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Postmortem Cesarean Section

John W. Ritter, M.D.
JAMA. 1961;175(8):715-716. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.63040080021020d.
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THE FIRST legendary cesarean section—accord-according to Greek mythology—was the delivery of Asklepios, the physician, by his father, Apollo, from the womb of the dead Koronis. Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, was also supposedly born in this manner. The earliest recorded reference to a successful postmortem cesarean section is by Pliny the Elder1 in reference to the birth in 237 B.C. of Scipio Africanus, the Roman general who defeated Hannibal. Pope Gregory XIV was also delivered by postmortem hysterotomy; as was the 15th century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria. Jane Seymour, third wife of Henry VIII, died giving birth to Edward VI, and it was popularly believed that the future king was delivered by postmortem cesarean section.

Contrary to legend, Julius Caesar was not born by cesarean section. At that time this operation was only performed on dead women. We know from his writing that his mother was still alive


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