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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why the Middle Ages Needed Anne Geddes

Did you know...

During the early Middle Ages, especially during the time that the Roman Empire was beginning to decline, it was common to leave babies by the river. Seriously!

These babies were not necessarily unwanted; they were simply inconvenient. At at time when no one had birth control or knowledge of how a woman's monthly cycle relates to conception, most poor women had a baby a year until they either died (often in child birth) or went into menopause, though few women lived that long. (Sucks to be them!)

When peasant families grew to six, seven, or eight in size, the parents no longer had means to provide for more children. When another child came, rather than watch the children they had slowly starve to death, it was common practice for the father to take an infant and set it on the bank of the river. (I know, right?)

There was always the chance that a compassionate stranger might happen by and claim the child, but more often than not, the elements, the rising river, or hungry animals would claim the life of the baby instead.

I wonder what people who did this were thinking as they did it. Were they sad to leave a child by the river? You would think so, but perhaps not. Maybe they were bitter at having to do it at all, and sick of watching their other children suffer, and so had no qualms about putting the infants out. I think it must have been done by the fathers simply because the mother's couldn't and wouldn't. Having just given birth, the mother probably wasn't physically able to make the journey to the river, but even if she could, I doubt many mothers would have had the heart to leave a cute, screaming infant on the deserted banks of a frigid river. (This is why mothers really ought to rule the...uh, be in charge of things.)

In more prosperous roman households, fathers held absolute power over wives and children. They could put a child out if it was handicapped, or just ugly. If Dad didn't like the look of the child, he could take it to the river and it was totally legal and within his power to do.  Maybe if they'd had cute pictures of precious babies in sweet poses popping up all over the place, things would have been different, but...well...

I began a story with this element: a remorseful father leaving a child by the river because he felt he had no other choice. In my story, however, a monk happens along and picks up the baby, while a sinister man watches the exchange from behind some nearby foliage...

Anyone interested?Remember: knowledge of the past is our inheritance; what we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies.

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