The perception of women in late antiquity and the impact it had on female asceticism.
AbstractThis study aims to explore and explain why women in Late Antiquity felt inspired to be ascetic. Early Church Fathers believed all women were flawed like Eve, and the dissertation highlights how these negative perceptions could be overcome when women became ascetic. An object of the study is to illustrate how females, in Late Antiquity, were able to gain the same respect and holiness as their male contemporaries through their ascetic journey. Female martyrs, such as Perpetua, gained this respect by acquiring virtues associated with being male. Whilst Melania the younger and Egeria, illustrate how they gained freedom, either by crossing gender boundaries, or through some other form of liberation. In whichever way, they gained liberation, ultimately they seen as asexual beings and not viewed in the Church as female; either as a mother, a daughter or a wife, but simply viewed as a holy, honourable and wise people. The perception of females by Church Fathers is central to the study. The way women were perceived in Classical medical theory had a direct link to the way Church Fathers thought and acted. Classical medical theory shows how the female body was considered inferior to the male body, even stemming from before conception. The theory illustrates how the female body had to be in the right condition to produce a baby boy, if not, and it was too hot or too cold, a girl would be produced. It becomes evident that Christianity was born into a society that viewed women as inferior and subservient to men. This was reinforced by Church Fathers, who believed all women were like the flawed Eve, and should ultimately aspire to be like the Virgin Mary. The study aims to illustrate how women, in Late Antiquity, were perceived as inferior, but asceticism enabled them to follow in the footsteps of Christ. Female ascetics in Late Antiquity did not ascribe to the self-fulfilling prophecy of women that the Church Fathers offered them, but it had the adverse affect. Female ascetics in Late Antiquity were inspired to overcome and shed the negative virtues attributed to them. Although this study does build upon previous research on this topic, and is not entirely unique, it offers a slightly different perspective, arguing the negative perception of women in Late Antiquity that the Church Fathers held, actually had a positive effect on female ascetics, and inspired them.
Barker, Katherine Helen (2014) The perception of women in late antiquity and the impact it had on female asceticism. thesis, University of Wales, Trinity St David.