Mulieres viriliter vincentes: Masculine and Feminine Imagery in Augustine’s Sermons on Sts. Perpetua and Felicity

in Vigiliae Christianae
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This paper argues that Augustine makes use of two principal images in his four extant sermons on Perpetua and Felicity: the masculine image of the combatant, who engages in spiritual warfare with the devil, and the feminine image of the mother, who tramples the diabolical serpent through childbirth. This paper makes the case that in styling the martyrs as combatants and mothers Augustine develops images that first appear in their third-century Passio. This thesis challenges the scholarly consensus which claims that Augustine departs from the content of their Passio in order to present these women behaving in conformity with the “patriarchal” norms of the late antique Church.

Vigiliae Christianae

A Review of Early Christian Life and Language




Heffernan 365; Joyce E. Salisbury, Perpetua’s Passion: The Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman (New York: Routledge, 1997) 174; Hanne Sigismund-Nielsen, “Vibia Perpetua—An Indecent Woman,” Perpetua’s Passions: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis, eds. Jan N. Bremmer and Marco Formisano (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) 117: “Both the narrator of the Passio and Augustine had to change her (i.e. Perpetua) in order to make this extraordinary Roman woman fit into their Christian framework.”


Elm Von Der Osten, “Perpetual Felicity” 208.


Salisbury, Perpetua’s Passions 175; see also Butler 108-109.


Denis, Serm. 25.8; Miscellanea Agostiniana: Testi e Studi pubblicati a cura dell’ordine eremitano di. s. Agostino nel xv centenario dalla morte del santo dottore, vol. 1: Sancti Augustini Sermones Post Maurinos Reperti, eds. G. Morin and A. Casamassa (Roma: Tipografia poliglotta vaticana, 1930) 163.


Natalie K. Watson, Feminist Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003) 27.


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