Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Paul L. Maier

Second Advisor

Dr. Marion W. Gray

Third Advisor

Dr. E. Rozanne Elder

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Dimiter G. Angelov


The relationship between Christianity and the imperial Roman government from 57 to 235 was partially dependent upon the enforcement of traditional gender roles and the exercise of those roles by women in unique positions of influence. Rather than attempt to break free of their defined gender roles, women with distinctive connections to Christianity and the Roman government were, especially during times of crisis, able to influence imperial policies that provided an atmosphere conducive to positive growth for the early Church. This work concentrates on the crises which were connected to gender---especially times during which the emperors failed to fulfill their obligation as "manly" rulers. /// Although these women wielded power without having to usurp the legitimate authority reserved only for men, some of the ancient writers, like Tacitus, Dio Cassius, and Herodian cast these women in heavily gendered language with the intention both to assert traditional gender roles and to explain the calamities associated with the emperors they considered unmanly. Pomponia Graecina, Poppaea Sabina, Flavia Domitilla, Marcia, and Julia Mamaea, all demonstrate the connection between gender and the religio-political system of the early Empire. Specifically, each also reveals the nuances of a Roman cultural understanding of gender and its role within the embodiment of imperial ideology. Otacilia Severa, Cornelia Salonina, and Eutropia, although living in eras beyond the scope of this dissertation, further demonstrate the ability of women to use gendered norms to their advantage during times of crisis, even when it appears to be disconnected from issues of gender. In short, these women all show the pervasiveness of gender in all aspects of imperial culture.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access