many authors are convinced that in ancient Sparta if a disable baby was born, then an assembly of aged man ordered it, without compassion, exposed on a special fearful place (Kaiadas) on the mount Taygetos to die. Our ancient and only testimony is the biographer Plutarch who lived seven centuries later from the period that the alleged cruel custom took place. Plutarch’s statement is unclear dubious and ambiguous for a number of good reasons: a) Plutarch does not mention his sources, even though he very often does it in other cases. b) Ancient Greek authors who wrote on Sparta, its constitution and education of young boys and girls seem to ignore this brutal and merciless practice. c) Plutarch himself admitted the fact that he is not writing history, but simply tells stories of important people. We still lack the proper evidence to accept Plutarch’s statement. In fact the material evidence from the abysmal cave of Kaiadas, situated outside Sparta on the gorges of mount Taygetos shows that the cave was used by the Spartans for the execution of traitors, Messenian Helots and criminals sentenced to death. Archaeologists were very much impressed by the quantity of human bones found there. The archaeological and anthropological reports on Kaiadas as well as the historical and literary evidence indicate that this place was the ancient Kaiadas mentioned by many ancient authors. The important matter in regard to this paper is the age of bones found in this cave-precipice: No bones have been found related to babies. It is evident that Plutarch’s statement regarding the exposure of sickly infants to perish is difficult and hard to accept.

Keywords: Kaiadas; exposure; infants; Sparta; Athens.

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Cite this article as:
Trikkaliotis, D., Mouratidou, A.A., Anastasiou, A. "The fate of sickly and disabled new-born babies in ancient Greece (Sparta and Athens)," PANR Journal, December 30, 2020, https://www.panr.com.cy/?p=7409.