Vibia Perpetua's Diary: A Women's Writing In A Roman Text Of Its Own

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Perez, Melissa
Women; History; Historiography; Rome; Vibia Perpetua
thesis / dissertation description
Writing the history of women in antiquity is hindered by the lack of written sources by them. It has been the norm to assume that the only sources that can tell us something about them are the sources written by men. This thesis challenges this convention as it concerns the social history of Rome through the exploration of a written source by a woman named Vibia Perpetua. She was a Roman woman of twenty-two years from Roman Carthage, who was martyred on March 7, 203 C.E. The reason that we know of this Roman woman and what happened to her is because of the diary she wrote. The diary survived because it was preserved in the martyrology Passio Sanctarum Martyrum Perpetuae et Felicitatis. The Passio which was edited by an unknown redactor, documents the martyrdom of several people. Unlike any other martyrologies the editor of the story included the actual diary as it was written by Vibia Perpetua. Although we have a Roman woman's writing from the second/early third century C.E, her diary reached us through a filter that has influenced up to this day the way that the text is interpreted and preserved. The intention of this thesis is threefold; to analyze the diary of Vibia Perpetua with a new focus on the discourse of Roman women by first exploring the history of the Passio Sanctarum Martyrum Perpetua et Felicitatis. Then, a method is formulated that makes use of contemporary studies on women's diaries and self-representation in texts in order to incorporate Perpetua's writing within the social history of Rome and the history of women more broadly. The study concludes by demonstrating how this diary can help to open a new dialog about the life of both women and men in antiquity and further question the history we have inherited from them.