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Julius Caesar: The man who gave us the month of July and C-Sections

He was a historian, statesman, and a Roman general who went on to become a dictator. He’s also responsible for the month of July and the Caesarian section.

Useless trivia? Maybe. But it is pretty interesting.

July

Regarding how the month of July came about, here’s a brief background from an article at Dictionary.com:

Caesar is responsible for the year as we know it having 365 days, and for the existence of a leap year every four years. How did this Julian Calendar change things? The early Roman calendar had an intercalary month called Intercalans that was 27 or 28 days long, added once every two years after February 23rd. For years including Intercalans, the remaining five days of February were omitted. Our contemporary calendar is still pretty much the same system Caesar instituted more than 2000 years ago.

When Caesar died, one of the months was renamed in his honor. The month chosen was Quintilis for a couple of good reasons. For one thing, it was his birth month. Also its name meant “fifth month” in Latin, and obviously the calendar restructure made the “fifth month” a silly name for what had become the seventh.

Cesarean section

Exactly how this medical procedure came to be named in reference to Caesar is debated. So the history here is less certain than the origin of the month of July, but it’s still interesting.

While the practice of delivering a child via Cesarean section had been around prior to the time of Julius Caesar, and had been used in many other countries, the name by which it is known today allegedly came about because Julius had been delivered that way.

I say “allegedly” because it’s considered unlikely history by most historians today, and some fans of history believe it to be utter crap. The reason is this: To deliver a child through that method was an emergency procedure that meant death for the mother, and his mother was believed to have lived into Julius’s adulthood.

Here’s an explanation from an article at the U.S. National Library of Medicine titled “Cesarean Section – A Brief History”:

It is commonly believed to be derived from the surgical birth of Julius Caesar, however this seems unlikely since his mother Aurelia is reputed to have lived to hear of her son’s invasion of Britain. At that time the procedure was performed only when the mother was dead or dying, as an attempt to save the child for a state wishing to increase its population. Roman law under Caesar decreed that all women who were so fated by childbirth must be cut open; hence, cesarean.

Possible explanations for the name “Cesarean Section” include:

  • Julius Caesar’s mother delivering her son via C-Section and living through the process (again, highly unlikely)
  • The procedure being named for Julius Caesar with the passage of his law that favored the child’s life over the life of the mother
  • The name “Cesarean section” catching on after a false story of Caesar’s C-section delivery circulated after his death.
  • Or, maybe his mother simply wasn’t around to hear of her son’s invasion of Britain.

Regardless of how the name stuck, Julius Caesar seems undoubtedly its origin. And not just in the English language. Here’s a quote from a Wikipedia article which includes references to appropriate articles and foreign language dictionaries:

Some link with Julius Caesar or with Roman emperors exists in other languages as well. For example, the modern German, Norwegian, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Turkish and Hungarian terms are respectively Kaiserschnitt, keisersnitt, kejsersnit,keizersnede, kejsarsnitt, sezaryen, and császármetszés (literally: “Emperor’s cut”).
The German term has also been imported into Japanese (帝王切開 teiōsekkai) and Korean (제왕 절개 jewang jeolgae), both literally meaning “emperor incision”. Similar in western Slavic (Polish) cięcie cesarskie, (Czech) císařský řez and (Slovak) cisársky rez (literally “imperial cut”), whereas the south Slavic term is Serbian царски рез and Slovenian cárski réz, which literally means “tzar” cut.
The Russian term kesarevo secheniye (Кесарево сечение késarevo sečénije) literally means Caesar’s section. The Arabic term (ولادة قيصرية wilaada qaySaríyya) also means “Caesarean birth.” The Hebrew term ניתוח קיסרי (nitúakh Keisári) translates literally as Caesarean surgery. In Romania and Portugal, it is usually called cesariana, meaning from (or related to) Caesar.

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