Even We Hate Busting This Good Roman Myth
Some women who have a Caesarian Section to deliver a child may have no idea that the procedure was named in Roman times. But, among those who do know that, many think that procedure was named for the birth of one of the most famous people in world history—Julius Caesar. And that’s a myth.
The story is that Julius Caesar had to be cut out of the womb of his dying mother in order to save his life. But there’s no evidence from ancient Roman times that this is how Caesar was born. The first time we hear of the myth is in a tenth-century Byzantine document called The Suda (written 1000 years after Caesar’s birth). It said, “When his mother died in the ninth month, they cut her open, took him out, and named him thus; for in the Roman tongue dissection is called ‘Caesar.’” There are two problems with this document’s assertions. First, the procedure’s name comes from a Roman law called Lex Caesarea, not from Julius Caesar’s name. The law decreed that a child must be cut out of the womb of a mother who had recently died or was dying in childbirth. The second problem with the Julius Caesar-caesarian section story is that Caesar’s mother, Aurelia, survived. Women at the time wouldn’t have survived Caesarian Section. So it’s unlikely Aurelia was dead or dying during her son’s birth, and as far as we know, Julius Caesar popped out normally through the birth canal.
But the name “Caesarian” does give a very noble and historic tinge to the modern medical procedure. It’s a pity to bust this myth. So, I’ll tell you what, Buzzkillers, I won’t tell if you won’t tell.