Gender And Power In Perpetua’s Passion The Struggle Between Perpetua And The Editor

3708 words - 15 pages

“Perpetua’s Passion” is one of the only few records of the life of a female martyr Vibia Perpetua. This record is very special because it contains Perpetua’s own narrative of her last days before her execution, along with an editor’s comments. Most of Perpetua’s narrative is about her experience after the capture, and her dreams, or visions, or the “revelations” of the divine to Perpetua. In this paper, I will discuss the presentation the symbols in her dreams, in order to exam the power balance of female and male presented in her voice, and reveal the struggle of Perpetua’s voice under the editor’s manipulation.
Perpetua’s background already highlights her significance in the Christian community and even among the Christian women. Since we now have her own narrative of her days in the prison, we as readers can conclude that she was very likely to be literate and maybe well educated. According to W.V. Harris, Perpetua knew Latin, and maybe Greek also. Brent D. Shaw says in his article that Vibia Perpetua’s family name indicates that this was a locally prestigious family that had obtained their Roman citizenship for generations. The high social status of Perpetua is an advocating point in reinforcing the unconditioned devotion to God among Christians, especially among Christian women. As a woman with Perpetua’s significant background, Perpetua became more powerful in delivering the message of her dramatic life experience and her faith. More women in the Christian community would look up to her as a role model. Especially for poor women, because what they might need to give up for their faith might not be as much as Perpetua had to give up, such as wealth, social status, families, a perfect life with a new born baby and her own life.
Perpetua’s record is not simply a diary but a valuable and rare documentation of female Christian Martyrs at that time period. Shaw mentions in his article that males martyrs are celebrated more than four times than the female martyrs; yet there were not that many less female martyrs and male ones; also African females martyrs represented a large portion of female martyrs in general. However, there were only a few records of female martyrs. The female martyrdom has been greatly underrated, due to the patriarchal social system and the male dominated Christian community. What really special and inspiring of Perpetua’s martyrdom is that it emphasizes on a different type of martyrdom that women participated in. Mary Leftkowitz says in her essay that Pagan female martyrs were often portrayed and remembered by their courage of defeating the Roman empire, their obedience to their husbands and the bravery in facing death. However, when we read Perpetua’s narrative carefully, we cannot find her description of her husband. In the Roman world, if the husbands were not present, women were also subjected to their fathers. Yet Perpetua was not even following this social norm. Perpetua’s role in the Roman era...

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