Domestic violence against women as a reason to sanctification in Byzantine hagiography
By Ángel Narro
Studia Philologica Valentina, Vol. 20, n.s. 17 (2018)
Abstact: Domestic violence against women is a taboo topic, normally silenced or ignored in literature, though socially accepted as a common way of male control over women in the familiar context. The lives of Matrona of Perge, Mary the Younger and Thomaïs of Lesbos are rare examples of how domestic violence against women could be also interpreted as a reason to sanctify the woman suffered abuses of this sort. This article is aimed at analyzing this phenomenon into the context of Byzantine Hagiography.
Introduction: Domestic violence against women represents one of the major issues of modern civilization regarding social relationships between men and women. Traditionally, women have been observed as being inferior to men in terms of physical strength and intelligence, and were considered a mere belonging on the hands of a male authority: firstly, her father, then her husband, and when widowed, eventually her confessor. This need of guardianship must be interpreted in a broader conception which has its roots in the Classical world and is highly developed in Early Christian literature, where women are said to pass through three different states along their lives: virgin, wife-mother and widow.
These three stages (girldhood, marriage and motherhood, and widowhood and old age) will be maintained in Late Antiquity and Byzantine times, where mixed conceptions about social life and religion, inherited from both Graeco-Roman world and Christianity, will persist.
Top Image: Fragment of a Floor Mosaic with a Personification of Ktisis, 500–550 – image courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art