Chapter 1 offers a survey of Melania’s life. Coerced into marriage by her parents, who wished for descendants to inherit the family fortune, she and her young husband, Valerius Pinianus (Pinian), produced two children. When both children died, she persuaded Pinian to join her in a life of ascetic renunciation. They, along with her widowed mother, Albina, abandoned Rome shortly before the Gothic invasion and traversed the Mediterranean area, founding monasteries in North Africa and Jerusalem. Toward the end of her life, she traveled from Jerusalem to Constantinople in the hope of converting her still-pagan uncle, who was on a mission to the eastern court. Returning to Jerusalem, she died in 439 CE. This chapter details the discovery and publication of two versions of her Life in the early twentieth century, along with conclusions regarding its authorship. It also notes other ancient textual sources concerning Melania; the genre of hagiography; women’s roles in early Christianity as martyrs, patrons, pilgrims, and ascetics; and education and literacy in late antiquity.
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