The Wise and the Foolish Virgins: Representations of Vestal Virginity and Pagan Chastity by Christian Writers in Late Antiquity

Chastity and virginity played various roles in the pluralistic religious landscape of the Roman Empire in late antiquity. As Christian authors increasingly came to promote chastity and virginity as a mark of ascetic and distinctive Christian virtues and ideals, the "chaste pagans" and the...

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Bibliographic Details
Published in:Journal of early Christian studies
Main Author: Undheim, Sissel 1974-
Format: Electronic Article
Language:English
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Published: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press [2017]
In: Journal of early Christian studies
Standardized Subjects / Keyword chains:B Paganism / Chastity / Virginity / Vestal virgin / Reception / Church
RelBib Classification:AG Religious life; material religion
BE Greco-Roman religions
KAB Church history 30-500; early Christianity
Online Access: Volltext (Verlag)
Volltext (doi)
Description
Summary:Chastity and virginity played various roles in the pluralistic religious landscape of the Roman Empire in late antiquity. As Christian authors increasingly came to promote chastity and virginity as a mark of ascetic and distinctive Christian virtues and ideals, the "chaste pagans" and the sacred virgins of contemporary religious groups came to play different rhetorical functions, not only in the texts addressed to sacred Christian virgins, but also in other contexts. Among the most renowned of these contemporary chaste pagans were the Roman Vestal virgins. There were however also other institutions and individuals that had reached fame for their chastity and renunciation of sex. This article examines different representations of Vestal virgins and chaste pagans in Christian texts up until early fifth century, and looks at how they, as "proximate others" to the Christian authors, came to serve various rhetorical functions in the negotiations and delineations in the definition of Christian asceticism and "true," i.e., orthodox Christianity.
ISSN:1086-3184
Contains:Enthalten in: Journal of early Christian studies
Persistent identifiers:DOI: 10.1353/earl.2017.0034