Theodora, Praxedes, and the Role of Christian Women in Ancient Rome


Yeah, that sounds a lot like a dissertation title, but the images of women in Roman mosaics from the second through ninth centuries in Rome, as well as art on early Christian sarcophagi suggest that the role of women in the early church was not that of second-class citizen.

Paul the Apostle writes to the church in Rome, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require of you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well.”

Not only did some women in the early church have power (like the deacon Phoebe), but they some had wealth as well. What Paul is describing is a patron-client relationship, common throughout the ancient Mediterranean. Paul is the client and…

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