In Her Own Words: The Life and Poetry of Aelia Eudocia

  Sowers, Brian P. 2020. In Her Own Words: The Life and Poetry of Aelia Eudocia. Hellenic Studies Series 80. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

3. The Conversion: Constructing the Feminine Ideal


By the middle of the fourth century, stories about a fictional Christian bishop and martyr, Cyprian of Antioch, began to circulate throughout the eastern half of the empire. According to these stories, a lovelorn Antiochene aristocrat, Aglaidas, hires a local magician, Cyprian, to seduce a young Christian woman, Justa, who had rejected his advances. Cyprian conjures three demons, whom he orders to fetch Justa for Aglaidas. Armed with the power of the cross, Justa repels each demon in turn. Their defeat convinces Cyprian of Christianity’s supremacy and leads to his conversion. Cyprian rises through the ecclesiastical ranks and is eventually appointed bishop of Antioch. He changes Justa’s name to Justina and charges her with overseeing Antioch’s virgins. These events correspond to one set of stories about Cyprian, conventionally called the Conversion of Cyprian (hereafter Conversion). [1]
Written after the Conversion by a second anonymous author, the Confession of Cyprian (hereafter Confession), contains Cyprian’s lengthy defense to the Antiochene Christians about the legitimacy of his conversion experience. [2] In this speech, he recalls the immediate events precipitating his conversion with some slight changes but also goes into great detail about his prior religious education. As a child, his Athenian family initiated him into all Greek mysteries, both those in Athens and across Greece. Because he excelled at participating in these rituals, he left Greece and traveled across the Mediterranean to Scythia, Egypt, and Babylon to formally study rituals of power or magic. Despite being a fictional account full of Christian embellishment about traditional Mediterranean religions and magic, the Confession remains a valuable document for religious history. [3] It also preserves the legend’s most convoluted and impenetrable material—Cyprian’s descriptions of Scythian, Egyptian, and Babylonian rituals. [4]
The final part of the Cyprian trilogy is the Martyrdom of Cyprian (hereafter Martyrdom), written by the same author who wrote the Conversion. [5] According to the Martyrdom, sometime after his appointment as bishop of Antioch and during the reign of Diocletian and Maximian, Cyprian is arrested and charged with being a Christian. Living in Damascus at the time, Justina is also arrested on similar charges and sent to Antioch to stand trial alongside Cyprian. When interrogation and torture fail to elicit their renunciations, Cyprian and Justina are thrown into a cauldron of burning pitch and wax. Similar to Daniel’s friends, who survive Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace (Daniel 3), Cyprian and Justina remain unharmed, prompting Cyprian’s former assistant, Athanasius, to jump into the cauldron as a demonstration of Satan’s power. Predictably, Athanasius dies, so the Antiochene authorities decide to send Cyprian and Justina to Diocletian in Nicomedia, where they are beheaded. The subsequent removal of their remains to Rome gave rise to a cult of Saints Cyprian and Justina and a basilica for their relics.
Combining these fourth-century prose versions of the Conversion, Confession, and Martyrdom, Eudocia converted them into a three-book epic. [6] Until the eighteenth century, Eudocia’s verse paraphrase of the Martyrdom of Cyprian was thought to be lost, surviving only in Photius’ summary. [7] However, in 1760, while working through an eleventh-century manuscript of Nonnus’ paraphrase of the Gospel of John (Laurentiano VII.10), Angelo Maria Bandini, director of the Bibliotheca Medicea, discovered an incomplete folio containing 801 lines of her epic, the final 322 lines of book 1 and first 479 lines of book 2. [8] A century later, Jacques-Paul Migne republished Bandini’s edition for the Patrologia Graeca series, followed shortly by Theodor Zahn’s edition of the fourth-century prose versions. [9] At the end of the nineteenth century, Arthur Ludwich published the only critical edition of Eudocia’s Martyrdom of Cyprian in his volume on her poetry. [10] Sixty years later, while reading a few loose pages from an eleventh-century manuscript (BPG 95) listed as Fragmentum Homerocentonis, the director of the Leiden University library, Karel Adriaan de Meyier, realized that this text was actually the first ninety-nine lines of Eudocia’s Martyrdom of Cyprian. [11] In fact, the pages from the Leiden text had been removed from Laurentiano VII.10, the manuscript discovered two centuries earlier by Bandini. [12] Claudio Bevegni published these ninety-nine lines with a critical apparatus in 1982. [13]
Since Eudocia’s epic paraphrase of the Martyrdom of Cyprian is her longest undisputed poem to survive, the next two chapters are dedicated to it. This chapter approaches her Conversion, especially its depiction of Justina, as a late antique verse continuation of early Christian prose fictions. The next chapter situates her Confession within late antique Christian polemics against traditional Mediterranean religions, which late antique Christian authors increasingly conflated with magic. A translation of Eudocia’s epic, located in the appendix of this book, is the first complete English translation of her extant verses. [14] To avoid confusion, I refer to Eudocia’s entire epic as the Martyrdom of Cyprian but the third part of the Cyprian legend simply as the Martyrdom.

Christian Prose Narratives

To speak of early Christian prose narratives as a unified category can be misleading, as “Christian prose narrative” includes a diverse range of texts: gospels (canonical and apocryphal), acts (canonical and apocryphal), saints’ lives, and martyrologies. [15] As a result, within the scholarship on early Christian prose narratives, the question of genre or genres looms large, particularly the relationship between Christian narratives and the ancient novel. [16] Further complicating matters, classical scholars, who disagree about the categorization of the ancient novel, tend to fall into two schools. The first school limits the canon to five Greek novels (those of Chariton, Xenophon of Ephesus, Achilles Tatius, Longus, and Heliodorus), separate from all other ancient prose fictions, despite their similarity to the canonical five. [17] The second school distinguishes between idealized and comic-realistic novels and considers the Latin prose fictions written by Apuleius and Petronius, as well as Pseudo-Lucian’s Ass, examples of comic-realistic novels. [18] A third, more inclusive perspective views the ancient novel as emerging from a variety of generic conventions, including history, epic, tragedy, comedy, and oratory. [19]
By attenuating the modern divisions between genres, this third model provides space for generic influence and innovation in early Christian and late antique literature. [20] For example, since Christian prose authors situate their narratives within precise historical frameworks, including historical people, places, and events, their acta and vitae blend biographical and novelistic features. [21] It is tempting to wonder how an ancient reader would classify the Acts of Paul and Thecla, perhaps as a novel alongside her copy of Chaereas and Callirhoe. [22] Another reader, in contrast, might compare the Acts of Paul and Thecla to Plutarch’s Lives. [23] Its fusion of generic features sets early Christian literature apart from its classical antecedents and paves the way for the wholesale literary hybridity characteristic of late antique prose and poetry. In fact, the third-century Acts of Andrew had already developed the novelistic plot of the evil magician who attempts to seduce a Christian virgin by (unsuccessfully) sending demons against her. [24] Eudocia’s epic paraphrase of the Martyrdom of Cyprian epitomizes late antique generic hybridity by taking the prose expansion of this literary motif to the next level. [25] Indeed, not only is the prose version of the Martyrdom of Cyprian a literary bricolage, a spoliation of classical and early Christian texts, but its verse paraphrase by Eudocia also adds poetic features, with it simultaneously representing acta, vita, martyrology, and epic.
In addition to convoluted generic influences, early Christian prose narratives also have complex relationships with the Christian liturgy and cult of the saints. [26] Prose narratives, especially those incorporated into ritualized cultic spaces associated with local holy men or martyrs, became more geographically fixed than Greco-Roman novels and other early Christian gospels or acts (canonical and apocryphal). [27] During late antiquity, story, ritual, and place became inextricably fused together through annual public reading events, during which sacred text and sacred space educated visitors and, in some cases, even healed diseases or exorcised demons. [28] Such healing accounts suggest that the saints were conceived as present during their festivals and that readings of saints’ lives ritually reenacted narrative events. [29] These public performances began as early as the second and third centuries. For instance, we hear about liturgical readings of apocryphal acts and martyrologies, such as the Martyrdom Perpetuae et Felicitatis. [30] In the fourth and fifth centuries, the Life of Martin was annually read in Tours, and, on the other side of the empire, John Chrysostom incorporated lessons from the lives of saints and martyrs into his homilies. [31] Prose narratives were so vital to the ideological landscape of late antique Christianity that one scholar aptly describes them as “scripture writ small.” [32]
There is no direct evidence for late antique liturgical readings of the Martyrdom of Cyprian, although it was incorporated into Piacenza’s liturgy in the Carolingian period. [33] Along with a few identified martyria for Cyprian and Justina, it is plausible that the Martyrdom of Cyprian was read each year on October 2, Cyprian and Justina’s feast day. [34] Eudocia’s epic paraphrase of the Martyrdom of Cyprian can be compared to narrative expansions or revisions of prose narratives, such the Acts of Paul and Thecla or the life of Martin, that were central to vibrant cult centers. [35] The parallel between Eudocia’s Cyprian epic and Paulinus of Périgeaux and Venantius Fortunatus’ verse paraphrase of Martin’s vita is particularly instructive, because Paulinus and Fortunatus augmented Martin’s cult by transforming him into an epic hero. [36]
The uncertain relationship between the Martyrdom of Cyprian and the cult of Cyprian and Justina complicates our understanding of Eudocia’s readership or audience. Measuring early Christian literacy rates is inherently different from quantifying literacy rates in the wider ancient world, with the possible exception of Jewish communities. [37] For instance, urban Christian communities responsible for composing, circulating, and publicly reading prose narratives functioned as a type of macro, pan-Mediterranean reading community. [38] Therefore, communities with deep ties to specific saints, such as Tours or Carthage, would have been intimately familiar with the vitae of their local saints and with other narratives that circulated across the pan-Mediterranean reading community and within more intimate coteries made up of the literary elite. [39] Since most Christians heard religious texts during ecclesiastical functions, their content primarily spread by word of mouth and was mediated by external interpreters. This further complicates the relationship between the written word and bookish religions. Moreover, the hyper-moralistic tone of these texts made them effective teaching tools, especially for audiences that only heard them piecemeal. [40] For every reader of Eudocia’s Martyrdom of Cyprian, it is likely that countless others heard it read aloud.

Cyprian’s Conversion

Since the events that comprise the Conversion are not widely known, this section provides a critical summary of the story. [41] The Conversion opens with an eight-line proem that situates the story within redemptive and theological history, beginning with the incarnation or, as Eudocia describes it, God’s illumination of the earth and fulfillment of the prophets (I.1–2*). [42] In keeping with the times, Eudocia’s God is explicitly Trinitarian (I.5–7*): one God (ἕνα θεόν) consisting of Father (πατέρα), Son (υἱέα), and Holy Spirit (πνεύματος ἠγαθέοιο). God illuminates the earth but receives assistance from the disciples (I.4*), whose diffusion of divine light throughout the world results in the conversion of humanity. Undoubtedly idealized, this global conversion recursively foreshadows events within the story itself, including Cyprian’s conversion and his evangelical role in converting Antioch’s citizens. Eudocia’s proem, therefore, proleptically situates the Conversion within the past, an inevitable future outcome of redemptive history. [43]
Transitioning from proem to narrative, Eudocia introduces Justa with “there once was a certain” (ἦν δέ τις, I.9*), epic language that also places the Conversion within the literary world of early Christian prose fiction. [44] Through her marital status (single, virgin) and relationship with her Antiochene parents, Aedesius and Clidonia, Justa parallels Thecla in the second-century Acts of Paul and Thecla (hereafter, APT), although, unlike Thecla and other female protagonists in early Christian prose fictions, Justa is not engaged. [45] From her bedroom window (I.21*), she hears a local minister, Praulius, preaching the gospel. [46] His sermon (I.23–36*) spans the gospel, from messianic prophecies in the Old Testament to the annunciation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and glorification of Christ. After hearing this message, Justa burns with desire for Praulius, a further parallel to Thecla. Whereas Thecla breaks off her engagement and escapes her house to join Paul in prison, Justa speaks with her mother about the evils of idol worship. [47] Her language borrows heavily from Paul’s speech to the Areopagites in Acts 17, lending apostolic authority to her words. Clidonia responds, her only words in the Conversion, “May your father never hear your opinions” (I.51–52*). Shifting the object of her desire, Justa insists that she loves God and is committed to searching for him (compare Gospel of Matthew 7:7–8). She closes by describing her “pagan” father as hostile to God (ἀντιθέῳ, I.53*), a commonly used word about Cyprian and demons that intertextually and ideologically links Justa’s unconverted family with demonic forces. [48]
After this brief conversation, Justa returns to her bedroom to spend the evening in prayer, and Clidonia tells Aedesius about Justa’s desire to convert. That night, Aedesius and Clidonia see a vision of Christ, surrounded by angels, inviting them into heaven. His eyes opened, Aedesius leads Clidonia and Justa to the church to talk with the local priest, Optatus. Aedesius expresses his desire to be baptized by destroying his idols, an echo of Justa’s response to Praulius (compare I.42–49*), but Optatus refuses until he first learns about Christ’s prophetic fulfillment (compare I.2*, I.24*). Aedesius then cuts his hair (I.84–85*), a visual symbol of abandoning the pagan priesthood and embracing the Christian presbytery, a post he holds for eighteen months until his death (I.90*). Unmentioned until after Aedesius cuts his hair, Justa and Clidonia disappear into the background of the scene and become silent observers of their own conversions. [49] This positions Aedesius front and center, a strange detail considering Justa’s prominence in the Conversion. The father/husband who brings his demon-attacked wife/daughter to church is a popular late antique motif but is reversed here, as Justa’s routine journey between house and church exposes her to sexual assault and demonic attack. [50]
During one of these trips to church, Justa catches the attention of Aglaidas, a local pagan aristocrat who wants to marry her (I.97–99*). Choosing celibacy and a marriage to Christ alone, Justa rejects Aglaidas’ proposal. In response, he twice attempts to rape her. His first attempt is public—in church, no less—and fails only after the local Christians fight off him and his supporters (I.3–7). He makes a second attempt while Justa is traveling to or from church, but he fails when she makes the sign of the cross, throws him to the ground, scratches his face, and tears his clothing. This episode explicitly echoes the APT, where Thecla fights off Alexander (I.14, compare APT 26). Aglaidas leaves utterly humiliated, (I.13), whereas Justa safely returns to church. In the APT, after Thecla fights off Alexander, he seeks legal retribution by bringing charges against her. Aglaidas, in contrast, looks for assistance in the local magician Cyprian (I.17), who, for two talents of gold and an undisclosed amount of silver, agrees to seduce Justa with the help of a trusted demon. Conjured by Cyprian, the demon demands to know why he has been called and what he is asked to do. Aglaidas express his desire for a “Galilean girl” and asks if the demon is powerful enough to seduce her. [51] Spiritual power as a competitive dialectic becomes a key theme in the Conversion, as Justa repeatedly demonstrates God’s superiority over Satan. To trust that the demon can seduce Justa, Cyprian asks him to narrate his prior accomplishments. [52]
Beginning with the cosmic struggle between God and Satan, the demon claims to have been the bravest angel to follow Satan against God (I.31), and, in the ensuing conflict, he shook heaven’s foundations (I.34–35) and cast a host of rebellious angels from heaven (I.36). [53] After their departure from heaven, he single-handedly deceived Eve (1.37, compare Genesis 3:1–6), brought about Adam’s exile from paradise (1.38, compare Genesis 3:23), and encouraged Cain to slay Abel (1.39–40, compare Genesis 4:8–9), which he vividly describes as “drenching the earth with blood,” a complementary image to the curse he places on the land to grow weeds and thorns (1.40–41, compare Genesis 3:17–18). [54] The demon here revises the biblical narrative by taking credit for actions traditionally attributed to God. By casting his fellow demons out of heaven, expelling Adam from paradise, and cursing the land, he intertextually implies that he is either God or God’s equal. The demon claims responsibility for adultery and idolatry, especially the fashioning of the golden calf during the Exodus journey out of Egypt (I.44–45, compare Exodus 32), as well as the crucifixion of Christ (I.46–47), the destruction of cities (I.48), and divorce (I.49). Convinced by this exhaustive catalogue, Cyprian gives the demon a magical herb that, when sprinkled in Justa’s bedroom, will lead her to them.
While Cyprian and Aglaidas were conjuring this demon, Justa remains in her bedroom and sings songs during a nightly vigil. Perceiving the demon’s presence, she protects herself with the sign of the cross and begins to pray. Her prayer focuses on God’s accomplishments, which intertextually counteract the demon’s claims and, through her words, ritually enact God’s authority. For instance, while the demon actively expelled his fellow demons from heaven, Justa emphasizes how God expelled them from heaven, bound them in the underworld, and created the heavenly bodies and the earth (I.65–71). [55] The demon claims to have deceived Eve and driven Adam from paradise, whereas Justa’s God created Adam and placed him within the garden (I.72–73). After the fall, God pursued humanity and redeemed it through the cross, a redemption which, in turn, re-stabilizes the cosmos—an intertextual nod back to the demon’s claim earlier (I.76–81). [56] Therefore, heaven and earth resound with the salvation message and proclaim Christ as supreme ruler (I.81–82). The ongoing effects of salvation, reflected through present verbs, bring God’s previous (aorist) actions into the here and now, specifically into Justa’s conflict with Cyprian and Aglaidas. Within the competitive discourse of these speech acts, Justa gets in the last word, and, through her counter-revision of biblical stories, particularly the creation episode, she depicts God as omnipotent and rhetorically situates the demon in a position of weakness.
Justa praises Christ and asks him to preserve her chastity and keep her from evil, especially from sexual assault. Desiring to remain a virgin, she explicitly confesses her love for Christ (I.86), described as a burning desire (I.87–88). This erotic imagery juxtaposes her desire for Christ with Aglaidas’ lust for her and echoes her conversion narrative (compare I.37–39*). She closes her prayer by asking God that she not transgress his laws by falling into Aglaidas’ hands (I.91–92), a request that starkly implies her active culpability as potential rape victim. By crossing herself, she bookends her words with a ritualized sign of God’s power and immediately sets the demon to flight.
In a scene repeated three times in the Conversion after Justa successfully defends herself, the demon returns to Cyprian to explain his failure. Demons, he informs Cyprian, must flee whenever they see the sign of the cross, which he calls a “scary sign” (φοβερὸν σῆμα, I.101). Undeterred, Cyprian summons a second, stronger demon, Beliar, sent directly by Satan himself. Similar to their first plan, Cyprian gives Beliar a potion with instructions to disperse it in Justa’s house (I.107–108). At this point in the narrative, because Cyprian effectively replaces Aglaidas as the primary male protagonist, it now is unclear who wants to seduce/rape Justa (compare I.314–323). Cyprian’s close association with Justa, described as an obsessive desire, anticipates his eventual conversion by mirroring the erotic imagery of Justa’s own conversion. This eroticized association also anticipates their shared martyrdom and feast day.
Meanwhile, Justa remains vigilant in a prayer of repentance (I.110). After confessing her sins, she lists God’s previous accomplishments that demonstrate his power: he accepted Abraham’s sacrifice, he defeated Baal and the dragon, he revealed himself as God to the Persians, and he redeemed humanity (and the cosmos) through Christ’s death (I.119–125). This list, like the one in Justa’s first prayer (I.64–92), ritually guarantees her request, namely that Christ protect her body and preserve her chastity. Barely finished with this prayer, Justa immediately scares away the demon, whose presence is hardly mentioned in the narrative. The rhetorical force of the demon’s unvoiced entrance and rapid retreat is two-fold: demons attack without warning but are easily defeated.
Like the first demon, Beliar returns to report that the sign (σημήιον, I.137) of the cross was too much for him to withstand—an unbearable thing to behold, overwhelming and irresistible (ὑπέρβιον, οὐχ ὑποεικτόν, I.138). From a narratological perspective, the demon as secondary narrator adds information elided over by the primary narrator—this is the first time the reader hears that Justa performed the sign of the cross. Despite these setbacks, Cyprian conjures the ruler and father of demons, Satan. Questioning his authority, Cyprian calls Satan a coward and asks if he also will run away from Justa. To Satan’s insistence that he has already started seducing her, Cyprian demands proof (σημήιον, I.144), which points back to the signum crucis in I.137 and anticipates Cyprian’s own conversion, during which he crosses himself (compare I.285). Satan promises to torture Justa with a fever for six days and to bring her to Cyprian on the sixth night. This plan, never mentioned again in the Conversion and heavily influenced by the physical sufferings of the biblical character Job, may be an interpolation of a variant account alluded to in the Confession (compare II.372–398).
Satan then disguises himself as a young Christian woman and attempts to convince Justa to leave her bedroom. [57] The following morning, Satan (in disguise) enters Justa’s bedroom, while she is still asleep, and asks her about celibacy. Satan claims that the Lord also called “her” to be celibate, but “she” wonders what rewards to expect in return, especially considering Justa’s bone-dry, barren lifestyle and physical appearance, which Satan compares to a corpse. [58] This is the first time the reader hears about Justa’s asceticism and her physical decrepitude, and the imagery Satan uses for her sun-scorched, bone-dry life recalls the desert fathers. [59] If these ascetic details intertextually echo the demonic temptations experienced by the desert fathers in their vitae, they also situate Justa as an urban (and female) desert father and foreshadow her ultimate victory against Satan.
Satan’s failed deception of Justa imitates the serpent’s successful deception of Eve in Genesis 3; through her eventual defeat of Satan, Justa emerges as the superior exemplar, a celibate analog to Mary, the mother of Christ. At first, however, it seems as if Justa is going to fall for Satan’s ruse. Her response to his question is innocent, even naïve. When she asserts that celibacy brings eternal rather than earthly rewards (I.159–160), Satan compares her to Eve, whose children earned her the title “mother of children” and allowed her to learn “all good things” (I.164–165). He cleverly conflates the fruit from the tree of knowledge and its concomitant ability to know good (and evil) with Eve’s sexuality (I.163). This symbolic exegesis of Genesis 3 is similar to other late antique allegorical readings that treat this episode as a metaphor for sexual discovery. [60] The narrative tension between Eve as mother of humanity and Justa is resolved by the end of the Conversion, when Justa becomes “mother of virgins” for the Antiochene church (I.318-319). Perhaps because Satan’s words are so familiar, they nearly persuade Justa to leave the house. Just as she is about to follow Satan outside, she recognizes him, begins to pray, crosses herself, and commands him to leave (I.170–172). Justa plays a more active role in this exorcism than in the previous two. While still relying on the sign of the cross and prayer, she speaks directly to Satan and issues commands, which he obeys. [61] Her narrated prayer (I.175–178) occurs only after Satan departs and expresses thanks, rather than a request for protection. Justa’s development into a more dominant character anticipates her leadership role in Antioch and eventual martyrdom alongside Cyprian.
The moment Satan returns empty-handed, Cyprian mocks him (I.181–182). Behind this contempt, which bookends their interaction (cf. I.141), is the hint that Cyprian wants to learn more about Justa’s power, an interest with parallels in the archetypal magician of Christian literature, Simon Magus. In the earliest story about him, Simon converts, in order to acquire spiritual power (Acts 8:9–24). The Simon Magus legend proliferated in the first centuries of Christianity and even included accounts of magic competitions with Peter. By late antiquity, he was identified as the progenitor of all heresies. [62] Before explaining why he fears the sign of the cross, Satan forces Cyprian to swear an oath of loyalty on Satan’s power (I.188–189), after which he admits that demons have no real power but deceive humans, so that they experience similar divine punishment. In response, Cyprian confesses his love for Christ (I.202–204) with erotic language that echoes Justa’s conversion (I.37–39*, 54*). Reminded about his oath, Cyprian repudiates Satan as powerless and ineffectual, a claim that he proves by crossing himself, invoking the name of Christ, and commanding Satan to leave (I.213–218).
Cyprian gathers his books on magic (I.219) and brings them to the church, where he communicates his desire for conversion to the priest, Anthimus. Assuming that Cyprian is insincere or has ulterior motives, Anthimus rebukes him and sends him away (I.225–229). Instead of leaving, Cyprian acknowledges God’s superior power, made evident when Justa easily defeated two demons and Satan with prayer and the sign of the cross. To communicate his sincerity and his commitment to God, Cyprian surrenders his magical texts to be burned (I.237–239; compare Acts 19:19). [63] Less suspicious because of this gesture, Anthimus instructs Cyprian to come back on Sunday. At home, Cyprian smashes his idols (cf. I.79–80*) and spends the night in prayer and self-flagellation (I.243–245). [64] He repents for the harm he inflicted on others, often with the assistance of demons, and he begs for God’s mercy.
The next morning happened to be Easter Sunday, the day new converts were baptized into the church. [65] Cyprian joins the crowd on its way to the church, where he prays to be admitted and to hear some auspicious biblical passages. The readings, unusual for an Easter service, fortunately center around the themes of God’s forgiveness and inclusivity, especially for those originally hostile to Him (I.259–275). [66] After a hymn and a message from the priest, the unbaptized are dismissed, presumably before the Eucharist. Seeing that Cyprian has remained seated, the deacon Asterius again asks him to leave. Admittedly not yet a full convert but still a servant of Christ, Cyprian refuses to leave until he is baptized (I.282–289). After speaking and praying with Cyprian, Anthimus agrees to baptize him (I.295). Cyprian rapidly rises through the ecclesiastical ranks. Eight days after his baptism, he is appointed lector; twenty-five days later, he is appointed deacon second-class, responsible for watching the church door during services. [67] After fifty days, he is promoted to deacon first-class and serves the community by performing exorcisms and healings, as well as overseeing the conversion of Antioch’s few remaining pagans (I.301–305). In this regard, his new Christian life is indistinguishable from his former one, except that he performs “miracles” rather than “magic.” His exorcisms and healings, therefore, advance a competitive ideology in the Conversion: Cyprian now uses legitimate, godly power for good rather than evil. A year after his conversion, Cyprian becomes priest, a post he holds for sixteen years.
Nearing the end of his life, the bishop Anthimus names Cyprian as his successor. [68] As his first official act, Cyprian renames Justa Justina and appoints her deaconess, one of the highest roles available to urban Christian women. Although uncommon, people did change their names in late antiquity, but usually when their given name was associated with rival gods or, in the case of early Christianity, with demons. [69] This is obviously not the case with Justa/Justina. It is possible that late antique Christians referred to her as Justa and Justina and that this disagreement was resolved in the Conversion as a name change. This practice is attested elsewhere in early Christian literature, beginning with the first-century lists of Jesus’ twelve disciples.
As deaconess, Justina oversees Antioch’s community of virgins and is soon known as the “mother of maidens,” an appellation that gestures back to her conversation with Satan (I.161–166), where Eve is described as the “mother of mankind.” Since the early church allegorically interpreted Christ as a type of second Adam, Justina, as bride of Christ, adopts the role of second Eve. By juxtaposing Justina’s position as overseer of fellow celibate women with Cyprian’s miracles and mass conversions, the narrator advances strict gender roles that ultimately pervade the Conversion, despite moments when they are subtly suspended. These subversive moments notwithstanding, the Conversion ends with Cyprian firmly established as the male leader responsible for teaching, exorcizing, and healing the Antiochene community—actions that directly lead to the “Christianization” of the city. Justina, in contrast, is restricted to exclusively feminine activities—the superintendence and teaching of women—despite her previous ability to battle demons, which led to Cyprian’s conversion.

Social Drama: Justina’s Literary Models

Justina’s character, particularly the way she reinforces and challenges traditional ancient Mediterranean gender roles, warrants further attention. Beyond the Martyrdom of Cyprian’s unique place in the history of female authored texts, Eudocia’s construction of a feminized heroine is doubly important, in that allows us to compare Justina and her gender identities against other late antique hagiographies. [70] Of special interest in this section is the way in which Eudocia’s epic simultaneously depends on and deviates from popular literary exemplars, such as the Acts of Paul and Thecla (APT) and its use of gender ambiguity. Thecla’s rejection of feminine paraphernalia and her adoption of masculine characteristics, especially regarding her hairstyles and clothing, become a gender bending common place in early Christian literature. Scholars have used these so-called “transvestite motifs” as evidence for female resistance to patriarchy (proto-feminism) or, alternatively, as evidence for the continued patriarchal control of women. [71] Since these gender bending tropes tend to cluster in anonymous and pseudepigraphic narratives, they have also been used as evidence for female authorship. Eudocia’s epic—a text undisputedly written by a woman—challenges many of these assumptions. [72] In my view, Justina is a remarkable character, Thecla’s literary heir but also a “free-agent,” who deviates from other early Christian female characters and often challenges stereotypes by not engaging in gender bending tropes. Justina’s deviation from the early Christian feminine ideal reflects Eudocia’s agency in creating a traditional yet subversive female lead character.
This section compares depictions of the feminine ideal in the Conversion with two other early Christian narratives, the APT and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas. [73] Reading these stories through the interpretive framework of Victor Turner’s theory of social drama clarifies how Justa advances traditional (patriarchal) gender roles and simultaneously subverts that same traditionalism. [74] Briefly, Turner identifies four stages of social drama: (1) a character experiences a breach between social elements, (2) leading to a crisis that the character (3) addresses through adjustment or redress, (4) resulting in the character’s reintegration within the same (or slightly altered) social structure. [75] Applying Turner’s theories to late medieval hagiographies, medieval scholar Caroline Bynum concludes that Turner elucidates narrative structures of male authored stories but not those written by women. In Bynum’s view, late medieval women’s stories are accounts where “nothing happens.” [76] For that reason, Turner’s model maps quite well onto Thecla and Perpetua’s experiences in the APT and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas, but it fails to adequately explain Justina’s experiences. Perpetua and Thecla’s social drama differs from Justina’s in a few essential ways. These differences in how Justina constructs her gender clarify her relationship to her social communities (both familial and religious ones) and explain her comparable lack of “social drama,” despite facing sexual assault and demonic attack. At least in that regard, the Conversion is a story in which quite a bit happens.
Written in the third century to commemorate the execution of five Carthaginian catechumens in 203 CE, the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis (hereafter, Martyrdom) highlights the experiences of one martyr, Vibia Perpetua. [77] Most of the Martyrdom is written in the first person and is explicitly attributed to Perpetua who, the third person narrator claims, wrote down her prison experiences in the days before her execution. Alongside this Perpetuan material are a third-person introduction and conclusion, as well as a vision narrative allegedly written by Perpetua’s co-martyr, Saturus. [78] Because these three distinct authorial voices (primary narrator, Perpetua, and Saturus) have been redacted to form a unified whole, the Martyrdom’s authorship is hotly contested. [79] If Perpetua had a hand in writing even some portion of it, the Martyrdom would be the earliest martyrology written by a woman. Because I have my doubts about Perpetua’s authorial hand, I treat the Martyrdom as a narrative whole, redacted after her death by an unknown but likely male editor. [80] Turner’s theory of social drama explains the narrative events of the Martyrdom quite well—Perpetua breaks from her immediate social community, overcomes the ensuing tensions, and joins a new, spiritual community that replaces her original, earthly one. For this reason, the Martyrdom explains how Christians relate to and can ultimately overcome the Roman world in which they live.
Perpetua breaks from her social community after multiple altercations with her father, an aristocratic pagan, who visits her in jail to persuade her to renounce Christianity. [81] His arguments imply that her conversion and arrest have ruined the family’s honor and are estranging them. Failing to convince her, he resorts to violence, then to begging. As a final demonstration of their growing rift, Perpetua’s father abducts her infant son, who had been with her in jail. This familial estrangement symbolizes Perpetua’s rejection of earthly concerns and readiness for martyrdom. Early Christian prose narratives frequently contain similar episodes, in which young women overthrow patriarchal authority as a symbol of Christianity’s social reversal. [82] The ensuing tension is eventually attenuated as the women substitute their earthly relationships for heavenly ones, frequently addressed with familial language. [83] Perpetua’s rejection of human patriarchy is set against her use of familial language for other Christians and God’s increased role as her surrogate father. Once Perpetua is securely re-established within a patriarchal context as a daughter of heaven, the social drama is resolved, resolution that paves the way for her death.
Moreover, Perpetua experiences a series of visions that presage her execution and resolve the social tensions she experiences in prison. For instance, immediately following her father’s abduction of her child, Perpetua sees two visions of her brother Dinocrates (Martyrdom 7–8). Having died in childhood from a face lesion, Dinocrates represents the narrative conflict between Perpetua’s earthly and spiritual families. At first, he appears dirty and thirsty, unable to drink from a nearby pool of water, and still suffering from his face lesion—a vestige of his earthly disease and visual symbol of his hardships in the afterlife. Perpetua prays for his relief and sees a second vision, in which Dinocrates is dressed in white (a common image of baptism and salvation) and splashes around in the pool. Unable to care for her earthly son, Perpetua meets Dinocrates’ spiritual needs. From a narrative perspective, he serves as a heavenly surrogate for Perpetua’s earthly son, who no longer appears in the story.
In terms of gender identity and authority, Perpetua guides the story’s pace and direction. Her fellow prisoners speak to her as their leader, often with the honorific domina, and she advocates for them on a few occasions. [84] Even her father stops calling her daughter and adopts the term domina. This image of Perpetua as the one in charge is frequently paired with the image of Perpetua as matrona. In this way, her character blends various gender markers, simultaneously an authoritative leader for her fellow martyrs (and for the audience hearing/reading the Martyrdom) and a nurturing, maternal figure who cares for the needs of her earthly child and, when he is removed from the scene, for her fellow prisoners and Dinocrates, her heavenly “son.”
This balance between Perpetua’s masculine and feminine roles culminates in her fourth vision, arguably one of the most memorable, discussed, and controversial parts of the Martyrdom. [85] In this final premonition of her death, Perpetua enters an arena, where her attendants prepare her to fight an Egyptian gladiator. When they remove her clothing, she proclaims, “I became masculine” (facta sum masculus, Martyrdom 10). Although it can be argued that Perpetua became a man in her vision, Perkins and Williams provide more philologically nuanced readings in favor of her continued femininity. [86] For example, in facta sum masculus, the doubly masculine, masculus, depends on the explicitly feminine verb (facta sum). Since Perpetua’s visions serve as psychological/spiritual parallels to her physical experiences, between father and God or between her son and Dinocrates, “becoming masculine” likely alludes to the physical and rhetorical control she maintains throughout the Martyrdom but especially in the story’s final scene, where she directs the novice gladiator’s trembling sword toward her own throat. [87] From a Roman rhetorical perspective, this type of control and authority corresponds to the masculine ideal and is described as masculine when carried out by women. [88]
About a half-century before Perpetua was executed in Carthage, an anonymous author penned the fictional story of Paul and Thecla, with the latter’s exceptional rejection of traditional feminine roles, symbolized by cutting her hair and wearing men’s clothing. [89] Behind this gender bending is a desire to join Paul’s apostolic mission and to travel around the Mediterranean preaching the gospel. This desire, paired with Thecla’s ambiguous gender, distances her from her original social community and makes her susceptible to sexual assault. Therefore, the APT corresponds well with Turner’s theory of social drama. In the ensuing centuries, the spread of the APT across the Mediterranean made Thecla one of the most popular women in late antique Christianity, second only to Mary, the mother of Christ. Its gender ambiguity and social drama became literary commonplaces in later Christian prose narratives, such as the Martyrdom of Cyprian, that found inspiration in the APT, which itself was updated and revised to make Thecla’s character, particularly her sexuality, relevant to subsequent generations. [90] Although other women in early Christian literature break from their social communities in gender ambiguous ways, Thecla’s influence on late antique women, especially late antique literary women, makes her essentially relevant for our reading of Justina.
To summarize the narrative briefly, during a missionary journey through Asia Minor, Paul stops at Iconium, where he preaches an ascetic revision of Jesus’ sermon on the mount (APT 5). [91] The young Thecla hears Paul’s sermon from her bedroom window and falls in love with him, a love expressed through her desire to hear him in person. [92] Concerned, Thecla’s mother, Theoclea, asks her fiancé, Thamyris, to speak with her. During this conversation, Thecla refuses to change her mind but, instead, breaks off her engagement. The household, in turn, mourns her as if she were dead (APT 10). This funerary imagery positions Thecla outside the immediate family structure and underscores how socially transgressive her actions are. Meanwhile, Thamyris convinces the civic authorities to arrest Paul under the charges of propagating subversive sexual ethics (celibacy). Still committed to seeing him in person, Thecla barters her possessions, traditional feminine objects (bracelets and a mirror), to escape her house and enter the jail, where she lies at Paul’s feet. Finding them in this compromising position the next morning, the Iconian authorities whip Paul and expel him from the city, but they condemn Thecla to death as a lesson for other women tempted to choose celibacy. Stripped naked, Thecla mounts a burning pyre but is saved by a providential rainstorm.
Still committed to joining Paul’s apostolic team, Thecla cuts her hair into a masculine style and leaves Iconium to look for him. Her adoption of a masculinized appearance convinces Paul about her dedication, although he suspects she will face some greater trial. Shortly thereafter, Paul and Thecla arrive in Antioch, where a local aristocrat, Alexander, sees her. When Paul denies knowing her (compare Genesis 12:10–20), Alexander attempts to rape her. At first, she begs for him to stop and invokes her status as a well-born Iconian citizen. When he persists, Thecla fights him off, tears his cloak, and throws his crown to the ground, which effeminizes him by making him a public spectacle. [93] Humiliated, Alexander seeks revenge in court, where Thecla is condemned to the beasts.
Gender markers become more explicitly pronounced in the second half of the APT, as women and female animals side with Thecla, while male characters are hostile to her. [94] Acting as a tragic chorus, the Antiochene women lament the injustice of Thecla’s death, and a local aristocrat, Tryphaena, hosts Thecla and accompanies her to the arena. At first, Alexander sends out a lioness, but she licks Thecla’s feet and defends her against a bear and lion. When the lioness dies of her wounds and more beasts are sent into the arena, Thecla baptizes herself in a pool full of man-eating seals providentially killed by a bolt of lightning. A cloud sent from heaven, by covering Thecla, preserves her modesty and discourages what beasts remain in the arena from attacking her. In a final attempt, Alexander orders Thecla to be tied to a pair of bulls. By burning their genitals, Alexander hopes to tear Thecla in two. Once again, a providential fire burns these ropes.
Overwhelmed by these ordeals, Tryphaena faints and is presumed dead; her assumed death scares the city magistrates and prompts them to free Thecla. [95] After converting the women in Tryphaena’s house, Thecla dresses like a man and leaves Antioch in search of Paul, who welcomes Thecla into his entourage and gives her the authority to preach the gospel, starting with her hometown. [96] Over time, multiple endings have been appended to the APT. In one version, Thecla sets up an ascetic community for Christian virgins in nearby Seleucia, where she performs miracles and heals the sick. Jealous of her success, some local physicians hire criminals to rape her. God saves her from these male assailants by opening a fissure in her mountain retreat. When Thecla climbs into this crevice, it closes, thus saving her from sexual assault but ending her life.
Above all, Thecla’s story is one of displacement, tension, and reintegration. Not only does she experience familial displacement, through her rejection of marriage and her family’s subsequent rejection of her. She also experiences civic displacement as the Iconian officials convict her, because she had chosen celibacy over marriage. [97] Whereas Perpetua finds immediate support in the Christian community, Thecla’s relationship with Paul’s Christian community is strained until the end, when she has already baptized herself, survived an assortment of attacks, and converted entire households to Christianity. Thecla finds more support in Tryphaena’s pagan house than in Paul’s circle. One way by which Thecla physically manifests this displacement and reintegration is through her adoption of male physical characteristics (short hair, men’s clothing). Similar to Perpetua’s vision of “becoming male,” Thecla’s adoption of male features physically represents her spiritual exceptionalism, frequently marked in Greco-Roman literature by attributing male characteristics to female characters. [98] Late antique Christian exegetes frequently interpreted the commonplace of women cutting their hair as a way to avoid the sexual advances of strangers, an explanation that only partially works for Thecla, who also barters away her beautification accessories and dresses in men’s clothing. [99] As argued by Marie Delcourt, these changes in Thecla’s physical appearance symbolize the rupture of her former existence. [100] Unlike Perpetua, whose death reintegrates her within her heavenly family, Thecla’s reintegration is disrupted through subsequent adventures. Despite having a home in late antique Christianity, Thecla’s life and miracles situate her always on the threshold of communities (from windows to mountains).

Inversion of Social Drama in the Conversion

Compared to Thecla and Perpetua, whose displacement is a central theme of their stories, Justina, in contrast, experiences considerably little social anxiety, despite being the victim of two rape attempts and three demonic attacks. In this regard, the Conversion is a story in which “nothing happens.” Whereas Thecla and Perpetua are geographically liminal, Justina remains safely within the confines of her house and under her father’s authority. Her conversion is delayed until Aedesius and Clidonia join her, or, more accurately, lead her to the church. This is a remarkable difference from Thecla and Perpetua, who convert despite intense familial opposition. While their conversions set in motion serious civic consequences, Justina’s conversion occurs without any significant familial or civic tension. In fact, her conversion is so unremarkable that it is subsumed within Aedesius’ conversion and receives no civic response whatsoever. Finally, Thecla and Perpetua adopt masculine traits, but Justina does not, despite her ability to fight off rapists and demons. Turner’s theory of social drama, therefore, elucidates Thecla and Perpetua but fails to explain Justina’s narrative arc or Eudocia’s development of female characters. Moreover, Eudocia inverts three literary motifs (hairstyle, clothing, and the body) that further complicate her depiction of gender identity and the feminine ideal. This section compares these motifs to the central themes of celibacy and asceticism.
After hearing Paul preach, Thecla explicitly equates her desire to join his entourage with her decision to cut her hair: περικαροῦμαι καὶ ἀκολουθήσω σοι ὅπου δ᾽ ἂν πορεύῃ (I will cut my hair and follow you wherever you go, APT 25). This assertion suggests that, for Thecla, the act of cutting her hair marks a social transition from domestic duty and prospective marriage to apostolic preaching and celibacy. [101] For that reason, it also symbolizes a holiness that further distinguishes Thecla from other potential converts. [102] By physically marking herself as androgynously exceptional, Thecla can join the men during their Asian mission, although her androgyny also metaphorically anticipates her physical assault in Antioch. If Thecla’s conversion depends on sexual renunciation and is predicated on Paul’s ascetic revision of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, those threats against her religious identity, in as much as her religious identity is conflated with her sexuality, take the form of sexual assaults or sexualized attacks. Because Justina’s conversion intertextually depends on Thecla’s (they both hear the gospel from their bedroom windows and desire to convert), the Conversion explicitly invites a comparison between Justina and Thecla.
That Justina never cuts her hair is itself a type of intertextual engagement with the APT, especially considering the prominent role hair plays in episodes that heavily rely on the APT. For instance, following his nocturnal vision of heaven, Aedesius brings Clidonia and Justina to church to convert as a family. Before being baptized, Aedesius cuts his hair because (the narrator tells us) he was a pagan priest: αὐτίκα δ᾽ Αἰδέσιος περικείρατο βόστρυχον ἀμφὶς ἐκ κεφαλῆς γενυός τ᾽ ἱερεὺς γὰρ ἔην ἀμενηνῶν εἰδώλων (And Aedesius immediately cut his hair on both sides from his head and chin–for he was a priest of powerless idols, I.84–86*). Because the verb, περικείρατο, is the same verb (περικαροῦμαι) that Thecla uses in the APT, Aedesius’ haircut has more intertextual complexity than the narrator’s gloss suggests. The intertextual engagement between Thecla and Aedesius’ hair is doubly important, because it comes directly from Eudocia’s authorial hand. The verb ‘to cut’ in the prose accounts of the Conversion is ἀπεθρίξατο/ἀπεθρήξατο, a more common word. [103] By using περικείρατο, Eudocia simultaneously deepens and demarcates the pre-existing intertextual relationship between Thecla and Justina. Unlike Thecla, whose conversion marks the beginning of her social displacement, Justina remains secure in her house with her parents. [104] If Thecla’s adoption of an androgynous appearance symbolizes her rejection of earthly patriarchy, Justina’s preservation of her femininity underscores her familial continuity, facilitated by Aedesius and Clidonia’s conversion.
Moreover, when Justina fights off Aglaidas, the narrator compares her to Thecla: Θέκλης ἀντιθέης τὸν ὁμὸν δρόμον ἐκτελέουσα (she ran the same course as glorious Thecla, I.14). Yet this is a very different fight. Thecla tears Alexander’s clothing and throws down his crown, whereas Justina throws Aglaidas to the ground, scratches his cheeks, pulls out his hair/beard, and tears his clothes. Alexander and Aglaidas suffer a similar shame, although their choice of retribution differs. Equally different is the degree to which Justina’s victory over Aglaidas emphasizes how utterly she defeats him. By throwing Aglaidas onto his back, a submissive and sexually vulnerable posture, Justina reverses their roles. [105] She also disfigures him and strips him of his clothing. This is more than a scene where a potential rape victim gives her assailant a taste of his own medicine. Rather, Justina fully emasculates Aglaidas, leaving him physically and sexually androgynous. [106] In terms of social drama, Aglaidas’ androgyny displaces him and anticipates his use of magic to seduce Justina, who, in contrast, never adopts masculine imagery, despite her exceptional ability and intertextual connection with Thecla. Instead, Eudocia’s Justina expresses her exceptionalism by maintaining control of her femininity while robbing Aglaidas of his masculinity.
In early Christian literature, clothing metaphorically represents social control and spiritual reintegration. [107] For example, Thecla changes into masculine attire (APT 40) as a symbol of her apostolic authority and eventual inclusion into Paul’s apostolic circle. Wearing men’s clothing becomes the visual indication of her ability to do “men’s work,” which Tertullian understood as the authority to conduct baptisms. [108] In other words, Thecla overcomes social displacement by breaking from Greco-Roman feminine ideals of domestic duty and submissiveness and reintegrates into Christian society by claiming masculine ideals of religious authority and sexual control.
Clothing also represents the ability to exert control over others or to maintain control over one’s own body. When the Antiochene magistrates force Thecla to change her clothes before entering the arena (APT 33), she loses control over her body. [109] Shortly thereafter, she requires providential assistance in the form of a cloud from heaven to cover her body, now exposed after diving in the pool of man-eating seals. A comparable event, without the seals, occurs in the Martyrdom (6.3), when the female prisoners are expected to dress as priestesses of Ceres and the male prisoners as priests of Saturn before they enter the arena. At Perpetua’s behest, they collectively refuse to put on these costumes, thereby maintaining control over their bodies. Perpetua and her fellow martyrs also exert control over their captors, who are powerless over their captives. As the eponymous martyr of the story, Perpetua exerts the most control, both when she covers her exposed body while facing the beasts and when she guides the executioner’s hand to her throat. [110]
Similarly, the removal or tearing of another person’s clothes represents physical control over them, as when Thecla tears Alexander’s clothes, a scene explicitly imitated in the Conversion. In both cases, Alexander and Aglaidas are physically and (perhaps) symbolically exposed. The roles are reversed, as Thecla and Justina overwhelm their assailants and humiliate them by emasculating them or, said differently, by raping them of their masculinity. Humiliated and violated, Alexander leverages his social standing to bring legal charges against Thecla that further displaces her. Aglaidas, in contrast, responds to this humiliation by situating himself at the periphery of Antiochene society after hiring Cyprian. Here, Aglaidas is the one who experiences social displacement, while Justina remains securely established within her religious and domestic communities.
In late antique descriptions of male and female ascetics, the neglected body is a popular and recurring symbol of their rejection of earthly concerns and an intentional return to paradise (Eden/Heaven). [111] For women, the first step in joining a monastery is to sell off their property, including their cosmetics, jewelry, and fine clothing, which, according to these monastic communities, symbolize vanity and pride. [112] Because they reject feminine concerns and eat meager diets, late antique female ascetics are frequently mistaken for men and even join male monasteries. [113] The vitae of female ascetics emphasize their physical appearances, especially as feminine virtue was frequently linked to the body. As a result, wearing fine jewelry or clothing was increasingly attributed to specific sins, especially pride, and rejecting finery became a visual indicator of humility. Because late antique asceticism advanced an explicit renunciation of wealth, political influence, and status, most ascetics also eschewed urban centers in favor of isolated regions, including (when available) the desert. Removed from urban temptations, wilderness ascetics dressed in camelhair clothing, fasted, and prayed throughout the day. Some practiced self-flagellation as a form of penance. In this regard, late antique literary depictions of asceticism, particularly representations of the bound, pierced, and starved female body, served didactic purposes. [114]
Despite living in one of the largest urban centers in the late antique Mediterranean, Justina adopts an asceticism more frequently seen in the wilderness retreats of the desert fathers/mothers. She remains in a constant stage of prayer, which prepares her to fight off demonic attack. When Satan disguises himself as a young woman to seduce her, his description of her is similar to other late antique descriptions of desert mothers, with their characteristic emaciated, disfigured bodies, their overexposure to the sun, and their meager diets. [115] Justina’s self-abnegation parallels but surpasses Thecla’s rejection of finery symbolized when she barters her bracelets and mirror to escape her house and visit Paul in prison (APT 18). Through her more exacting asceticism, Justina emerges as the superior disciple, one intertextually modeled on Thecla but one who also adopts a more rigid lifestyle and faces more perilous attacks.
Elsewhere in the Conversion, however, Justina is a typical urban Christian virgin who travels between her house and church, complicating her anchoretic etiquette. Satan’s attempt to draw her outside her bedroom has its origin in comparable demonic attacks in the writings of the desert fathers, in which demons attempt to draw monks out of their anchoretic sanctuaries, likely because these spaces were thought to be particularly sacred, impervious to demonic trickery. [116] Satan’s interest in leading Justina outside, however, also points back to Aglaidas’ second attempted rape while Justina was traveling to church. The domus, therefore, represents the locus of masculine and feminine power and the security of civic conformity. [117] Being outside the house is intrinsically threatening, both physically, as Thecla and Justina face sexual assault, and spiritually, as Satan’s power seemingly increases if Justina were to leave. Restraining domestic women requires one to restrain their domus first. For that reason, two demonic attacks include rituals (magic herbs or potions) to control her domestic space and break the power of its safety. Of course, potential threats to patriarchy can also enter the domus, such as Paul and Praulios’ subversive messages, which Thecla and Justina hear from their windows. A domestic limen, the window connects the inside and the outside and provides an entryway for multidirectional transgression.
This power dynamic between inside and outside spaces also pertains to Cyprian’s conversion. Although never explicitly stated in the Conversion, it is likely that Cyprian issues the three demonic attacks from his house. The demons are described as “returning to Cyprian,” and his eventual rejection of Satan imitates Justina’s exorcism of Satan from her bedroom (I.216–218). Immediately thereafter, Cyprian orders servants to carry his books to the church to be destroyed. After speaking with Anthimus, Cyprian returns home to destroy his idols and spend a prayerful night whipping himself and asking for God’s forgiveness, before returning to the church the next day. In this regard, Cyprian emulates Justina in few essential ways. His initial conversion moment requires a spiritual housecleaning, symbolized first by exorcizing Satan, followed by burning his magic texts and destroying his idols. Once his domestic space is appropriately free from demonic contagion, Cyprian adopts an ascetic version of Christianity, marked by nocturnal vigils and corporal punishment, a second parallel to Justina. Finally, his conversion involves repeated journeys between his house and church. Whereas these excursions expose Justina to sexual assault and demonic attack, they (re)integrate Cyprian into Antiochene Christian society and anticipate his conversion of Antioch’s remaining pagan population.
This contrast between sacred, inside spaces (havens from sexual/demonic attack) and liminal, outside spaces (perils to chastity) underscores how the Conversion adapts common literary tropes to advance its own feminine ideal. Interpreted variously as liberation or oppression literature, early Christian stories about exceptional women seem particularly interested in feminine and masculine spaces. [118] Those written before Constantine and the legalization of Christianity depict exceptional women, such as Thecla and Perpetua, as breaking from civic or patriarchal authority in favor of liminal identities and spaces. These liminal identities and spaces represent Christianity’s rejection of Roman social norms. After Constantine, however, as Christianity became increasingly institutionalized through imperial support and increasingly authoritarian through ecumenical councils and imperial legislation, opposing civic institutions was tantamount to challenging ecclesiastical authority. As a result, exceptional women in fourth- through sixth-century narratives are more exceptionally domestic, even if that domus is a house in the desert. [119] For instance, after her conversion, Pelagia remains within domestic spaces: her own house, Romana’s house, eventually a monastic cell on the Mount of Olives, where she lives out her life disguised as a man. Despite her gender bending and battles with Satan, Pelagia’s domestication distinguishes her from anchoretic men, who inhabit outside spaces, where they frequently encounter demons. [120]
Like that of Pelagia and unlike those of Thecla and Perpetua, Justina’s narrative arc is decidedly domestic, beginning with her conversion that stresses a continued existence within Aedesius’ house. Not only does she have to wait for her father to convert, her own baptism is embedded within his. Domestic spaces, therefore, symbolize social, spiritual, and sexual safety, havens from the dangers of the outside world, where Justina, as everywoman, is vulnerable to sexual assault and demonic attack. If Thecla and Perpetua’s social displacement and search for reintegration force them outside the house, where they similarly face threats, Justina, in contrast, experiences little social displacement. Instead, her daily routine of prayer (I.58*; I.63–92; I.110–131; I.170; I.174–178; I.211; I.235), church attendance (I.91*; I.95–96*; I.4; I.15), songs (I.56–57), vigils (I.110), and celibacy (I.1–2; I.85–90; I.127–129; I.159–160; I.316–319) are rather unremarkable yet consistent with other fourth- and fifth-century remarkable women.
Paradoxically, these unremarkable activities, particularly daily church attendance, expose Justina to sexual assault and demonic attack but also equip her to withstand them. For instance, Aglaidas only notices her during her regular trip to church, and her defense against him is predicated on her Christian community and commitment to celibacy. From an intertextual perspective, Justina’s emulation of Thecla empowers her, not only to defend off Aglaidas but also to physically overpower him. [121] Similarly, by remaining in a constant state of prayer, Justina perceives imminent demonic attacks, and her prayers preemptively ward off unknown attacks. This emphasis on Justina’s vigilance makes Satan’s final attack doubly clever: he wears a disguise and enters her room while she is sleeping and not in prayer.
In this section, I have argued that Eudocia’s Justina is built on literary commonplaces that intertextually complicate her character, especially as she adheres to and rejects early Christian feminine ideals. Deviating from Thecla, Justina does not cut her hair as a marker of her conversion; Aedesius does, however, with language that further contrasts Justina from Thecla. Moreover, by tearing out Aglaidas’ hair and ripping off his clothes, Justina effeminizes him in a hyper-sexual manner that effectively makes Aglaidas Justina’s rape victim. That this scene explicitly alludes to the now androgynous Thecla’s victory over Alexander only underscores Justina’s adherence to spatial and physical feminine ideals. [122] Nevertheless, these physical ideals are decidedly post-Constantinian ones, similar to those of the desert mothers. For that reason, Justina remains within Aedesius’ house, which becomes contested space, assaulted by Cyprian and his demons and defended by Justina and God.


This chapter situates the Conversion—book one of Eudocia’s epic paraphrase of the Martyrdom of Cyprian—within the context of early Christian prose narratives and, by association, the ancient novel. As a narrative written concurrently with the rise of the cult of the saints, the Martyrdom of Cyprian is inextricably connected to ecclesiastical readings in honor of the martyrs, comparable to public reading of the Acts of Paul and Thecla, the Martyrdom Perpetuae et Felicitatis, and the life of Saint Martin. Liturgical readings of the Martyrdom of Cyprian are attested as early as the medieval period, although they likely began earlier.
After providing a detailed, interpretive summary of the Conversion, the remainder of the chapter focuses on Justina as the primary character in the episode who overshadows and overpowers all other, typically male, characters. This emphasis on Justina here also contrasts nicely with the following chapter, which focuses on Cyprian’s magical education. My approach has been to read Justina alongside other exceptional women in early Christian prose narratives, especially Thecla and Perpetua. By applying Victor Turner’s theory of social drama to early Christian literature, I argue that Justina experiences comparatively less social displacement than her female models, who communicate their rejection of traditional Greco-Roman norms by adopting male characteristics and by traveling outside their houses. Justina, in contrast, does not adopt explicitly masculine traits but remains safely within Aedesius’ house, despite being able to battle demons and fight off rapists. Her adherence to civic and familial structures, I contend, reflects an evolution in post-Constantinian Christianity away from socially transgressive female characters. As holders of social authority, fourth- and fifth-century Christian communities had more at stake when civic and domestic mores were challenged. Instead, exceptional female characters, including Justina, more frequently remain within domestic spaces, even when, as in the case of Pelagia, they cross-dress and leave their hometowns.
By the end of the Conversion, Justina has taken on the position of mother of virgins for the Antiochene community. This is an internal reflection, not only of her exceptionalism, but also her didactic function for future readers and listeners. In as much as Justina combats demons and fights off assailants by regularly attending church and remaining in a constant state of prayer, subsequent Christian women can do the same, if they follow Justina’s model. As an intertextual heir to second- and third-century exceptional women, Justina becomes a model in her own right.


[ back ] 1. Zahn 1882:139–153 prints the prose version of the Conversion. See also Radermacher 1927, no. 3
[ back ] 2. (A)AS(S) Sept. 7.204–223 and Gitlbauer 1879 print the prose versions of the Confession.
[ back ] 3. Nock 1927; Nilsson 1947; Festugière 1950; Nilsson 1950.
[ back ] 4. Jackson 1988:36 notes “not the least difficulty with our document is simply understanding what the text means.”
[ back ] 5. (A)AS(S) Sept. 7.204; Zahn 1882:73–85; Delehaye 1921:320.
[ back ] 6. Livrea 1998 dates Eudocia’s Cyprian epic to her visit to Jerusalem in 438–439 CE.
[ back ] 7. Photius Bibliotheca 184; Sabattini 1973:182–183.
[ back ] 8. Bandini 1761; Ludwich 1897:20; Bevegni 1982b:249–250.
[ back ] 9. Migne 1860; Zahn 1882; Radermacher 1927.
[ back ] 10. Ludwich 1897. Salvaneschi 1982b does not include a critical apparatus with his commentary and translation.
[ back ] 11. De Meyier 1956:93–94; Bevegni 1982b:251. This confusion with a cento underscores Eudocia’s dependence on the Homeric epics.
[ back ] 12. Bevegni 1982b:252–253. Apparently, the pages had been removed in the sixteenth century by the Dutch philologist P. Rulaeus, the first editor of the martyrdom of Cyprian of Carthage.
[ back ] 13. Bevegni 1982b:258–261. See also Bevegni 1981; Bevegni 1982a; Bevegni 1990; Danesin 2001; Bevegni 2003.
[ back ] 14. Bevegni 2006 contains an Italian translation. Plant 2004 translates part of the Conversion. Salvaneschi 1982b published his bilingual (Greek-Italian) edition/translation before the first lines of the Conversion were published by Bevegni 1982b.
[ back ] 15. Delehaye 1961:4 calls the Martyrdom of Cyprian a hagiographic romance, a term that has not gained wide-spread acceptance.
[ back ] 16. Consider the relevant sections in Hägg 1983; Aune 1987; Pervo 1987; Morard 1991; Reardon 1991; Schneemelcher 1991; Bowersock 1994; Dihle 1994; Bovon 1995; Bremmer 1995; Holzberg 1995; Bremmer 1996; Bremmer 1998a; Hock, Bradley, and Perkins 1998; Thomas 1998; Cooper 1999; Bremmer 2000; Bremmer 2001; Bovon 2003; Rhee 2005; Whitmarsh 2005; Mitchell 2006; Goldhill 2008.
[ back ] 17. Müller 1981; Reardon 1991; Morgan and Stoneman 1994.
[ back ] 18. Wehrli 1965; Perry 1967; Holzberg 1995; Holzberg 1996.
[ back ] 19. Ruiz-Montero 1996; Morales 2009.
[ back ] 20. Bremmer 1998b:158–159; Lalleman 1998; Barrier 2009; Lipsett 2011:57–64; Futre Pinheiro, Schmeling, and Cueva 2014. For post-classical literature, Frye 1976; de Jong 1989; Elsom 1989; van der Paardt 1989; Huber 1990; Kortekaas 1990; Aerts 1997.
[ back ] 21. Thomas 2003 sees this differently and situates the historical details of early Christian prose narratives within the novelistic tradition.
[ back ] 22. Holzberg 1996; Pervo 1996; Bremmer 1998; Calef 2006; Schroeder 2006; Barrier 2009; Lipsett 2011.
[ back ] 23. Karla 2009b.
[ back ] 24. Quispel 1956:129–148; Quispel 1974:297; Bremmer 2000:25; Bailey 2009:10–11.
[ back ] 25. Formisano 2007; Shanzer 2009; Lasek 2016; Mastrangelo 2016; Elsner and Lobato 2017b:11; Pollmann 2017:19–36.
[ back ] 26. Compare Cyprian (of Carthage) Epistle 12.2.1, Acts of the Abitinian Martyrs 1, and the third council of Carthage (397 CE): liceat etiam legi passiones martyrium, cum anniversarii dies eorum celebrantur. See also de Gaiffier 1969; Yasin 2009:240–48.
[ back ] 27. Konstan 1998 discusses the topic of regionalism in Greek prose narratives, and Merkelbach 1962 argues, likely based on details with the novels (e.g. Xenophon Ephesiaca 5.15.2), in favor of a cultic association, a view that is no longer accepted (Longo 1969; Vidman 1970; Engelmann 1975; Totti 1985). For the role of narrative in early Christian space/place, Brown 1981 remains essential. See also Salisbury 1997:169–176; Markus 1994; Mayer 2006b. For the role of late Latin poetry in the cult of the saints, see Roberts 1993:189–197.
[ back ] 28. Van Dam 1993:90; Hägg 1994; Pervo 1996:691; Coon 1997:5–7; Mayer and Allen 1999:17–25; Mayer 2006b:209; Rapp 2007:194–222; Frankfurter 2010; Hershkowitz 2017:76–122; Sowers 2017.
[ back ] 29. De virtutibus sancti Martini episcopi 2.29; Rose 2005; Rapp 2007:219–222; Rose 2008; Sowers 2017.
[ back ] 30. Pervo 1996:691; Salisbury 1997:169–176; Misset-van de Weg 2006:146; Barnes 2010:74.
[ back ] 31. Mayer and Allen 1999:17–25; Mayer 2006b:209; Rapp 2007:219–220; Barnes 2010:237; Roberts 2017a:389.
[ back ] 32. Rapp 2007:222.
[ back ] 33. Jensen 2012; Sowers 2017:444–445.
[ back ] 34. Photius Bibliotheca 184; Bede Martyrologium (PL 94, 1055).
[ back ] 35. Davis 2001; Johnson 2006a; Kraemer 2011:144–146.
[ back ] 36. Roberts 1989b:136–144; George 1992; Roberts 2009; Roberts 2017b.
[ back ] 37. In this regard, early Christian literature is different from the readership of the ancient novel (Hägg 1983; Wessling 1988; Bowie 1994; Hägg 1994; Stephens 1994). For literary rates and reading culture more generally, see Harris 1989; Johnson 2000; Johnson and Parker 2009; Johnson 2010; Fantham 2013.
[ back ] 38. Cooper 1999:70–71; Barrier 2009:15–21.
[ back ] 39. Coon 1997:5–7, 23.
[ back ] 40. Shaw 2011; Frankfurter 2013:294–98.
[ back ] 41. When referring to line numbers, I use the Roman numeral I. for Eudocia’s Conversion and II. for her Confession. To distinguish Bevegni’s line numbers (the first 99 lines of the Conversion) from Salvaneschi’s line numbers (the final 322 lines), Bevegni’s lines follow with an asterisk. For example, I.33* refers to Conversion line 33 in Bevegni’s edition, whereas I.33 refers to Conversion line 33 in Salvaneschi’s edition, technically the 132nd line of the book.
[ back ] 42. Sc. Gospel of John 1:4–5.
[ back ] 43. Van Minnen 2006 ascribes late antique hagiographies an etiological function to explain this newly emerged Christianized world. Compare Brandt 2000.
[ back ] 44. Compare Homer Iliad 5.9 and Nonnus Paraphrase of John 5.3 with the Acts of Paul and Thecla, καί τις ἀνήρ (2.1) and Θέκλα τις παρθένος (7.2). See also Sowers 2012; Sowers 2017.
[ back ] 45. The name Aedesius is attested in Syrian Antioch and its environs (Jones, Martindale, and Morris 1971; Martindale 1980), whereas Clidonia is unattested and should perhaps be read Cledonia, based on Cledonius (Martindale 1980).
[ back ] 46. For more on the intertextual links between Justa and Thecla, see Sowers 2012; Sowers 2017.
[ back ] 47. Compare Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho 7–8; Pagels 1995:117–123.
[ back ] 48. Lerza 1982.
[ back ] 49. The verbs in lines 86 and 87 are plural.
[ back ] 50. Palladius Historia Lausiaca 17.6; Cyril Life of Euthymus 57; Jerome Life of Hilarion 12; Life of Symeon Stylites the Younger 49. Dickie 1999; Frankfurter 2001.
[ back ] 51. “Galilean” was a common pejorative adjective for Christians. Compare Julian’s Against the Galileans (Wilken 1984; Burr 2000; Hoffman 2004).
[ back ] 52. For the role of competing curriculum vitae in the Conversion, see Sowers 2017.
[ back ] 53. The agency claimed by the demon here is remarkable (Sowers 2017:434). Compare Tertullian On the Shows 16.
[ back ] 54. Genesis 3:1–6; 3:23; 4:8–9.
[ back ] 55. This episode is reminiscent of Paradise Lost, book 6. For more on Milton’s manuscript collection, including other poems written by Eudocia, see Harris 1898.
[ back ] 56. Sowers 2017:435–440.
[ back ] 57. This is similar to the motif of demons disguised as seductresses (Life of Pachomius 107; Pachomius Instruction 1.26), although Shenoute encounters a demon disguised as a government official (Shenoute Because of You Too, O Prince of Evil). Russell 1981:179–180; Brakke 2006:205–206.
[ back ] 58. Compare Evagrius Antirrheticus 1.2 (Brakke 2009:69).
[ back ] 59. Rousselle 1983:168–177; Brown 1988:213–240. Schroeder 2006 compares this early Christian motif to the ancient novel.
[ back ] 60. Augustine City of God 14.21, Literal Commentary on Genesis 9.3.5–6, and a contrasting idea in Gregory of Nyssa On the Origin of Man (GNOS 46–47).
[ back ] 61. Bastiaensen 2011:131–134.
[ back ] 62. For a comprehensive treatment of Simon Magus, see Ferreiro 2005. Butler 1948:73–83 situates Simon Magus (and Cyprian) within the Faust legend. See also Butler 1949:208–209; Butler 1952:24. The next chapter explores the similarities between Cyprian and Simon Magus in more detail.
[ back ] 63. Amirav 2011.
[ back ] 64. Collas 1913; Torrance 2013:176–180.
[ back ] 65. Duchesne 1904:292–293; Thompson 1914:19; Jungmann 1960:74–86; Bradshaw 1992:161–163. Kretschmar 1977 argues that baptisms were also performed on other Sundays. If this is Easter Sunday, the service described in the Conversion is unusual in a few respects. First, Easter services did not typically begin at sunrise but were evening vigils lasting from Saturday evening to Sunday morning. Second, the readings of an Easter service typically came from Exodus and the Gospel of John (Dix 1945:338–339).
[ back ] 66. Psalm 51:11 (Ludwich identifies this as Psalm 35:22), Hosea 11:1 (or possibly Isaiah 52:13), Psalm 119:148, Isaiah 44:1–2, Galatians 3:13, and Psalm 106:2. This lectionary selection (two prophetic passages but none from the Gospels) is unusual for any service which read from a Psalm, a Gospel, and a Pauline epistle. See also Dix 1945:360–362.
[ back ] 67. Eudocia’s word for lector, αἰπυβόης, one who shouts forth, corresponds to the more common and prosaic ἀναγνώστης. She uses διακτορία for the position of διάκτορος. Explained variously in antiquity, deacons were ministers of some sort. Attested in Homer (Iliad 2.103; Odyssey 5.43; 12.390; 15.319), διάκτορος is also used by Nonnus (Dionysiaca 31.107; 30.250; 39.82). Sub-deacons were also responsible for guarding and protecting the church’s sacred objects (Wipszycka 1996:234–248).
[ back ] 68. This is a fictional account. The historical bishop of Antioch during this period was Cyril I (283–303). However, Anthimus was a common name in antiquity and in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. In the third century, we hear about an Anthimus, bishop of Rome, and an Anthimus, bishop of Nicomedia (where Cyprian and Justina eventually die). Both these historical Anthimi were killed under Diocletian and commemorated in their respective cities.
[ back ] 69. Horsley 1987.
[ back ] 70. Kazhdan 2001.
[ back ] 71. Anson 1974; Burrus 1987; Castelli 1991; Cooper 1999; Davis 2002; Hylan 2015.
[ back ] 72. For more on the connection between ancient prose fictions and female authors, see Johne 1996:156–164.
[ back ] 73. Streete 2006.
[ back ] 74. Turner 1974; Turner and Turner 1978; Turner 1979.
[ back ] 75. Turner 1981:145. Turner 1979:249 advances a three-fold rite of passage: separation, margin or limen, and reaggregation.
[ back ] 76. Bynum 1991:39–40. The following section is influenced by Bynum’s approach.
[ back ] 77. Shewring 1931; van Beek 1936; van Beek 1938; Musurillo 1972:106–31; Amat 1996; Barnes 2010:66–74; Heffernan 2012; Farrell and Williams 2012.
[ back ] 78. Cobb 2008:95 points out that Perpetua’s portion of the narrative “is framed by his [the editor’s] preface and conclusion; these additions inevitably shape the reader’s impression.”
[ back ] 79. Perkins 2007:324 summarizes the argument against a Perpetuan authorship. The philological analyses of Heffernan 1995; Vierow 1999; Heffernan 2012 are central. For the opposing views, see Salisbury 1997:14–15; Bremmer 2002:83–86; Plant 2004; Bremmer and Formisano 2012. See also Shaw 1993; Bremmer 2004; Bremmer 2006.
[ back ] 80. For more on my approach, see Sowers 2015.
[ back ] 81. Rossi 1984; Sigismund-Nielsen 2012:108–109; Sowers 2015:373–382.
[ back ] 82. Coon 1997; Castelli 1991.
[ back ] 83. Perkins 1994:838; Sowers 2015:373–378.
[ back ] 84. Compare Cobb 2008:72–76; Sigismund-Nielsen 2012:103–105.
[ back ] 85. Cobb 2008:105–107; Williams 2012.
[ back ] 86. Perkins 2007:326; Williams 2012.
[ back ] 87. Sowers 2015.
[ back ] 88. Perkins 1995:104–113; Rodman 1997:38; Burrus 2004:58; Knust 2006:108–109; Schroeder 2006:58.
[ back ] 89. Burrus 1987; Cooper 1999; Vorster 2006:99. For a different perspective, see Hylan 2015:73–81.
[ back ] 90. Davis 2002:15–16 discusses transvestism in late antique narratives, including the influence of the APT. See also Johnson 2006a; Haines-Eitzen 2007.
[ back ] 91. Paul’s sermon in the APT was likely constructed from details in the Pauline epistles, such as 1 Corinthians 7 (Knust 2006:79–81; Knust 2011:107–110; Hylan 2015:85–87).
[ back ] 92. Cooper 1999:50–53 characterizes this as an “apostolic love triangle.” See also Miller 1993; Lipsett 2011; Cooper 2013:82. Compare Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho 7–8.
[ back ] 93. Hawley 1998 discusses the role of the male body as object of the gaze in Attic drama. Salient here are his “man in pain” and “sexual humiliation” (86–88). See also Duncan 2006:188–217.
[ back ] 94. Misset-van de Weg 2006:154–156.
[ back ] 95. Johnson 2006a:59–60 compares this episode to Nonnus’ resurrection of Lazarus.
[ back ] 96. The authorization of women to preach by Paul is inconsistent with the pastoral epistles, written around the same time as the APT. See MacDonald 1983:86–98; Kraemer 1992:153–155, 175; Ruether 1998:38–43; Castelli 1999; MacDonald 1999:245–251; Wire 2004. Women served as apostles in the first century, but, as proto-orthodox Christianity adopted a patriarchal structure during the early second century, it suppressed female leadership and even associated the evangelizing woman with heretical groups. See also Trevett 1999; Cloke 2000:432–433; Kraemer 2011:117–152.
[ back ] 97. Cooper 1999:36–40.
[ back ] 98. Söder 1932:127–128.
[ back ] 99. Anson 1974:3.
[ back ] 100. Delcourt 1961.
[ back ] 101. Compare 1 Corinthians 11:5–14; Knust 2006:81–85; Kraemer 2011:137.
[ back ] 102. Castelli 1991:43.
[ back ] 103. Zahn 1882.
[ back ] 104. Cooper 1999:34.
[ back ] 105. Knust 2011:88–89.
[ back ] 106. Knust 2006:107.
[ back ] 107. Coon 1997:52–70.
[ back ] 108. Tertullian On Baptism 17; Kraemer 2011:144.
[ back ] 109. Barrier 2009:158 provides other comparable examples.
[ back ] 110. Perkins 1994:844–845; Sowers 2015:387.
[ back ] 111. Shaw 1998:161–219.
[ back ] 112. Evagrius Antirrheticus 3.50; Shaw 1998:149–150. Compare Hylan 2015, who does not discuss APT 18 in her treatment of Thecla as a model of early Christian female modesty. For a parallel in the classical period, see Xenophon Oeconomicus 10.1–6.
[ back ] 113. Life of Pelagia 43–49; Shaw 1998:222–253; Miller 2003; Burrus 2004:141–145. Moreover, male ascetics, Shenoute in particular, frequently described demon-fighting female ascetics with masculine language (Brakke 2006:195–196).
[ back ] 114. Coon 1997:36–41; Gorman 2006.
[ back ] 115. On the temptation to break one’s fast and/or engage in gluttony, see Evagrius Antirrheticus 1; Shaw 1998:139–158; Brakke 2006:58; Brakke 2009:53–68.
[ back ] 116. Frankfurter 2006:13–21.
[ back ] 117. Coon 1997:76; Jacobs 2006; Osiek and MacDonald 2006:144–152.
[ back ] 118. Coon 1997:72–73, 93–105; Aubin 1998.
[ back ] 119. Compare the life of Pelagia and Macrina (Ruether 1998:64–69; Miller 2005).
[ back ] 120. For example, in the Life of Antony 8–10, Antony battles demons in a cemetery (Brakke 2006:30–33; Vos 2011:161–162). For more on Pelagia, see Coon 1997:74–80; Burrus 2004:128–129.
[ back ] 121. I argue elsewhere (Sowers 2017) that Justina’s intertextual connection with Thecla guarantees her protection and was thought to protect later Christian women from sexual assault.
[ back ] 122. Compare Prudentius The Origin of Sin 258–297 (Dykes 2011:211–220).