INFANTE, a title of the sons of the sovereigns of Spain and Portugal, the corresponding infanta being given to the daughters. (From Lat. in f ans, young child.) The title is not borne by the eldest son of the king of Spain, who is prince of Asturias, Il Principe de Asturias. While a son or a daughter of the sovereign of Spain is by right infante or infanta of Spain, the title, alone, is granted to other members of the blood royal by the sovereign.
sharp contrast to the modern anxiety to lessen child mortality, is the extent, as vouched for by sound historical evidence of the practice of infanticide or of putting new-born infants to death or of allowing them to die.
Thus it is recorded of the Nandi that "children are buried alive in cow-dung if they cry in their mother's womb or if at birth they present their legs first, or are born with teeth, as these events are considered unlucky." From every quarter of the world comes evidence of similar practices, supported by similar reasons. The horror of the abnormal explains many of the cases. Breaches of the rules regulating sexual intercourse may, as with the Nandi, lead to the immediate death of the offspring because the ancestral spirits seeking reincarnation can only achieve their desire by reg ular marriage. The birth of twins, as an abnormal occurrence, may be viewed as either an indication of future prosperity or of impending misfortune and social attitudes conform with the view taken in the community of the incident. Some welcome twins as proof of divine favour, others deem them akin to animals and therefore to be destroyed.
Infanticide is sometimes practised for economic reasons as when an Australian mother thinks she is unable to rear the new-born babe. Cases are known where a child has been killed in order that its soul may pass to a woman desirous of offspring. In India female infanticide was attributed to the custom of hypergamy (q.v.). To some superstition related to the social order is also attributed the rule of the Wataveta requiring the destruction of every child born to a woman after her daughter's marriage. The system of age-grades which forms an essential part of the struc ture of that tribe is perhaps the factor in this connection.
Children, especially the first-born, were killed to cure barren ness, to ensure health, good fortune and general fertility. Rein carnation beliefs play a part since if the son is the reincarnation of his father, the son is put to death and the father lives. Again special sanctity, special virtue attached to the first-born and there fore the sacrifice of the first-born had special efficacy. In certain conditions the legitimacy of the first-born is dubious and his destruction may then be regarded as a special case of illegitimacy. There are many proofs of infanticide in religions possessing ethical potentialities such as Druidism and Semitism as well as in advanced communities such as Egypt, Greece and Rome.
That the destruction of weak, deformed and unsightly children at birth would have favourably affected the quality of the com munity is highly probable. Eugenic motives, however, were not present and the destruction of such children was conditioned by the superstitions attached to them.