Virgins of God: The Making of Asceticism in Late Antiquity
Situated in a period that witnessed the genesis of institutions that have lasted to this day, this path-breaking study looks at how ancient Christian women, particularly in Asia Minor and Egypt, initiated ascetic ways of living, and how these practices were then institutionalized. Susanna Elm demonstrates that―in direct contrast to later conceptions―asceticism began primarily as an urban movement, in which women were significant protagonists. In the process, they completely transformed and expanded their roles as wife, mother, or widow: as Christian ascetics, they became `virgin wives', `virgin mothers', and `virgin widows' - with all the legal and economic implications of such a dramatic shift. As importantly, though, Christian men and women ascetics lived together. As `virgins of God' they created new families `in Christ'. No longer determined by their human bonds or human sexuality, they...
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