Olympias of Thebes (c. 25 AD) was a Greek midwife and writer. We know about her through her writings and Roman author Pliny the Elder, and one could say from such that she was more than just a midwife.
An educated woman, Olympias wrote about her experiences as a midwife and gave recommended treatments for menstrual problems, infertility, prevention of miscarriages, female diseases, and abortion. Her knowledge of the curative properties of plants also led to some unusual prescriptions that apparently worked, for instance, bull’s gall, serpent’s fat, copper rust and honey rubbed on the genitals before intercourse for barrenness.
|Ancient Greek baby, sitting in a ceramic|
high potty chair and calling for his mother
However, not all midwives were the same in ancient Greece. One author categorized them into three groups (Soranus, 1927):
- Those with empirical knowledge – based on experience and observation. Knowledge passed down in the family and community. Female slaves sometimes served in this role.
- Those apart from personal experience who had theoretical training in gynecology and obstetrics.
- Those with higher education, training and skills, and equal rank with male physicians.
|Greco Roman Pottery Sculpture of Mother Figure Breastfeeding Infant|
Marilyn Ogilvie, Joy Harvey, 2000. The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to the Mid-20th Century. Routledge
G. Tsoucalas et al. “Midwifery in ancient Greece, midwife or gynaecologist-obstetrician?” Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Aug 2014.