Are C-Sections Really Named After Julius Caesar?

Are C-Sections Really Named After Julius Caesar?

A commonly touted notion is that Julius Caesar
was born via what is now called a Caesarien section after his notable birth. But is this actually true? To begin with, the first known instance of
Caesar’s birth being noted to be in this manner didn’t occur until the 10th century
Byzantine-Greek historical encyclopedia The Suda, where it reads, “The emperors of the
Romans receive this name from Julius Caesar, who was not born. For 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.’” It turns out though that Aurelia Cotta, Caesar’s
mother, lived all the way up to around 54 BC, seemingly dying about 10 years before
Julius Caesar was assassinated, though some sources do claim she outlived him. Either way, she definitely survived his birth. This is significant because C-sections up
until very modern times were a death sentence. That’s not to say they didn’t happen,
in fact in Roman law, called Lex Caesarea, (Lex means The law and Caesarea “Imperial”,
so literally Imperial Law) it stated if a woman died, the baby had to be taken from
the womb, even if it too was dead. This was established in the time of Numa Pompilius,
the second king of Rome (715-673 BC, hundreds of years before Caesar’s time). This was seemingly mostly for religious reasons,
but sometimes the baby could be saved in this way, particularly when it was determined that
the woman would probably die anyway, such as if she was bleeding a lot or the like. Thus they’d sometimes go ahead and perform
the procedure while she was still barely clinging to life to at least save the baby. As Aurelia did not die in childbirth, and
the only way they’d have performed the procedure was if she was dead or near death, we can
be reasonably certain Caesar was not born this way as being near death and then being
sliced open in a procedure that seemingly universally killed the woman by itself is
not a good combination for survivability. Also, Aurelia was no plebeian. She was the daughter of a Roman consul and
also the granddaughter of another Roman Consul, and a member of an extremely prominent family. Had she miraculously survived a C-section,
this would have likely been recorded somewhere, and certainly contemporary historians documenting
Julius Caesar’s life would have found this extremely noteworthy. In fact, it turns out the first known C-section
where both the mother and child survived isn’t thought to have been performed until the late
16th century, occurring in Switzerland. Funny enough supposedly not performed by any
sort of doctor, but by a pig gelder (castrater), named Jakob Nufer, who operated on his own
wife. The story goes that after his wife labored
unsuccessfully for a couple days, he made a single cut in her stomach, took the baby
out, and then sewed her up like the pigs he regularly dealt with. The woman supposedly then went on to have
five more children, including a set of twins. It should be noted though that as the hard
documentation to back this story up is pretty scant, some sources question the reliability
of this as the first surviving documented account of the story didn’t occur until nearly
a century after the fact. Moving on to better documented instances,
we have to jump across the pond to America where the first known C-section where the
woman survived here didn’t occur until 1794, with Dr. Jesse Bennett performing the procedure
on his wife Elizabeth Bennett, which must have been quite a heart-wrenching thing to
do given he would have assumed he was killing his wife in the process to save their child. Nevertheless, she and the child survived the
procedure. An even more interesting and well documented
story though is that of the first British surgeon to successfully perform the procedure. This was a person who went by the name James
Barry, but whose birth name was actually Margaret Ann Bulkley. We’ll have more on her in a bit in the Bonus
Fact. But getting back to Caesar and C-sections,
it’s interesting to note that even the Oxford English Dictionary seems to back up the claim
that Caesar was born via Caesarean, defining the word as: “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.” However, giving them the benefit of the doubt
here, they may not actually be meaning the ruler of Rome Julius Caesar. You see, Pliny the Elder noted, the name “Caesar”
came from the Latin word “to cut” which is “caedere.” He further stated that one of Caesar’s ancestors
was born via C-section and was named as such, and that the name was passed down to the eventual
ruler of Rome, writing “the first… of the Cæsars was so named, from his having
been removed by an incision in his mother’s womb.” And, indeed if you look at his family tree,
both “Julius” and “Caesar” were common family names with the first to bear the Caesar
name in the Roman ruler’s lineage was named Numerius Julius Caesar. So if we’re being very generous, it’s
always possible the OED was referring to this Julius Caesar. Or they’re just wrong, which even the best
of sources- and they are one- are sometimes. Everybody gets stuff wrong, there are no exceptions
to this, no matter how hard you try not to. In any event, as to whether Caesarean section
was named after the most famous Julius Caesar thanks to the common misconception here that
he was born this way, this isn’t clear, but most etymologists do not think this was
the original inspiration given how common the term and similar ones were before the
aforementioned 10th century mention, and given how well known these Latin terms were to physicians
throughout the centuries where the term appears to have been established. For example, before this one term for babies
cut from the womb after the mother died was caesones. That said, many still claim it must have been
named after Caesar, noting that many languages that use some variant of this Caesarian term
sometimes literally translating in those languages as “emperor’s cut”. However, again, it’s noteworthy that Caesarea
in Latin actually means “Imperial” and there is the connection with the procedure
and the “Lex Caesarea”, among others, so this doesn’t necessarily mean the etymology
of these various other language’s terms are connected to Julius Caesar himself. So that’s the “Caesarean” part. If you’re wondering about the “Section”-
that is thanks to a physician named Jacques Guillimeau. In his 1598 book on midwifery, he chose to
change the name from Cesarian Operation to Caesarian Section, which later stuck. This is in reference to the Latin “sectus”
which is a past participle of secare meaning “to cut”). Bonus Facts: Margaret Ann Bulkley was an Irish woman who
thanks to connections via her then deceased famed artist uncle James Barry became acquainted
with a doctor by the name of Edward Fryer (who would become her tutor and mentor), a
Venezuelan General by the name of Francisco de Miranda, and a man named William Godwin,
who happened to be the widower of the author of Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary
Wollstonecraft. At some point, possibly partially due to Margaret’s
semi-impoverished situation and struggling to get work as a tutor, or maybe just because
she really wanted to be a doctor, the group got the idea for Margaret to disguise herself
as a man so she could attend medical school. She then took the name of James Barry, in
homage to her deceased famous uncle, and officially entered school as his nephew. It has been speculated that her original plan
was to eventually resume her original identity and travel with General Francisco de Miranda
back to Venezuela where she would be allowed to work as a doctor, despite being a woman
thanks to the General, but this isn’t actually clear. Whether there is any merit to this or not,
around the time she was graduating medical school in the summer of 1812 (not without
controversy as it was assumed because of her slight build and high pitched voice, she must
have been lying about her age, though her connection to her famous deceased uncle helped
smoothed things over) the General was arrested and would later die in prison. So had that actually been the plan, it didn’t
work out. Whatever the case, what she actually did was
keep her assumed identity and join the British army, though it’s unclear how she got past
the physical. But she did, and the military sent Barry around
the world: Canada, Jamaica, India, and Malta, among others. One of her biggest accomplishments took place
in South Africa in 1826. While she was stationed there, she performed
a Caesarean section on a woman and said woman survived. As mentioned, this was the first known instance
of a British surgeon performing the surgery with both mother and child surviving, with
the boy child ultimately being named after her, sort of… Named Barry. Bonus Fact 2: Speaking of things often thought to be named
after Caesar, but not really- Caesar Salad. This was actually named after a guy named
Caesar Cardini, who was an Italian born chef who immigrated to the United States after
World War I. Despite having a home in San Diego, the Cardini
family operated a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico, primarily because of prohibition resulting
in many Americans going to Tijuana to drink- so restaurant business was booming there. There are various stories surrounding Cardini’s
inspiration for inventing Caesar Salad. According to Caesar’s daughter, on July 4th,
1924, Caesar was running short on supplies due to an unexpected rush of customers. In order to not have to turn customers away,
he concocted a salad and dressing out of some of the remaining ingredients he had lying
around. Another story by a partner of Caesar, Paul
Maggiora, said that the Caesar salad was actually made for American airman from San Diego and
was called “Aviator’s Salad”. Caesar’s brother Alex also claimed the original
name was “Aviator’s Salad” and that it was he who invented it, not Caesar. Yet another story from a retired airmen backs
up the “Aviator’s Salad” name, but not that Alex Cardini invented it. In his story, he claimed that, after a long
night of drinking, several of the soldiers missed curfew and had to stay at Caesar’s
restaurant for the night. When they woke up in the morning, Caesar made
them a salad which he called “Aviator’s Salad” and is now known as Caesar Salad. Whatever the true origin, it is clear that
this particular type of salad was made popular at Caesar Cardini’s restaurant. As for it spreading, the salad also got a
popularity boost when in 1937 Manny Wolfe, a Hollywood screenwriter for Paramount, began
distributing the recipe around to various restaurants in the United States. Caesar salad’s spread to Europe is generally
attributed to Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson, who was a mistress and eventual wife of Prince
Edward VIII of Wales. Simpson often frequented Caesar’s restaurant
when she was in the area and during her travels began instructing other chefs how to make
it, though she couldn’t ever get them to get the dressing quite right, which was a problem
in a lot of restaurants that had begun serving the salad. As a result of this, by 1948, demand for the
dressing for Caesar salad became so great that Caesar started Caesar Cardini Foods with
his daughter Rosa. With this company, they began selling bottled
Caesar salad dressing.

100 thoughts on “Are C-Sections Really Named After Julius Caesar?

  1. In Latin C is always pronounced as a hard K sound. My Latin professor would have a stroke if he heard it as an S

  2. I was born with a C-section. You can't really tell from looking at me, but whenever I leave a house I go out through a window.

  3. Good video. But, honestly? I "smashed" the thumbs-up button because you said "smash the thumbs-up button." I just love that expression. 🙂

  4. So you are saying that Caesarean Section can be literally translated into Cut Cut?!?

    It’s the Moon Moon of medical procedures

  5. Should’ve been called: Having your guts placed aside so they can get the baby out all while your crucified on a table. Yes, your arms are tied down in a crucifix position…fun times…

  6. There is also the birth of McDuff. He was reputed to have been "snatched untimely from his mother's womb". Or is that McBeth

  7. Could you please do a video on the possible names Prince Charles could assume when he is coronated?

    FWIW I was born via C-section after my mom laboured for twenty four hours. This was in 1968, and my brother was also delivered by C-section (1971) as that was standard procedure among obstetric surgeons at the time in the US.

  8. Timothy Treadwell would be a great subject for a video. He was a very fascinating and eccentric environmentalist who decided to live amongst the grizzly bears in Alaska for 13 summers. The documentary Grizzly Man shows his hilarious, endearing, and wild character quite well.

  9. I thought it came from Julius Caesar getting sliced while being assassinated(always thought it was strange to name a procedure on a woman after an event that happened to a man).Occured,also,
    it could've been a phonetic device,as to avoid it being called a "Charlie section"

  10. Objection! Caesar Cardini was named, either directly or indirectly, after Julius Caesar, so the salad is indirectly named after him.

  11. Having not watched the video yet, I’m gonna guess it’s not directly Julius Caesar, but either related to a region of the body being cut into, or a different, later Kingdom that used a Caesar derivative word for their ruler.

  12. I'm a "Gold Star Gay", a gay man who has never been intimate with a female.
    But if I had been born by C-section, I'd be a "Platinum Gay".
    Bonus Fact.

  13. My first understanding of cesarean section was that Julius Caesar was to have performed the first one himself rather than being born from one.
    This TIFO makes more sense.

    So C-section actually means "cut cut."

  14. I would have assume that it had something to do with the habit of the Gauls to slice the roman soldiers gut and send them home holding their guts.

  15. I always thought is was Julius Caesar's son Cesarean that it was named after hence it being called Cesarean section the Egyptians were capable of doing surgeries for centuries before Cleopatra was Pharaoh

  16. I usually really enjoy your videos but I'm a little disappointed. C-sections go way back in Africa. All innovation doesnt just come from the west….

  17. Im not sure where you go to ask questions, but since its a video for a medical question can you explain why MRI's dont just rip all the iron in your blood from your body in a horribly grotesque way? (I.e. similar to how Magneto escaped prison in the Xmen movie.)

    I understand that it has something to do with ferromagnetism and magnetism but I still dont quite understand. Thanks Simon!

  18. I would have erred on the side of assuming Barry was transgender and therefore should not be referred to as ‘she’. He lived the vast majority of his life as a man and wanted to die and be remembered as a man. At the very least, gender neutral pronouns should be used.

  19. James Barry was transgender- his assigned sex at birth was only discovered due to his dying wish to not have his body examined after death being ignored. He should be referred to with his chosen name and he/him/his pronouns. Please take this into account if he comes up in further videos.

  20. I had one and the next day it feels like you were in a bad magic trick and it snowed the next day so yeah I only have one kid😄😄

  21. The German word "Kaiser" and the Russian word "Tsar" meaning emperor are derived from the Roman "Caesar", which was pronounced "kae̯sar" ("kai-sar").

  22. He was Caesar and he had demands one to be born in July and name the month after himself, and a womb with a view to step out at that time .

  23. Huh. Thought C-Section was named for Cervix Section.

    Like, you make a cut near the Cervix to extract the baby.

    Guess you live and learn.

  24. I watch a lot of horror and Ive seen some gross things and been fine but for some reason this video made me queasy

  25. Although Julius Caesar probably wasn't born by C-section, the procedure may have been well known at the time. One recent documentary about Nero was that he got infatuated with a young man who resembled his dead wife. To better suit his desires, Nero had his physicians perform a sex change operation on the young man.
    Thus, if that was indeed the case, then C-sections were probably performed for many years prior due to its comparative ease of technique.

  26. I don't care who it was named after, it saved my mom's life, my sister's life, my life, and my daughter's life.

  27. Simon: "….Now to jump across the pond…."
    Me: To Britain…..?
    Simon"…to America"
    Me: Ohhh that's right…. he's already there…… oops

  28. I really like it when people get things wrong. It's even funnier when a source that people usually trust gets things wrong. I find that hilarious. It's always funny when that happens.

  29. Don’t know about the illustrations shown. My ex had three C section deliveries, and was cut horizontally low down.

  30. My boyfriend insists that since I was a "zipper kid" (aka c section), I was never born, I was only removed. He greets me on my birthday "happy removal day, tumor baby!"

  31. I was born by C-Section because my mother couldn't give birth to me other wise and I had a C-Section with my son because he was in trouble and would have died other wise. I am glad that our technology is better then it was in Ceaser's time.

  32. "I was born by Caesarean section, but you really can't tell… except that when I leave my house, I always go out the window.
    – Steven Wright

  33. I seriously doubt the pig castrator story because not only did the woman survive possibly the first c-section, but she also successfully underwent either multiple VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) or multiple repeat c/s -both fairly risky scenarios even today.

  34. I read an FB post (from what looks like a reliable source) about ancient African women having successful C-sections. Also read about it here:

  35. The story I was told was that he wanted to witness a child being born but the woman he went to watch give birth wasn't going to survive and the baby was cut out.

    More importantly the C in Caesar is meant to be pronounced like a K because that's how Latin works. Hence why German Kings were Kaisers.

  36. Isn't it more likely that it's literally a Kaiser Ceasar thing? That English speaking people who only had kings and no Kaiser /Ceaser keep forgetting that it wasn't just a name. I mean so many here explain the origin of the word Ceaser Kaiser and it's called Kaiser Schnitt (emperors cut) so I think that when it was survivable it became a thing for wealth women like emperors wife's. Well in hope for an heir screw survivable the Kaiser can get a new wife he needs the heir so cut her open.

  37. james barry is almost universally considered to be trans! he lived as a man for the rest of his life and we only know he wasn't a cis man because his last wishes to be buried in the clothes he died in were not obeyed. he claimed to people who would see him such as his wife that his body was the result of an accident and went to great lengths to hide his trans status. a woman crossdressing would be a woman in private. the gender of a trans person is not a mask to be removed and there's no reason other than plain transphobia to be misgendering dr barry.

  38. Strangely enough, I found myself googling the etymology of this a few weeks ago. I gathered it was something to do with the Latin word for knife but assumed it was to do with Caesar dying by one.

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