Last week, I read an article about the rising number of Caesarean sections being performed in the UK. Curious as to whether it had anything to do with Caesar, the roman Emperor, I turned to the OED and found this:
Caesarean birth, operation, section, the delivery of a child by cutting through the walls of the abdomen when delivery cannot take place in the natural way, as was done in the case of Julius Caesar.
I was very surprised to learn that Caesarean sections were performed as early as 100 B.C. However, if you can’t trust the OED, who can you trust these days? No one, it seems. After further research, I found contradicting evidence here. Caesar’s mother was still alive when he was an adult, and as this dangerous operation would have most certainly resulted in the death of the mother, he probably wasn’t born that way.
Then I found on a medical site that the word caesarean originates from Roman law (or Lex Caesarea) where the foetus had to be removed from the body of a dead woman before she could be buried. However, this site tells us that there is no evidence for such an edict. So it seems that the belief that this operation was started under Caesar’s reign was enough to name it after him.
The first recorded evidence of a woman surviving a Caesarean section dates from Germany in 1500, when her husband, a pig gelder, performed the operation on her.