Some Remarks on the Legal Status of the Unborn and the Newborn in Greco-Roman Egypt: Human Being or Future Heir?


The status of the unborn child as a human being in the ancient world has raised many different opinions between scholars from different scientific fields. Though the literary and archaeological evidence for the status and life of children in antiquity has been thoroughly discussed, some aspects have received less detailed examination, like the legal and property rights of the fetus and the newborn. Papyrus documents, mainly petitions, private contracts and letters, can offer valuable information about the attitude towards the fetus and the infant in antiquity. This paper will shed light on the status of the unborn and newborn children in greco-Roman society in the light of papyrus documents and investigate whether unborn and newborn children were legally protected as (potential) human beings and/or as future legal heirs of the patrimony.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i15912221v28p59

Keywords: Roman Egypt; papyrus documents; newborn; unborn

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