What Was the Infant Mortality Rate in Ancient Greece?

The infant mortality rate in Ancient Greece was a significant concern for the ancient Greeks. Infant mortality refers to the death of infants within the first year of life. It was a common occurrence in ancient times due to various factors such as lack of medical knowledge, poor hygiene, and limited access to healthcare.

Factors Contributing to High Infant Mortality

Several factors contributed to the high infant mortality rate in Ancient Greece:

  • Poor Hygiene: Sanitation practices were not well-developed in Ancient Greece, leading to the spread of diseases and infections.
  • Inadequate Nutrition: The lack of knowledge about proper infant nutrition resulted in malnourishment and susceptibility to diseases.
  • Limited Medical Knowledge: Ancient Greeks had limited understanding of medicine and lacked effective treatments for many illnesses.
  • Lack of Access to Healthcare: Healthcare facilities were limited, making it difficult for families to seek medical attention for sick infants.

Survival Rates

The exact infant mortality rate in Ancient Greece is challenging to determine due to the scarcity of historical records. However, it is estimated that up to 30% of infants did not survive their first year of life.

Rural vs. Urban Areas

The survival rates varied between rural and urban areas. In general, infants living in rural areas faced higher mortality rates compared to those in urban areas. This can be attributed to factors such as limited access to healthcare facilities and a higher prevalence of infectious diseases in rural communities.

Ancient Greek Beliefs and Practices

Ancient Greek beliefs and practices surrounding childbirth also played a role in infant mortality. The exposure of unwanted infants, known as “exposure,” was not uncommon. Unwanted or sickly infants were abandoned in public places, left to fate.

Improvements Over Time

As time progressed, Ancient Greece witnessed advancements in medical knowledge and healthcare practices. However, it is important to note that these improvements were gradual and not as significant as those seen in modern times.

Hippocratic Medicine

Hippocrates, an influential figure in Ancient Greek medicine, made significant contributions to the understanding of diseases and treatments. His teachings focused on the importance of observation, diet, and hygiene in maintaining good health.

Healthcare Facilities

In larger cities such as Athens and Alexandria, healthcare facilities were established, providing better access to medical care for infants and their families. These facilities offered basic treatments and preventive measures against common diseases.


The infant mortality rate in Ancient Greece was alarmingly high due to various factors such as poor hygiene, inadequate nutrition, limited medical knowledge, and lack of access to healthcare. Survival rates varied between rural and urban areas. Over time, there were gradual improvements in medical knowledge and healthcare practices that contributed to a decrease in infant mortality rates.

Although the progress made during ancient times cannot be compared to modern advancements in healthcare, it laid the foundation for future developments that would significantly reduce infant mortality rates.