Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Professor Isabel Koster

Second Advisor

Professor Diane Conlin

Third Advisor

Professor Robert Buffington


This thesis will discuss the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis (Passio), or The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, as an example of how ancient Roman familial structures can conflict with early Christian ideologies. Specifically, this thesis seeks to prove that the narrative of Perpetua complicates fatherhood, motherhood, and gender roles for both pagan Roman families and early Christians. To accomplish this, (i) the relationship between Perpetua and her father will be focused on to demonstrate that the Pagan father existed in opposition to the rise of Christianity, and (ii) Perpetua’s relationship with the concept of motherhood, and the implications that her actions have on the perception of her gender will be considered. The father will be linked to legal, social, and cultural obligations that prevent his support of conversion to Christianity. Additionally, he will be cast as anti-Christian by Perpetua, who will use his existence as a means of materializing the Devil. This thesis will demonstrate that Perpetua must relinquish any ties to motherhood, acting against family and Christian norms, to fulfill the martyrial process.