Sacrifice, Salvation and Sex: The Female Body and the Shaping of Christian Antiquity

  • Rosie Jackson

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis examines the manner in which the textual female body functioned within the Christian communities of Late Antiquity, with a view toward establishing the centrality of the female body within the ideological constructions of social borders and boundaries. The role of women in early Christian societies has been examined extensively within previous scholarship; this thesis aims to demonstrate that the literary construction of the female body holds great worth with regards to gaining an understanding of the philosophies of Late Antique Christianity, and the significance of women to the establishment of Christian identity. Through a close analysis of a range of texts which span the first to the seventh centuries, this thesis will illustrate the evolution of ideologies regarding identity, community and the body, and the manner in which texts from differing cultural and literary backgrounds intersect with one another, and inherit the ideologies of their predecessors. Beginning with pre-fourth century texts concerning martyrdom, this thesis will move on to consider texts regarding consecrated virginity and the relationship of the virgin with the church. Following on from this, post-fourth century martyrdom literature and texts which integrate sexuality with asceticism will be explored, before turning to a discussion of illegitimate sexual relations, and representations of heretical women and heresy. Concluding this thesis will be an analysis of writings which address the position of women in the desert, firstly the tempting women who appear to ascetic monks, and secondly the repentant harlots of the sixth and seventh centuries. Through a close analysis of the Vitae of these women, this thesis will demonstrate the manner in which the multiplicity of ideologies rooted in identity, the body and the community, analysed throughout this thesis, culminate within the body of one individual woman, who has been raised from the depths of sin to sainthood.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMaria-Ruth Morello (Supervisor) & Peter Oakes (Supervisor)


  • the Church Fathers
  • Virginity
  • Asceticism
  • Heresy
  • Early Christianity
  • Women
  • Late Antiquity
  • Martyrdom

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