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Perpetua's Passion: The Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman [Paperback]

Joyce E. Salisbury
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 9, 1997 0415918375 978-0415918374 First Paperback Edition
Perpetua's Passion studies the third-century martyrdom of a young woman and places it in the intellectual and social context of her age. Conflicting ideas of religion, family and gender are explored as Salisbury follows Perpetua from her youth in a wealthy Roman household to her imprisonment and death in the arena.

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In her study of the life and death of Perpetua, a third-century Christian martyr, Salisbury (history and humanities, Univ. of Wisconsin, Green Bay) examines the cultlike mentality that drove a 22-year-old woman with an infant son to turn away from her family and accept with enthusiasm a horrific death for her faith. Salisbury describes the social, political, and religious climate in Carthage that made Christianity so appealing to its disillusioned youth. In addition, pagan Rome's emphasis on magic and omens combined with the North African tradition of noble suicide to create a social dynamic in which public death in the arena would be viewed as not only acceptable but also desirable. Utilizing Perpetua's prison diary as well as an eyewitness account of her final hours, Salisbury analyzes the martyr's "passion," her recorded dreams and visions, in relation to these existing forces. The impact of her death on those who witnessed the event as well as those who heard about it became apparent in the veneration bestowed on Perpetua by her contemporaries and in the efforts of patriarchal church leaders like Augustine, who tried to minimize her strength and leadership qualities. This remarkably objective, insightful piece of scholarship is highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.?Rose Cichy, Osterhout Free Lib., Wilkes-Barre Pa.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

An insightful, moving account of the death of an early-third- century Christian martyr, based on her own diary. Vibia Perpetua was the daughter of an old respected Roman family of Carthage and, although raised in accordance with the pagan religious traditions of Rome, converted to Christianity, one of many faiths competing for devotees in the Roman Empire. Just 22 years old, she was arrested with several other converts to Christianity and, because she refused to acknowledge the divinity of the emperor Septimus Severus (and even though she was the mother of an infant), was sentenced to be killed by beasts in the Carthaginian arena. Salisbury (Medieval History and Humanities/Univ. of Wisconsin, Green Bay) uses the text of Perpetua's diary, written in prison, to explore this extraordinary young woman's decision to renounce her prosperous life and embrace a horrible death, and to depict in vivid and fascinating detail the world of pagan Rome and the insular community of the early Church, with its emphasis on prophecy and speaking in tongues. Salisbury notes the contrast between the Roman religion, with its thousands of household gods, and monotheistic/trinitarian Christianity with its claim to be the only universally true religion. Also, the patriarchy of traditional Roman society, which restricted women to the roles of wife and mother, stood in stark contrast with the egalitarian promise of Christianity, which taught that all persons were equal before God and often gave women a leading role. Using Perpetua's text, Salisbury shows that, despite the dangers, the young woman turned her back on her affectionate family and infant son to become a Christian because of her profound conviction that she was experiencing the presence of God. A uniquely absorbing and poignant study of the vanished world of the early martyrs. (11 illustrations, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; First Paperback Edition edition (October 9, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415918375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415918374
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #478,961 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joyce E. Salisbury was born in 1944 in Arizona, but grew up abroad -- 10 years in Rio de Janeiro and 5 in Mexico City. She has a PhD in Medieval History from Rutgers University, and taught history at the University of Wisconsin -- Green Bay. She is currently retired and spends time writing, traveling, lecturing, and playing with grandchildren in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In her books, Salisbury has explored her interests in the past: She focuses on early Christianity, and how Christian ideas have shaped our lives; on the relationship between humans and animals, and in her Western Civ textbook, The West in the World, she concentrates on how to teach about the past in an engaging way.
Most recently, Salisbury has traveled around the world teaching religion and history through the University of Virginia's program, Semester at Sea.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written May 14, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best historical reads ever. It paints a complete picture of early Christianity in what was then known as Carthage. Of course this is about the Christian martyrs Perpetua, Felicity and the 3 men that were all sacrificed
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a valuable book September 20, 2003
In Perpetua's Passion, Salisbury has served two different communities very well---those interested in early Christianity, and those interested in the history of women. She deftly creates a sociology of life in a group of early Christian martyrs, and does so in a way that makes very clear family relations, gender roles, and the strength of Vibia Perpetua herself. I have used this book when teaching a course on ancient & medieval women (and will do so again), and found that it worked very well. Students found it readable and useful and thought-provoking.
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31 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Seed of the Church November 25, 2000
"Perpetua's Passion: The Death and Memory of a Young Roman Woman" is the story of Perpetua, a young Roman Christian who was martyred in 203 A.D. It is a book well worth reading...but it is also missing something.
I found Perpetua's Passion to be very well written and apparently well researched. Joyce E. Salisbury adeptly explores and explains the Roman and Carthaginian culture that Perpetua lived in. Mrs. Salisbury also seamlessly weaves into this tapestry a compelling picture of the Christian Church during the time of these events.
The book is based off of the diary that Perpetua kept during her captivity. Mrs. Salisbury explains the significance of Perpetua's actions in light of the culture of her day. She then shows the influence of Perpetua's story on the later Church.
All of this is very commendable. I was most impressed by the scholarship and insight of this book. Yet a question forms within me when I contemplate this book:
So what? Where is the heart in this book? There is nothing in this book which says anything about how these events speak to the soul of people today. Maybe I missed it...
What happened to Perpetua was more than a clinical historical event that affected the people immediately around her and eventually helped form certain patterns of thought within the Church. It was much more. It was a mortal being making an eternal statement. It was a moment in time where the Christian truth that there is more than this life was given a full embodiment in the actions of a young woman--A young woman who had every reason to live, yet for her, to die was gain. It was a moment of ultimate surrender, and at the same time, one of ultimate victory. The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church!
In the end, in spite of my objection, I recommend this book. It is insightful and instructive. However, don't just read this book with your head. Approach this one with your heart and your soul.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book,great saint! March 16, 1999
By A Customer
A scholarly look at the prison diary of St.Perpetua who was thrown to the beasts and finally killed with a sword for her faith.The author gives both Christian,Carthage and Roman background of the times and lets the martyr speak for herself.
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