1st Edition

Breastfeeding and Mothering in Antiquity and Early Byzantium

    288 Pages 12 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume offers the first comparative, interdisciplinary, and intercultural examination of the lactating woman – biological mother and othermother – in antiquity and early Byzantium. Adopting methodologies and knowledge deriving from a variety of disciplines, the volume’s contributors investigate the close interrelationship between a woman and her lactating breasts, as well as the social, ideological, theological, and medical meanings and uses of motherhood, childbirth, and breastfeeding, along with their visual and literary representations.

    Breastfeeding and the work of mothering are explored through the study of a great variety of sources, mainly works of Greek-speaking cultures, written and visual, anonymous and eponymous, which were mostly produced between the first and the seventh century AD. Due to their multiple interdisciplinary dimensions, ancient and early Byzantine lactating women are approached through three interconnected thematic strands having a twofold focus: society and ideology, medicine and practice, and art and literature.

    By developing the model of the lactating woman, the volume offers a new analytical framework for understanding a significant part of the still unwritten cultural history of the period. At the same time, the volume significantly contributes to the emerging fields of breast and motherhood studies. The new and significant knowledge generated in the fields of ancient and Byzantine studies may also prove useful for cultural historians in general and other disciplines, such as literary studies, art history, history of medicine, philosophy, theology, sociology, anthropology, and gender studies.


    Chapter 1: The Lactating Woman: Breastfeeding and Motherhood in Antiquity and Early Byzantium - Stavroula Constantinou and Aspasia Skouroumouni-Stavrinou

    Part I: Society and Ideology

    Chapter 2: Breast Rules: The Body of the Wet Nurse in Ancient and Early Byzantine Discourses -Stavroula Constantinou and Aspasia Skouroumouni-Stavrinou

    Chapter 3: The Breast as Locus for Punishment - Dionysios Stathakopoulos

     Part II: Medicine and Practice

    Chapter 4: Breastmilk as a Therapeutic Agent in Ancient and Early Byzantine Medical Literature - Petros Bouras-Vallianatos

    Chapter 5: Weaning and Lactation Cessation in Late Antiquity and the Early Byzantine Period: Medical Advice in Context - Laurence Totelin

    Chapter 6: "Galaktology" and Genre: Simple Literary Forms on Milk and Breastfeeding in Ancient and Early Byzantine Medical Treatises - Stavroula Constantinou and Aspasia Skouroumouni-Stavrinou

    Part III: Art and Literature

    Chapter 7: Images of Breastfeeding in Early Byzantine Art: Form – Context – Function - Maria Parani

    Chapter 8: Empowering Breasts: Women, Widows, and Prophetesses-with-Child at Dura-Europos - Barbara Crostini

    Chapter 9: Roman Charity: Nonnos of Panopolis, Support for Parents, and Questions of Gender - Tim Parkin

    Chapter 10: Children in Distress: Agonizing Mothers as Intercessors in Early Byzantine Miracle Collections - Andria Andreou


    Stavroula Constantinou is the founder and director of the Centre for Medieval Arts & Rituals at the University of Cyprus (UCY). She is also the initiator and editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed and diamond open access journal Eventum: A Journal of Medieval Arts and Rituals (first issue in November 2023). Currently, she coordinates the major EU-Horizon 2020 project Network for Medieval Arts & Rituals (grant agreement nr 951875) and a couple of other projects on mothering and storytelling. Her research focuses on Byzantine narratives, gender, ritual, performance, emotions, and the body. She is the author of the forthcoming book Interactive Embodiment: Approaching Byzantine Bodies (2024).

    Aspasia Skouroumouni-Stavrinou is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Medieval Arts & Rituals at UCY. Her research focuses on ancient Greek drama (with an emphasis on performance, space, gender, and reception), ancient Greek religion, ancient and early Byzantine motherhood, and family culture.