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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
IX. CLASSICAL CIVILIZATION
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EDUCATION AND THE CONDITION OF CHILDREN
IMPORTANCE OF MALE CHILDREN
The coming of a child, to parents in antiquity as to parents now, was usually a very happy event. Especially welcome was the birth of a son. The father felt assured that through the boy his old age would be cared for and that the family name and the worship of the family ancestors would be kept up after his own death. "Male children," said an ancient poet, "are the pillars of the house."  The city, as well, had an interest in the matter, for a male child meant another citizen able to take the father's place in the army and the public assembly. To have no children was regarded as one of the greatest calamities that could befall a Greek or a Roman.
 Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris, 57.
The ancient attitude toward children was in one respect very unlike our own. The law allowed a father to do whatever he pleased with a newly born child. If he was very poor, or if his child was deformed, he could expose it in some desert spot, where it soon died. An infant was sometimes placed secretly in a temple, where possibly some kind-hearted person might rescue it. The child, in this case, became the slave of its adopter. This custom of exposure, an inheritance from prehistoric savagery, tended to grow less common with advancing culture. The complete abolition of infanticide was due to the spread of Christian teachings about the sacredness of human life.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy