A Terrible Post for Mother’s Day: Phlegon of Tralles on Multiple Births

Antiquity has bequeathed to us a collection of works on ‘wonders’: some are mere lists of amazing things; others are rationalizing explanations of myths (for which the Hellenistic Palaephaetus is most famous). Here is on list from the mysterious Phlegon of Tralles

Phlegon of Trailes, On Amazing Things:  Multiple Births 28-32 

“Antigonos also records that in Alexandria one woman gave birth to twenty children in four labors and that she raised most of them

Another woman in the same city produced five children in a single birth; three were male and two were female. The emperor Trajan ordered for them to be raised on his own funds.

Another woman gave birth to three different children in one year.

Hippostratos says in his work On Minos, that Aiguptos fathered fifty sons from Eururroê, the daughter of the Nile.

Similarly, Danaus had fifty daughters from one wife, Eurôpê, the daughter of the Nile.

Krateros, the brother of Antigonos that king, says that he knew of a certain person who in a seven year period was a child, an adolescent, a man and an old man and that he died after getting married and having children.

Megasthenes claims that the women who live in Padaia give birth when they are seven years old.”

Καὶ ᾿Αντίγονος δὲ ἱστορεῖ ἐν ᾿Αλεξανδρείᾳ μίαν γυναῖκα ἐν τέτρασιν τοκετοῖς εἴκοσι τεκεῖν καὶ τὰ πλεῖστα τούτων ἐκτραφῆναι.

Καὶ ἑτέρα τις γυνὴ κατὰ τὴν αὐτὴν πόλιν πέντε ἐν ἑνὶ τοκετῷ ἀπεκύησεν παῖδας, τρεῖς μὲν ἄρρενας, δύο δὲ θηλείας, οὓς αὐτοκράτωρ Τραιανὸς ἐκέλευσεν ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων χρημάτων τρέφεσθαι.

 πάλιν δὲ μετ’ ἐνιαυτὸν ἄλλα τρία ἡ αὐτὴ γυνὴ ἔτεκεν.

 ῾Ιππόστρατος δέ φησιν, ἐν τῷ περὶ Μίνω, Αἴγυπτον ἐκ μιᾶς γυναικὸς Εὐρυρρόης τῆς Νείλου πεντήκοντα υἱοὺς γεννῆσαι.

Δαναός τε ὁμοίως ἐκ μιᾶς γυναικὸς τῆς Νείλου Εὐρώπης πεντήκοντα θυγατέρας ἕσχεν.

Κρατερὸς δέ φησιν, ὁ ᾿Αντιγόνου τοῦ βασιλέως ἀδελφός, γινώσκειν τινὰ ἄνθρωπον, ὃν ἐν ἑπτὰ ἔτεσιν παῖδα γενέσθαι καὶ μειράκιον καὶ ἄνδρα καὶ γέροντα καὶ γήμαντα καὶ παιδοποιησάμενον ἀποθανεῖν.

Μεγασθένης δέ φησιν τὰς ἐν Παδαίᾳ κατοικούσας γυναῖκας ἑξαετεῖς γενομένας τίκτειν.

Scene of childbirth in relief on an ivory plaque attached to one end of a papyrus winder (a roller for holding the papyrus while reading). The pregnant woman sits on a birthing chair. Behind her, a standing woman holds her steady as she lifts her left arm backwards to grasp the attendant. The midwife kneels in front of the mother with a sponge in her right hand. Behind her stands a veiled woman who extends her hands toward the mother. Roman. From Pompeii, Region I, Insula 2, first century…
Ivory Carving from Pompeii (Vroma.org)

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