Violence against women urbi et orbi

  Syrkou, Angeliki. 2023. “Violence against women urbi et orbi.” In “Γέρα: Studies in honor of Professor Menelaos Christopoulos,” ed. Athina Papachrysostomou, Andreas P. Antonopoulos, Alexandros-Fotios Mitsis, Fay Papadimitriou, and Panagiota Taktikou, special issue, Classics@ 25.

The subject of violence against women has been extensively studied by various disciplines, including sociology, philosophy, psychology, linguistics, and feminist studies. This presentation aims to explore the idea that violence against women is a political act and a manifestation of the broader violence wielded by authorities against particular social groups, including low-class individuals, women, children, and slaves. Through the use of violence, authority aims both at exercising manipulation and control over the masses and subduct of the population, so that any potential reactions, uprisings, and revolt may be prevented. Violence against women has been used as a tool to enforce state and moral laws, as well as to maintain order and discipline within families and societies. Those who held authority within these structures, whether men or even women in certain cases, [1] utilized violence to preserve their power and prestige. By subjecting women to violence, they sought to establish and maintain control over them, perpetuating the existing power dynamics. [2]
Violence against women is an enduring and pervasive phenomenon, manifesting itself within and beyond the confines of their homes, both domestically and globally. Countless sources substantiate the prevalence of violence and torture against women throughout history, a societal practice deemed necessary to instruct individuals and enforce discipline. An extensive body of evidence illustrates the multifaceted nature of violence, elucidating the dominant perception of women’s roles in familial and societal contexts. Tragically, women endured psychological and physical violence, encompassing threats, humiliation, beatings, torture, and sexual abuse in various settings, including households, public spaces, and even correctional facilities. This paper will specifically delve into the violence inflicted upon women during Late Antiquity; our evidential foundation consists primarily of papyri documents and texts penned between the second and sixth centuries, predominantly authored by Christian individuals.
My starting point will be the Classical Antiquity because I intend to show that violence against women is a timeless phenomenon based on the deep-rooted perception of the position of women in family and society. Instances of violence against women are depicted in literary, historical, and archaeological sources. While Aristophanes [3] and Plutarch [4] touch upon this subject, a fragment from Plato the comedian illustrates more explicitly the prevailing social attitudes. Within this fragment, a distinct perspective emerges: “If you are always punishing your wife, she’s the best of all possessions; if you relax too much, she’s a hubristic thing and uncontrolled” (fr. 105 K-A). The Greek novel Callirrhoe [5] provides a particularly poignant depiction of domestic violence, as Chaereas brutalizes his young wife Callirrhoe with such a ferocity that he believes he has caused her demise. [6]
Notably, violence within the household was not classified as a public crime under Roman law. In an effort to maintain control and establish discipline within the household, the paterfamilias wielded the right to physically punish his wife, as well as slaves, and children. [7] A relevant case of domestic violence in Greece during the Roman era is the demise of Regilla, a pregnant woman who became a victim of her husband’s violence. Regilla, the wife of Herodes Atticus, was fatally kicked in the abdomen while pregnant by a freedman named Alcimedon, who acted under the orders of Herodes. Appius Bradua, her brother, filed charges in Rome against Herodes Atticus, holding him accountable for her death; however, both he and Alcimedon were acquitted. [8]
The Romans held the belief that the death of a virgin in prison was an act contrary to holiness, prompting them to assign the task of deflowering these virgins to an executioner. In the case of Lucius Sejanus, who faced condemnation to death by Tiberius, his children were also condemned to die alongside him. Consequently, his daughter was handed over to an executioner to endure rape. [9] By means of an official decree, an executioner undertook this “sacred” duty, beginning with the violation of the girls’ virginity, and then proceeding to her strangulation. It was regarded as unholy and against divine will for young girls to be strangled before losing their virginity. [10] Curiously, the priestess of the goddess Hestia, who had broken her vow of chastity, met her demise through being buried alive near the Colline gate. [11]
Atrocious punishments leading to death were inflicted upon women, mirroring the treatment endured by men, and employing horrific and cruel methods of capital punishment, such as crucifixion, impalement, and stoning. The crucifixion graffiti of Alkimilla from Puteoli serves as a significant piece of evidence, indicating that crucifixion was not solely reserved for men. Engraved on the wall of a taberna excavated at Puteoli, it portrays a crucified woman named Alkimilla, with her ankles fastened on either side of the vertical pole. Although not nailed, she bears the marks of flogging on her body. [12] Additionally, Dio Cassius recounts the infamous case of the British rebel Budica, who subjected Roman women to a violent, torturous, inhuman, and humiliating death through impalement in 60/61 CE: [13]

τὰς γὰρ γυναῖκας τὰς εὐγενεστάτας καὶ εὐπρεπεστάτας γυμνὰς ἐκρέμασαν, καὶ τούς τε μαστοὺς αὐτῶν περιέτεμον καὶ τοῖς στόμασί σφων προσέρραπτον, ὅπως ὡς καὶ ἐσθίουσαι αὐτοὺς ὁρῷντο, καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο πασσάλοις ὀξέσι διὰ παντὸς τοῦ σώματος.
They hung up naked the noblest and most distinguished women and then cut off their breasts and sewed them to their mouths, in order to make the victims appear to be eating them; afterwards they impaled the women on sharp skewers run lengthwise through the entire body. [14]

Furthermore, a considerable number of Christian women endured the inhuman martyrdom of stoning, such as Cointa, who refused to renounce her Christian faith, or met their fate by the sword, [15] like Saint Crispina. [16] These female Christian martyrs were subjected to violent torture and ultimately led to death, not for any criminal offenses, but solely due to their unwavering beliefs. It is worth noting that our knowledge of their torments primarily stems from the accounts provided by Christian Fathers. In their endeavour to define Christian identity, these accounts often embellish the inflicted violence, portraying the martyrs as supernatural beings untouched by pain or harm. Nevertheless, the descriptions of the violence and torture endured by these women not only illustrate the strength of their spirit and their courageous defiance of authority, but also emphasize the extent of their suffering.

The catalogue of Christian women who endured excruciating pain and met violent deaths is extensive. Here follows a very selective list: Saint Tatiane, who refused to sacrifice to Artemis, [17] was scalded with hot fat. Saint Barbara suffered a cruel torture involving ξυστῆρας, an instrument that scraped the human body. [18] The noblewoman Perpetua and her slave Felicitas were both tortured for their Christian faith in Carthage. They were first scourged in front of gladiators at an amphitheatre and were then confronted by a wild cow. Finally, they were executed by the sword. [19] Blandina, too, met martyrdom in 177 CE at the amphitheatre of Lyon. She was scourged, placed on a red-hot grate, confined in a net, and thrown before a wild steer that tossed her into the air with its horns. Eventually, she was killed with a small sword. [20] In his collection of texts on martyrs entitled Peristephanon, Prudentius mentions two girls who fearlessly proclaimed their faith despite the consequences of torture and death. In his hymn honouring Saint Eulalia, Prudentius attributes to her words that seemingly evoke torture (91–92 Pucci-Krisak): “Come, torturer. Burn, cut, and tear this body made of clay.” Similarly, in his poem about Saint Agnes, he presents her as ardently desiring martyrdom (76–78 Pucci-Krisak): “I shall take the sword’s length into my breasts and draw the force of my sword to my inmost heart.” [21]
A significant opportunity for the elevation of the position of women emerged with the Edict of Milan in 313 CE, which granted Christians freedom to practice their religion. Consequently, a gradual conversion of numerous upper-class Roman women to Christianity ensued, driven by diverse motivations such as seeking emancipation from male dominance, avoiding early pregnancies, and evading undesirable marriages. The Edict of Milan’s impact extended beyond religious freedom, empowering women to pursue education and aspire towards a measure of gender equality, thereby enhancing their societal status. [22] However, despite the institutionalization of religious liberty, the transformation of societal attitudes lagged far behind. Saint Augustine (354–430 CE) and Saint John Chrysostom (350–407 CE), referring to family and social life, believed that domestic anarchy leads to social anarchy. They accepted domestic violence as a means of maintaining discipline and order within the household, and by extension, within society. [23] Although Augustine frequently mentions his father’s violent behaviour towards his mother Monica, he appears to embrace the notion that a wife is treated by her husband as a slave; disobedient and defiant slaves were disciplined with whipping, while unruly ones were chained at the feet. [24] Centuries later, during the reign of Justinian, further steps were taken to improve the status of women. Wives gained the right to sue their husbands if they were subjected to beatings with a whip or rod for trivial reasons. However, husbands still retained the authority to administer flogging for more serious offenses. [25]
Convicted women often endured rape, physical torture, and the humiliation of their dignity, effectively becoming public spectacles. In essence, they experienced a symbolic death before their physical demise. In periods of persecution, Christian women in Egypt had their bodies exposed to public view:

γύναιά τε τοῖν ποδοῖν ἐξ ἑνὸς ἀποδεσμούμενα μετέωρά τε καὶ διαέρια κάτω κεφαλὴν μαγγάνοις τισὶν εἰς ὕψος ἀνελκόμενα γυμνοῖς τε παντελῶς καὶ μηδ’ ἐπικεκαλυμμένοις τοῖς σώμασιν θέαν ταύτην αἰσχίστην καὶ πάντων ὠμοτάτην καὶ ἀπανθρωποτάτην τοῖς ὁρῶσιν ἅπασιν παρεσχημένα. [26]
Women were fastened by one foot and swung aloft through the air, head-downwards, to a height by certain machines, their bodies completely naked with not even a covering; and thus they presented this most disgraceful, cruel and inhuman of all spectacles to the whole company of onlookers. [27]

Some were even condemned to entering brothels, further exacerbating their suffering and degradation. Characteristic is the testimony of a certain Aedesius against Hierocles, the judge of Alexandria:

… ἐμπαροινοῦντα τοῖς τοῦ θεοῦ μάρτυσιν παρθένους τε ἁγίας θεοῦ πορνοτρόφοις ἐπ´ ἀσελγείᾳ καὶ ὕβρει τοῦ σώματος παραδιδόντα. [28]
… he acted offensively against the martyrs of God and delivered the holy virgins of God to brothel-keepers for their bodies to be defiled. [29]
Hence, during the persecution of Decius, a significant incident unfolded when the sexton of the imperial temple threatened Sabina. He made it clear that if she refused to make a sacrificial offering, she would be compelled to become a prostitute in a brothel. This was not merely a figurative statement, but a genuine and menacing threat, illustrating the gravity of the situation she was confronted with. [30]
In the Byzantine Empire, the social and political status of women was indeed influenced by the prevailing laws and cultural norms of the time. Women generally did not have access to positions of authority or held political or public offices. They were largely excluded from participating in trials and other legal proceedings. [31] Women were often treated leniently, despite the law that defined equal punishment to men and women who violated natural or political law. [32] For example, if women were sentenced to pay a fine, they would not be jailed. And in cases where women did receive prison sentences, they were frequently placed under the supervision of a guardian, such as a male relative, a monastery, or other women. [33]
However, in both the Byzantine and early Islamic periods in Egypt there were instances where women were imprisoned not for their own wrongdoing, but for the fulfilment of a debt or obligation by their husbands, or other male family members. [34] This practice, known as “imprisonment by proxy,” involved imprisoning women as a guarantee for the payment of a debt or the performance of an obligation by a male relative, typically the husband or father. [35] The imprisonment of these women served as a leverage to compel the male relative to meet their responsibilities, or to serve as punishment for their actions [36] . In papyri documents the women who were imprisoned as guarantees due to the actions or debts of male family members, are mentioned as ἀποκλεισθεῖσαι γυναῖκες. [37]
Life in prison is vividly described by St. John Chrysostom: [38] ὅταν γὰρ ἴδῃς τοὺς μὲν δεδεμένους, τοὺς δὲ αὐχμῶντας, τοὺς δὲ κομῶντας, καὶ άκια περικειμένους, τοὺς δὲ ὑπὸ λιμοῦ φθειρομένους, καὶ ὡς κύνας τοῖς ποσὶ προστρέχοντας. It is evident that for prisoners’ life was unbearable due to the large number of inmates, the limited space, the lack of lighting and ventilation, the diseases, the hunger and the lack of drinking water. In addition, prisoners often were chained [39] or tortured. [40] Given these circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that women who were imprisoned would have faced similar hardships. It is unlikely that they would have had private rooms or any special accommodations.
The following examples illustrate the practice of imprisoning women under various circumstances during Late Antiquity in Egypt. A fourth-century CE document records the case of a woman who was incarcerated because her husband, who had sold stolen goods, had not been apprehended. [41] Similarly, we have a case of a wife of a farmer, named Iakovos, who was imprisoned for her husband’s διάγραφον. [42] Α sixth-century CE letter from Aphrodito reveals an instance where the praeses (provincial governor) ordered the release of a woman who had been held in jail; [43] unfortunately, on the present state of the evidence, it is difficult to determine the specific reasons for her imprisonment or the reasons of her release. Another sixth-century CE letter is very interesting: when a farmer’s property was confiscated and his wife was imprisoned, the farmer himself made a request to the landowner. He asked the landowner to return his property to him while keeping his wife as a pledge until he repaid the debt: [44]

† ὁ γραμματηφόρος ἦλθεν λέγων ὅτι ἔχεις τὴν γυναῖκ[α αὐτοῦ] εἰς τὴν φυλακὴν καὶ ἔλαβες τὰ ἄλ<λ>α τ̣ὰ α̣υτο̣ῦ̣. θέλησ[ον οὖν] ἀπολῦσαι τὰ ἄλλα̣ τὰ αὐτοῦ καὶ φυλαχθῆ<ναι> τὴν γυναῖκα α̣[ὐτοῦ] ἕως ὅτε παρέχει σοι εἴ τι χρεωστεῖται παρʼ αὐτοῦ.

In a similar case, Phoebammon and Philippos urged the dioecetes Maiamacis to release the seven wives of the protocometae assuring him that they would bring them to prison whenever directed to do so: [45]

παρακαλῶμεν τὸν ἡμῶν δεσπότην ταύτας ἀπολυθῆναι καὶ πρὸς ὑμᾶς α̣ὐ̣τούς, ὅταν κελεύῃς, τὰ αὐτὰ πρόσωπα ἀποφέρομεν αὐτοὺς εἰς φυλακήν.

In this interesting text, although it lacks specific details for further context, women seem to have been jailed in place of their husband.

The following eighth-century CE papyrus testifies to the continuation of a similar practice that persisted in the Islamic period: the imprisonment of women as a form of guarantee. The women, associated with certain men, would remain in prison until their husbands presented themselves: [46]

ἀλλὰ τὰς γυναῖκας αὐτῶν βάλῃ εἰς φυλακὴν ἄχρις οὗ δ[έξηται γράμματα παρὰ τοῦ δεσπότου μου τοῦ ἐνδοξοτάτου.
The case of Anna, the wife of the goat-butcher Phib, arrested for her brother’s stealing the messenger’s money, further highlights the interconnectedness of familial responsibility and the consequences that women could face for actions of their male relatives. [47] Furthermore, the case of Sophia, who wrote to the Dux of Thebaid in the 560s, emphasizes the vulnerability of women during times of conflict and war. Sophia, a widow, lodged a complaint that she had been unjustly deprived of her late husband’s inheritance, which was intended for her and their young son. Additionally, she reported that her second husband had been killed by a certain Senouthes, who had also committed acts of violence against her: [48]

[ … ]σ̣ε [τὴ]ν̣ ἐμὴν [χ]η̣ρ̣[αιότητα καὶ τὴν ἐλε]υθερίαν δ[ι]αφ̣θ̣εῖραι καὶ ἀσχημονῆσαι τὴν [ἐ]μ̣ὴν εὐγένειαν, [μ]ὴ β̣ο̣υ̣ληθεῖσαν δὲ ἐξακολουθῆσαι τῷ αὐτο(ῦ) πίσματι [κ]α̣ὶ̣ [τῇ ἀ]κολάστῳ ἡδο[ν]ῇ̣, παρέ[βαλέν(?) με ἐν τῇ] ἰδικῇ αὐτ[ο(ῦ)] φ̣υλακῇ, παρασκ̣ε̣υάσας ἡμέρον ἐμὲ βακλ̣ι̣σθ̣ῆ̣ναι καὶ πελματισθῆνα̣ι̣ καὶ κρεμασθῆναι ἀγρίως εἰς [λ(?)]όφον(?) ἐπὶ π[έν]τε μη̣ν̣ᾶ̣ς̣ [ … φυ]λακ[ῆ]ς.

The description of Sophia’s cruel torture, as reported in her letter, highlights the extreme violence, and abuse she endured. According to her account, Senouthes, the individual responsible for her husband’s murder, subjected her to further cruelty by throwing her into his private prison. She stated that she was beaten with sticks throughout the day, her legs being lashed, and she was mercilessly hung up. Sophia presented it as a crime of passion, but the murder of her second husband and her imprisonment must have been connected with profit. [49]

Documentary papyri that let the voices of women who had suffered abuse and mistreatment to be heard, provide valuable information about the challenges they faced both inside and outside their homes. These documents shed light on various issues such as insults, violence, beatings, imprisonment, and in some cases, sexual assault. While reports of sexual assault may have been less common in the surviving papyri, they do occasionally appear, highlighting the vulnerability of women to these forms of abuse.
Two documents, P. Oxy. VI 903 (4th century CE) and P. Oxy. L 3581 (4th–5th century CE), which have been discussed by A. Papathomas and A. Koroli, provide evidence of unhappy or abusive marriages and their connection to physical and psychological violence against women. These documents written by the female victims themselves, offer valuable insights into the experiences and challenges faced by them:

In both texts the female writers of the narratives in question appear to be trying to recuperate from one or more acts of violence. They present themselves as suffocating, being trapped in unbearable situations, or at least this is what they try to convince the recipients of their texts; and they claim compensation for the damage they have suffered and the restoration of their dignity. In the selected texts, domestic violence is to some extent sexualised since sex is used as a means of humiliation of the female writers. Sexualised violence as a sub-category of domestic violence is clearly gendered, in the sense that husbands are undeniably the victimisers and wives the helpless victims, who bear no responsibility as far as their maltreatment is concerned. [50]
Finally, two more examples emphasizing the vulnerability of women in Late Antiquity. The first involves the complaint of a certain Dioscorus about the abusive behaviour of the pagarch (the commander of a district, or pagus) Menas, who, along with other men, not only violated the virgin nuns, but also caused great sorrow to the affected women and then proceeded to plunder an entire village: τοῖς κακοῖς τούτοις μόνοις Μηνᾶς ὁ αὐτὸς πάγαρχος, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὰς παρθένους διεκόρευσαν οἱ συνεπόμενοι αὐτῷ εἰς βοήθειαν [π]αρόρων. [51] The second complaint also made by Dioscorus about officials attempting to rape virgin laywomen and nuns: καὶ τὰς κόρας κ[α]ὶ [τὰς ἀ]σκ[η]τρίας π[αρ]θένους διαφθεῖραι [52] . These papyri provide evidence of the sexualised violence and its consequences for women’s well-being. [53]
To sum up, our evidence indicates that violence against women encompassed a wide range of forms, including physical abuse, emotional and psychological violence and sexual violence. Women throughout history have experienced violence in various contexts, such as within their roles as wives, as Christian martyrs, during times of war, and even within the confines of prisons. They usually faced violence, as well as moral punishment without breaking any laws or being considered criminals. It is important to note that many of these acts of violence were socially accepted and even legitimized within the prevailing norms of their respective societies. The systemic nature of violence against women, as it was perpetrated within the confines of societal norms and power structures, might be seen as a political act; this act may reflect the broader violence exercised by authorities against citizens, particularly marginalized groups, and aims at the maintenance of power, and the subjugation of certain social groups, women in particular.


Armenopoulos, C. 1971. Πρόχειρον Νόμων ἢ Ἑξάβιβλος. Athens.
Berkes, L. 2015. “An estate prison in Byzantine Egypt: PSI VII 824 Reconsidered.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 193:241–243.
Bryen, A. 2013. Violence in Roman Egypt. A Study in Legal Interpretation. Philadelphia.
Clark, G. 2004. Christianity and Roman Society. Christianity and Roman Society. Cambridge.
Dossey, L. 2008. “Wife Beating and Manliness in Late Antiquity.” Past & Present 199:3–40.
Drake, H., ed. 2006. Violence in Late Antiquity. Perceptions and Practice. Aldershot.
Guarducci, M. 1971. ‟Iscrizioni greche e latine in una taberna a Pozzuoli.” In Acta of the fifth International Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy. Oxford.
Halkin, F. 1973. Légendes grecques de “Martyres Romaines.” Subsidia Hagiographica 55. Brussels.
Hardy, E. 1931. The Large Estates of Byzantine Egypt. New York.
Harries, J. 2006. ‟Violence, Victims and the Legal Tradition in Late Antiquity.” In Drake 2006:85–102.
Heffernan, Th. 2012. The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity. Oxford.
Hillner, J. 2013. “Family Violence: Punishment and Abuse in the Late Roman Household.” In Approaches to the Byzantine Family, ed. L. Brubaker and S. Tougher, Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Studies 14, 21–46.
Johnson, A., and L. West. 1949. Byzantine Egypt: Economic Studies. Princeton.
Musurillo, H. 1972. The Acts of the Christian Martyrs. Oxford.
Nguyen, N. 2006. ‟Roman Rape: An Overview of Roman Rape Laws from the Republican Period to Justinian’s Reign.” Michigan Journal of Gender & Law 13:75–112.
Papathomas A., and A. Koroli. 2022. “Sex and Abuse in Unhappy Marriages in Late Antique Oxyrhynchus: The Case of Two Women’s Narratives Preserved on Papyrus.” In Sex and the Ancient City: Sex and Sexual Practices in Greco-Roman Antiquity, ed. A. Serafim, G. Kazantzidis, and K. Demetriou, 471–486. Berlin.
Pomeroy, S. 2007. The Murder of Regilla: A Case of Domestic Violence in Antiquity. London.
Pucci J., and L. Krisak. 2020. Prudentius’ Crown of Martyrs: Liber Peristephanon. London.
Ruffini, G. 2018. Life in an Egyptian village in late antiquity. Cambridge.
Smith, S. 2007. Greek Identity and the Athenian Past in Chariton: The Romance of Empire. Groningen.
Syrkou, A. 2021. ‟Horrorscope: The Gallery of Tortures in Late Antiquity.” In Biblioteca degli Studi di Egittologia e di Papirologia XIV. Pisa.
Tirnanić, G. 2017. ‟A Touch of Violence: Feeling Pain, Perceiving Pain in Byzantium.” In Knowing Bodies, Passionate Souls: Sense Perception in Byzantium, ed. S. Harvey and M. Maullett, 223–237. Washington, DC.
Torallas-Tovar, S. 2006. ‟Violence in the Process of Arrest and Imprisonment in Late Antiquity Egypt.” In Drake 2006:102–112.


[ back ] 1. Like Budica, see Dio Cassius, Historiae Romanae LXII 7, 2.
[ back ] 2. Syrkou 2021:47–49, 71–73.
[ back ] 3. Aristophanes, Clouds 1443–1446; Wasps 1254–1255; Lysistrata 160–166, 507–520, 1039.
[ back ] 4. Plutarch, Life of Alcibiades 8.4: Alcibiades seized his wife Hipparete and dragged her off home with him through the marketplace, no man daring to oppose him or take her from him.
[ back ] 5. Dated to the first century BCE or the first century CE, but referring to the fifth century BCE.
[ back ] 6. Chariton, Chaereas and Callirhoe, 1. 6, 11–12; Smith 2007:235.
[ back ] 7. Hillner 2013:23–28.
[ back ] 8. Philostratus, Lives of the Sophists 555–556; Pomeroy 2007:119.
[ back ] 9. Dio Cassius, Historiae Romanae LVIII 11, 5–6.
[ back ] 10. Suetonius, De Vita Caesarum Tiberius 61, 5.
[ back ] 11. Plutarch, Numa 10, 4.
[ back ] 12. Guarducci 1971:219–223, plate 23b.
[ back ] 13. Dio Cassius, Historiae Romanae LXII 7, 2.
[ back ] 14. Translation by E. Cary and H. B. Foster.
[ back ] 15. See, for instance, St. John Chrysostom, Ad eos quis candalizanti sunt 14.4 ἀθρόον ἡρπάγη καὶ ὡς βλάσφημος κατεδικάζετο καὶ κατελεύετο; John Chrysostom, Homilia V ad populum antiochenum 49.72 κατελεύσθη γάρ· καὶ μάρτυρες οἱ δὲ πάντες ἀθλίως τὸ καθ’ ὑμᾶς ἐτελεύτησαν. Alexander, Laudatio Barnabae apostoli 541 ἐξαγαγόντες δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ βασανίσαντες ἱκανῶς, ἤγαγον διὰ νυκτὸς ἔξω τῆς πόλεως καὶ ἐκεῖ αὐτὸν κατέλευσαν οἱ παράνομοι· καὶ ἅψαντες πυρὰν μεγάλην, ἔρριψαν ἐκεῖ τὸν μακάριον πρὸς τὸ μηδὲ λείψανον αὐτοῦ εὑρεθῆναι. See also Eusebius, Ηistoria Εcclesiastica VI 41, 4.
[ back ] 16. Passio Sanctae Crispinae 4.1.
[ back ] 17. Halkin 1973:31–32.
[ back ] 18. Eusebius, Antiquorum martyriorum vol. XX, p. 1525.
[ back ] 19. Passio sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis chapter 19; Heffernan 2012: martyrdom 19.
[ back ] 20. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica V 1, 47.
[ back ] 21. The last edition of Prudentius is Pucci and Krisak 2020: for the poems of Eulalia and Agne see respectively 55–61 and 161–164; see also Clark 2004:104–106.
[ back ] 22. Nguyen 2006:106–107. Available at:
[ back ] 23. John Chrysostom, Homilia XXXIV in epistulam I ad Corinthios 61, 289–290; Augustine, Epistulae 104, 8.
[ back ] 24. Augustine, Confessiones IX. 9.
[ back ] 25. Novellae Constitutiones 117, 8; 14. However, the loss of virginity was one of the worst sins, and those who rape or abduct nuns faced the capital punishment (Justinian official statement of 533 CE).
[ back ] 26. Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica VIII 9, 1
[ back ] 27. Translation by J. E. L. Oulton.
[ back ] 28. Eusebius, De martiribus Palaestinae 5, 3.
[ back ] 29. Translation by author.
[ back ] 30. Martyrion of St. Martyrium Pionii 7, 6: αἱ γὰρ μὴ ἐπιθύουσαι εἰς πορνεῖον ἵστανται. See Musurillo 1972:146.
[ back ] 31. Armenopoulos 1971: parag. 1, 76.
[ back ] 32. Armenopoulos 1971: parag. 18, 78.
[ back ] 33. Novellae 134, 9; 12 (556 CE).
[ back ] 34. Berkes 2015:241–243; Morelli, P. Horak 66.2 n. with further references.
[ back ] 35. P. Lond. VI 1915 (300–340 CE), PSI VII 824 (575–625 CE), P. Cair.Masp. I 67020 (6th century CE), P. Oxy. XVI 2056 (7th cenury CE), P. CairMasp I 67002 (567 CE); Johnson and West 1949:31.
[ back ] 36. Torallas Tovar 2006:105 n.2
[ back ] 37. P. Horak 66 (8th century CE).
[ back ] 38. St. John Chrysostom, Εἰς τὸ κατὰ Ἰωάννην Εὐαγγέλιον 59. 333.
[ back ] 39. P. Abinn. 42, 14 = P. Gen. I 79 = P. Lond. II 422, 12–13 (342–351 CE) σιδηρῶσαι αὐτὸν; P. Sta.Xyla. I 2 (575–625 CE) ἐν τοῖς] δεσμωτηρίοις ὢν καὶ σεσιδηρωμέ[νος].
[ back ] 40. There is evidence that in many cases prisoners were tortured and suffered during their arrest and for as long as they were in prison; terms like ἐβασανίσθην, στρεβλοῦμαι, καιούμενος, εἴργιν καὶ μαστιγοῖν, τύπτειν, παίειν, μαστιγοῦν reveal the nature of their torture.
[ back ] 41. P. Abinn. 42 = P. Gen I 79 = P. Lond II 422 (342–351 CE).
[ back ] 42. P. Apoll. 42 (703–715 CE). διάγραφον was a special per capita tax: see Johnson and West 1949: 286.
[ back ] 43. P. Cair.Masp. II 67202 (567 CE).
[ back ] 44. PSI VII 824 (sixth century CE).
[ back ] 45. P. Oxy. XVI 1835 (475–525 CE).
[ back ] 46. P. Apoll. 18 (705/706 CE).
[ back ] 47. Stud.Pal. X 252 (sixth century CE); Hardy 1931:71.
[ back ] 48. P. Cair.Masp. I 67005 (568 CE).
[ back ] 49. Ruffini 2018:31.
[ back ] 50. Papathomas and Koroli 2022:472.
[ back ] 51. P. Cair. Masp. I 67002. 3 (567 CE).
[ back ] 52. P. Lond. V 1674 (570 CE).
[ back ] 53. On domestic violence exercised by men in Late Antiquity, see Dossey 2008:3–40. For a discussion on the definition of the concepts of “violence” and “abuse” in Late Antiquity and the terminology denoting violent acts in the papyri, see Harries 2006:85–102 and Bryen 2013:51–85.