Date of Award

8-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Anise K. Strong

Second Advisor

Dr. E. Rozanne Elder

Third Advisor

Dr. Larry J. Simon

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only

Restricted to Campus until

8-15-2024

Abstract

Accessing the everyday experiences of late antique non-elite Roman women in the Latin west is limited by sources and issues of authorship. Interdisciplinary scholarship, however, has opened up new avenues in recent years through which these women’s experiences may be studied. When literary-historical questions are asked of these sources’ authors, audiences, motives and intents, the answers provide insight into the roles women and femininity played in early Christianity. By examining an array of late antique Roman representations of good classical women, a unique continuity is seen in the transition from pagan to Christian Rome. The Latin patristic writers capitalized on provincial attitudes towards women and encouraged holy women to exhibit pudicitia—a traditionally pagan virtue— within their relationship with Christ and the Church. In these ways, both lay provincial citizens and the Latin Church Fathers called upon the collective memory of good Roman women in order to facilitate Christianity’s acceptance, effectively elevating women to unique and influential positions within the Church and empire.

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