Medea’s murder of her two sons may be the most well-known infanticide from antiquity, but she is not the only mother to direct murderous rage at her children. Lamia, Gello, Mormo, to name a few, who were once mothers and then became monsters, were reported to kill infants as well as young mothers. In current scholarship, these monsters are treated as products of an ancient Greek male imagination that functioned to determine female lives and reproduction. Maurizio proposes that these figures are female creations. They expressed maternal ambivalence, a universal female experience, that is especially salient in societies with high maternal and infant mortality rates such as ancient Greece sustained. Maurizio surveys a range of ancient evidence such as burial practices of infants and mothers and the Hippocratic corpus as well as contemporary women’s writing about infanticide and psychoanalytic concepts of maternal ambivalence in order to argue that myths of infanticide did not serve a male regulatory function so much as a female expressive one. Ancient sources codified female oral traditions in writing and incorporated such expressions. Thus imagined and real acts of infanticide in ancient Greece were largely female prerogatives that can be apprehended through an understanding of maternal sentiments beyond a romantic notion of devotion and attachment.
The weekly Classics Colloquium provides an informal meeting for the College's lively community of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty who are interested in classical subjects. Each year, the series includes a number of distinguished speakers on a variety of literary, archaeological, and historical subjects.