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Perpetua's PassionsMultidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis$
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Jan N. Bremmer and Marco Formisano

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199561889

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199561889.001.0001

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Vibia Perpetua—An Indecent Woman

Vibia Perpetua—An Indecent Woman

(p.103) IV Vibia Perpetua—An Indecent Woman
Perpetua's Passions

Hanne Sigismund-Nielsen

Oxford University Press

This chapter first examines how Perpetua perceived herself and how she was perceived in relation to her family — in particular in relation to her father. It then considers whether her break with her previous societal norms to obtain martyrdom and salvation can be seen — without Perpetua’s knowing — to foreshadow the radically changed view of women articulated by Augustine in his Sermon 282. It suggests that Perpetua’s transformation from an independently thinking and acting Roman woman into a Christian and eventually a martyr reflects a shift from being an active and responsible member of a worldly family to being a passive member of the household of God. She does this by breaking her bond of pietas towards her worldly family and by going from being a mother, daughter, and wife to becoming a delicata of God. However, Perpetua does not at any moment see herself as delicata. It is the narrator of her Passio who makes her a puella delicata, and he mentions this loaded term twice over a few lines when introducing Perpetua and Felicitas to the crowds in the arena. This is not accidental and the use of this term here is in accordance with the view found in Augustine.

Keywords:   Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis, Roman women, Christian women, Augustine, martyrdom, Sermon 282

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