This is the first of three papers investigating changes in infanticide legislation as indicators of the attitude of states towards the neonate. In ancient East Asian societies in which the bride's family had to pay an excessive dowry, selective female infanticide was the rule, despite formal interdiction by the law. In Greece and Rome children's lives had little value, and the father's rights included killing his own children. The proportion of men greatly exceeding that of women found in many cultures and epochs suggests that girls suffered infanticide more often than boys. A kind of social birth, the ritual right to survive, rested on the procedure of name giving in the Roman culture and on the start of oral feeding in the Germanic tradition. Legislative efforts to protect the newborn began with Trajan's ‘alimentaria' laws in 103 CE and Constantine's laws following his conversion to Christianity in 313 CE. Malformed newborns were not regarded as human infants and were usually killed immediately after birth. Infanticide was formally outlawed in 374 CE by Emperor Valentinian.

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