Wednesday, July 24, 2024

The Gender-Bending Vision of St. Perpetua


Name:  St. Perpetua

Date:  203 CE

Region:  Madaura [modern Algeria]

Citation:  Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis 10

Before she was killed, St. Perpetua had a vision in which she became a man and fought a gladiator. Many people interpret this transformation as her gaining skills and abilities that she was denied access to because of her gender.

The day before our execution, I saw this in a vision. The deacon Pomponius came to the door of the prison and started knocking on it violently. And I went to the door and opened it. He was clothed in loose, bright clothing, and had special shoes on. He told me, “Perpetua, we are waiting for you, come on!,” and he held out his hand for me, and we began to walk through rough and uneven places. We nearly didn’t make it, but we finally arrived at the amphitheater and he brought me into the middle of the arena and told me, “Don’t panic. I am here with you, and I’ve got your back.” And he left me.

And I saw a huge crowd of people, thunderstruck. Since I knew that I was condemned to die by beasts, I was wondering why there weren’t any animals around me. Instead, a certain Egyptian fighter—absolutely huge warrior—came to fight me along with his co-worker. But young, honorable youths rose up along side of me to cheer me on and help me fight. I took off my robe, and became a man. And my helpers began to anoint me with oil (something that happens in the arena)[1]. And I saw the Egyptian rolling in the dust. And there was a certain man who was huge (even taller than the tower of the amphitheater), who wore a loose purple robe with two stripes across the middle of his chest, wearing special shoes made of gold and silver. He carried a staff like a referee would, but it was a leafy branch that had golden apples. He shushed the crowd and said, “If this Egyptian fighter wins, he will kill her with a sword, but is this woman wins, she will get this branch.” And he left.

And we approached each other and began to fight. He tried to grab my feet, but I was kicking at his face with my feet.  He tossed me into the air and I began to slice at him as if my feet couldn’t reach the ground. But when I saw I had a chance, I wove my fingers together and I grabbed him by the head, and I struck him in the face and I kicked him in the head. And the crowd began to shout and my fans began to cheer. And I went up to the referee and I got the branch. And he kissed me and told me, “Daughter, Peace be with you.” And I began to do my victory dance towards the Sanaviviarian gate. And then I woke up. And I understood that I wasn’t going to fight beasts, but I was going to fight the devil, but that I would be victorious. I had this vision the day before the Games; if someone wishes to write down what actually happens at the Games, let them do so.

 Pridie quam pugnaremus, video in horomate hoc: venisse Pomponium diaconum ad ostium carceris et pulsare vehementer.Et exivi ad eum et aperui ei; qui erat vestitus discincta candida, habens multiplices galliculas. Et dixit mihi: “Perpetua, te expectamus; veni.” Et tenuit mihi manum et coepimus ire per aspera loca et flexuosa.Vix tandem pervenimus anhelantes ad amphitheatrum et induxit me in media arena et dixit mihi: “Noli pavere. Hic sum tecum et conlaboro tecum.” Et abiit.Et aspicio populum ingentem adtonitum; et quia sciebam me ad bestias damnatam esse, mirabar quod non mitterentur mihi bestiae. Et exivit quidam contra me Aegyptius foedus specie cum adiutoribus suis pugnaturus mecum. Veniunt et ad me adolescentes decori, adiutores et fautores mei. Et expoliata sum et facta sum masculus; et coeperunt me fauisores mei oleo defricare, quomodo solent in agone. Et illum contra Aegyptium video in afa volutantem. Et exivit vir quidam mirae magnitudinis ut etiam excederet fastigium amphitheatri, discinctatus, purpuram inter duos clavos per medium pectus habens, et galliculas multiformes ex auro et argento factas, et ferens virgam quasi lanista, et ramum viridem in quo erant mala aurea. Et petiit silentium et dixit: “Hic Aegyptius, si hanc vicerit, occidet illam gladio; haec, si hunc vicerit, accipiet ramum istum.” Et recessit. Et accessimus ad invicem et coepimus mittere pugnos. Ille mihi pedes adprehendere volebat; ego autem illi calcibus faciem caedebam. Et sublata sum in aere et coepi eum sic caedere quasi terram non calcans. At ubi vidi moram fieri, iunxi manus ut digitos in digitos mitterem et apprehendi illi caput; et cecidit in faciem et calcavi illi caput. Et coepit populus clamare et fauisores mei psallere. Et accessi ad lanistam et accepi ramum.Et osculatus est me et dixit mihi: “Filia, pax tecum.” Et coepi ire cum gloria ad portam Sanauiuariam. Et experrecta sum. Et intellexi me non ad bestias, sed contra diabolum esse pugnaturam; sed sciebam mihi esse victoriam. Hoc usque in pridie muneris egi; ipsius autem muneris actum, si quis voluerit, scribat.

[1] Athletes in ancient Greek and Rome used olive oil as a form of deodorant.

Not Yours To Control: Perpetua 5

 The Passion of St. Perpetua and St. Felicitas is one of the earliest Christian writings. Here, Perpetua shows agency in her own life by valuing her religion over what others will think of her family.

Name:  St. Perpetua

Date:  203 CE

Region:  Madaura [modern Algeria]

Citation:  Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis

After a few days, we heard a rumor that we would be heard [in trial]. My father came to visit me from the city, worn out with worry. He approached me, and said, “Daughter, pity my old age. Pity your father! If I am worthy to still be called your father, if I raised you to womanhood with my own hands, if I cherished you over all of your brothers, don’t let me get dragged down by other people’s trash talk. Think about your brothers! Think about your mother and your aunt! Think about your son, who will die without you! Stop being so brave, or you’ll ruin us all. If something happens to you, none of us will be able to speak freely about it...”

My dad said this out of concern for his family, kissing my hands and throwing himself at my feet. He wept, and called me “lady,” not “daughter.” And I was upset for my dad, for he was the only person who wasn’t happy for me out of my whole family. And I comforted him, saying, “What happens at the gallows is God’s will. Please know that I am not yours to control, but rather I’m in God’s hands.” And he left me, upset.

 Post paucos dies rumor cucurrit ut audiremur. Supervenit autem et de civitate pater meus, consumptus taedio, et ascendit ad me, ut me deiceret, dicens: “Miserere, filia, canis meis; miserere patri, si dignus sum a te pater vocari; si his te manibus ad hunc florem aetatis provexi, si te praeposui omnibus fratribus tuis: ne me dederis in dedecus hominum. Aspice fratres tuos, aspice matrem tuam et materteram, aspice filium tuum qui post te vivere non poterit. Depone animos; ne universos nos extermines. Nemo enim nostrum libere loquetur, si tu aliquid fueris passa.” Haec dicebat quasi pater pro sua pietate basians mihi manus et se ad pedes meos iactans et lacrimans me iam non “filiam” nominabat, sed “dominam.” Et ego dolebam casum patris mei quod solus de passione mea gavisurus non esset de toto genere meo. Et confortavi eum dicens: “Hoc fiet in illa catasta quod Deus voluerit. Scito enim nos non in nostra esse potestate constitutos, sed in Dei.” Et recessit a me contristatus.

I Cannot Be Anything Other Than Me, St. Perpetua 2-3.2

 The Passion of St. Perpetua and St. Felicitas is one of the earliest Christian works. Here, St. Perpetua tells her story, and her inability to live a life different than her faith. 

Name:  St. Perpetua

Date:  203 CE

Region:  Madaura [modern Algeria]

Citation:  Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis 2.1 – 3.2

 Some youths were arrested before they could get baptized. They were Revocatus and Felictas (his coworker), Saturninus and Little Secundus. Among them was also Vibia Perpetua, a well-born lady, well educated, married and a mother. She had a mom, a dad, and two brothers (one of whom was also an unbaptized Christian), and an infant son who had not yet been weaned. She was about twenty-two years old. This is a story of her martyrdom, written by her own hand, that she has left to us based on her own experience:

When we were still among our prosecutors, my father tried to talk me out of it, out of his love for me. I told him, “Dad, do you see that vase lying over there. Is that a water jug or something else?”

He said, “I see it.”

And I told him, “Can you call it something other than its name?”

And he said, “Nope.”

And I said, “And I, too, cannot be called anything except what I am. A Christian.”

Then my father got mad at this, and attacked me, trying to tear my eyes out, but he was so upset he just left, not understanding.

 Apprehensi sunt adolescentes catechumeni, Revocatus et Felicitas, conserva eius, Saturninus et Secundulus. Inter hos et Vibia Perpetua, honeste nata, liberaliter instituta, matronaliter nupta, habens patrem et matrem et fratres duos, alterum aeque catechumenum, et filium infantem ad ubera. Erat autem ipsa circiter annorum viginti duo. Haec ordinem totum martyrii sui iam hinc ipsa narravit sicut conscriptum manu sua et suo sensu reliquit:

“Cum adhuc, inquit, cum prosecutoribus essemus et me pater verbis vuertere cupiret et deicere pro sua affectione perseveraret: “Pater,” inquam, “vides verbi gratia vas hoc iacens, urceolum siue aliud?” Et dixit: “Video”. Et ego dixi ei: “Numquid alio nomine vocari potest quam quod est?” et ait: “Non.” “Sic et ego aliud me dicere non possum nisi quod sum, Christiana.” Tunc pater, motus hoc verbo, mittit se in me ut oculos mihi erueret, sed vexavit tantum et profectus est victus cum argumentis diaboli...”

One Woman Climbs A Mountain for her Faith: Egeria, It. 1.3.7 - 1.4.1

Egeria was a Christian woman from Spain who lived during the 4th century CE. Her narrative of her pilgrimage is an important document, as it shows rare insight into the lives of women during that time period. She was not only able to travel to visit holy sites in Constantinople, Jerusalem, and other holy places, she was also literate and able to write of her experiences.  

After we talked a bit, the holy folk blessed us, and we went outside the doors of the church, and I began to ask them about certain places. Immediately, the holy men took me on a tour. They showed me the cave where Holy Moses was, when he ascended the holy mountain to obtain the Ten Commandments, and where he later broke the first copy of them when his people had broken those rules. They showed me other places, as many as I had asked about, and even more that they had known about that I didn’t.  

Fellow sisters in Christ, I want you to know this, that from the point where we stood on the top of the central mountain, when we looked down, the other mountains around us which had seemed nearly inaccessible, looked like little hills.  And from the ground, they looked so massive, like I had never seen anything taller than them, and yet this central mountain overshadowed them by a lot. From the summit, we saw such incredible sights: we saw Egypt and Palestine and the Red Sea and the Parthian Sea, which borders Alexandria; we also saw the border of the boundless territories of the Arabian peoples. The holy men [leading the tour] pointed out each and every site to us.

Once this was checked off of my bucket list, we began to go back to the point we’d started our ascent, going from the summit of the holy mountain to another mountain that is joined to it (named Choreb).

--Egeria, Itinerarium Peregrinatio 1.3.8 – 4.1


Hac sic ergo posteaquam communicaveramus et dederant nobis eulogias sancti illi et egressi sumus foras ostium ecclesiae, tunc coepi eos rogare, ut ostenderent nobis singula loca. Tunc statim illi sancti dignati sunt singula ostendere. Nam ostenderunt nobis speluncam illam, ubi fuit sanctus Moyses, cum iterato ascendisset in montem Dei, ut acciperet denuo tabulas, posteaquam priores illas fregerat peccante populo, et cetera loca, quaecumque desiderabamus vel quae ipsi melius noverant, dignati sunt ostendere nobis.

Illud autem vos volo scire, dominae venerabiles sorores, quia de eo loco, ubi stabamus, id est in giro parietes ecclesiae, id est de summitate montis ipsius mediani, ita infra nos videbantur esse illi montes, quos primitus vix ascenderamus, iuxta istum medianum, in quo stabamus, ac si essent illi colliculi, cum tamen ita infiniti essent, ut non me putarem aliquando altiores vidisse, nisi quod hic medianus eos nimium praecedebat. Aegyptum autem et Palaestinam et mare rubrum et mare illud Parthenicum, quod mittit Alexandriam, nec non et fines Saracenorum infinitos ita subter nos inde videbamus, ut credi vix possit; quae tamen singula nobis illi sancti demonstrabant.

Completo ergo omni desiderio, quo festinaveramus ascendere, coepimus iam et descendere ab ipsa summitate montis Dei, in qua ascenderamus, in alio monte, qui ei periunctus est, qui locus appellatur in Choreb.

Monday, July 22, 2024

Britomartis, Deified by Artemis: Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.30.3

Zeus’ daughter Carme and Eubulus was named Britomartis. She enjoyed hunting and running, and was especially dear to Artemis. While fleeing Minos’ romantic advances, she threw herself into [the sea, right into] a fishing net.  Artemis made her a god. She is worshipped not only by the Cretans, but also by the Aeginians, who say that Britomartis walks among them on their island. The Aeginians call her Aphaea, but among the Cretans, her name is Dictynna.

--Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.30.3


 Jove & Carme Eubuli filia Britomartin genitam: quae quum se totam in currendi venandique studia tradidisset, fuisse eam Dianae multo carissimam.Verum Minoem prae amorem insequentem fugeret, ac se in mare abiecisset, in retia, quae ad pisces capiendos in mare missa fuerant, incidisse: a Diana in deorum numerum relatam. Colunt eam non soli Cretenses,sed ipse etiam Aeginetae, quod in insula visam Britomartin autumant. Et eadem sane Aegenetis Aphaea est, quae apud Cretenses Dictynna. 

ἐν Αἰγίνῃ δὲ πρὸς τὸ ὄρος τοῦ Πανελληνίου Διὸς ἰοῦσιν, ἔστιν Ἀφαίας ἱερόν, ἐς ἣν καὶ Πίνδαρος ᾆσμα Αἰγινήταις ἐποίησε. φασὶ δὲ οἱ Κρῆτες— τούτοις γάρ ἐστι τὰ ἐς αὐτὴν ἐπιχώρια—Καρμάνορος τοῦ καθήραντος Ἀπόλλωνα ἐπὶ φόνῳ τῶ Πύθωνος παῖδα Εὔβουλον εἶναι, Διὸς δὲ καὶ Κάρμης τῆς Εὐβούλου Βριτόμαρτιν γενέσθαι: χαίρειν δὲ αὐτὴν δρόμοις τε καὶ θήραις καὶ Ἀρτέμιδι μάλιστα φίλην εἶναι: Μίνω δὲ ἐρασθέντα φεύγουσα ἔρριψεν ἑαυτὴν ἐς δίκτυα ἀφειμένα ἐπ᾽ ἰχθύων θήρᾳ. ταύτην μὲν θεὸν ἐποίησεν Ἄρτεμις, σέβουσι δὲ οὐ Κρῆτες μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ Αἰγινῆται, λέγοντες φαίνεσθαί σφισιν ἐν τῇ νήσῳ τὴν Βριτόμαρτιν. ἐπίκλησις δέ οἱ παρά τε Αἰγινήταις ἐστὶν Ἀφαία καὶ Δίκτυννα ἐν Κρήτῃ.




Name:  Pausanias

Date:  110 – 180 CE

Works:  Description of Greece



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Pausanias was a Greek writer who lived during the era of the “Five Good Emperors.” His work, the Description of Greece, is an important source for geographical, historical, archaeological, and cultural information about ancient Greece.


ARCHAIC: (through 6th c. BCE); GOLDEN AGE: (5th - 4th c. BCE); HELLENISTIC: (4th c. BCE - 1st c. BCE); ROMAN: (1st c. BCE - 4th c. CE); POST CONSTANTINOPLE: (4th c. CE - 8th c. CE); BYZANTINE: (post 8th c CE)

Sunday, July 21, 2024

Roman Masculinity and BABIES, squee! Fronto, Ad Amicos 1.12.1-2

From: Fronto

To: Aufidius Victorinus 

Hello, Son-in-Law!

[First Part of Letter is Missing]...In due course the gods will honor my daughter / your wife and our entire family with more children and grandchildren, and, since you'll be their dad, they will grow up to be just like you. Not a day goes by that I don’t have little mini-baby-talk conversations or hear mini-tantrums with our either our Victorinus, Jr, or our Fronto, Jr.  Whereas you never seek a reward or bribes from your words or deeds, our little Fronto doesn’t babble any other word more frequently than “da.” [“Give!”]  And so I give the little guy whatever is at hand—either a little scrap of paper or a writing tablet, things I hope he’ll want one day. But there are some signs he’s just like me, his grandpa: he really, really, really likes grapes. It was his first solid food, and all day he would lick them, or savor them in his lips, or nom-nom on them with his little baby gums. He also really, really likes little birds: he really delights watching baby birds, little baby chicks, baby doves, and baby sparrows. I heard from my nurses and teachers that I always did the same when I was a kid...

--Fronto, Ad Amicos, 1.12.1-2

Fronto Aufidio Victorino generem salutem.

<...> meremur et mihi filiam et tibi uxorem, ut recte proveniat, favebunt et familiam nostram liberis ac nepotibus augebunt et eos, qui ex te geniti sunt eruntque, tui similes praestabunt. Cum isto quidem sive Victorino nostro sive Frontone cotidianae mihi lites et jurgia intercedunt. Cum tu nullam unquam mercedem ullius rei agendae dicendaeve a quoquam postularis, Fronto iste nullum verbum prius neque frequentius congarrit quam hoc ‘da’. Ego contra quod possum aut chartulas ei aut tabellas porrigo, quarum rerum petitorem eum esse cupio. Nonnulla tamen et aviti ingeni signa ostendit: Uvarum avidissimus est. Primum denique hunc cibum degluttivit nec cessavit per totos paene dies aut lingua lambere uva, aut labris saviari ac gingivis lacessere ac ludificari. Avicularum etiam cupidissimus est: Pullis gallinarum, columbarum, passerum oblectatur, quo studio me a prima infantia devinctum fuisse saepe audivi ex his, qui mihi eductores aut magistri fuerunt...



Name:  Marcus Cornelius Fronto  

Date:  100 – 160 CE

Works: Letters



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



Fronto was a Roman statesman born in Cirta (Numidia, located in northern Africa) whose rhetorical and literary abilities earned him the nickname “Second Cicero.” He was tutor and mentor to the future Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus; his correspondence with them provides unique insight into the personal lives of much of the Antonine dynasty.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE



Saturday, July 20, 2024

Camilla, Warrior Woman in Battle! Vergil, Aeneid , 11.648 - 663

Name:  Vergil [Publius Vergilius Maro]

Date:  70 – 21 BCE

Region:  Mantua [modern northern Italy]

Citation:  Aeneid 11.648 – 663

The Amazon Camilla was reveling in the midst of battle

With half her chest bare and a quiver on her back.

First, she’s rapid-firing spears by hand

Next, she’s deftly wielding her battle-ax

With boundless energy.

Her golden bow, the weapon of Diana,

Twanged from her shoulder.

And now, attacked from behind,

Even while in retreat, Camilla kept firing her arrows.

Surrounded by her elite companions,

The maiden Larina, Tulla, and bronze-ax wielding Tarpeia,

Italian-born women whom divine Camilla

Chose for herself to be her honor-guard,

Were excellent companions in peace and war.

These women fought the way that Amazons

Wearing their multi-color armor

On the banks of the Thermodon River fought

Battling alongside Hippolyte

Or accompanying Penthesilea’s chariot

As she returned from battle;

With a great war-cry

They reveled, an army of women

Lifting their half-moon shaped shields.

At medias inter caedes exsultat Amazon
unum exserta latus pugnae, pharetrata Camilla,
et nunc lenta manu spargens hastilia denset,
nunc validam dextra rapit indefessa bipennem;
aureus ex umero sonat arcus et arma Dianae.
illa etiam, si quando in tergum pulsa recessit,
spicula converso fugientia derigit arcu.
at circum lectae comites, Larinaque virgo    
Tullaque et aeratam quatiens Tarpeia securim,
Italides, quas ipsa decus sibi dia Camilla
delegit pacisque bonas bellique ministras:
quales Threiciae cum flumina Thermodontis
pulsant et pictis bellantur Amazones armis, 
seu circum Hippolyten seu cum se Martia curru
Penthesilea refert, magnoque ululante tumultu
feminea exsultant lunatis agmina peltis.




Name:  Publius Vergilius Maro

Date:  70 BCE – 21 BCE

Works:  Aeneid*





Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



Vergil was born in Mantua (Cisalpine Gaul, located in northern Italy) and lived during the tumultuous transition of Roman government from republic to monarchy. His masterpiece, the Aeneid, tells the story of Aeneas’ migration from Troy to Italy; it was used for centuries as the pinnacle of Roman literature.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE