Steadfast and shrewd heroines: the defence of chastity in the Latin post-Nicene passions and the Greek novels


  • Annelies Bossu


This article discusses a considerable number of Latin post-Nicene passions of the martyrs and aims to demonstrate that these little-known narratives qualify as an interesting component of the network of ancient narrative texts. To underpin this claim, I analyse the passions' handling of the literary topos of the defence of chastity. This analysis reveals, firstly, that the passions are not mere copies of one another: variation can be detected within the topical elaboration. Secondly, the passions bear remarkable similarities to the ancient Greek novels within this thematic realm. Both novelistic and hagiographical heroines safeguard their chastity for their beloved and do so in strikingly similar ways. The authors of the Greek novels and the post-Nicene passions, it seems, shared a common literary culture.

Annelies Bossu received her Ph.D. from Ghent University (Belgium) in 2014, with a dissertation entitled Quick-witted Women. Literary Studies of female martyrs in the Latin post-Nicene passions of the martyrs. Forthcoming publications on the late antique passions include articles on the passio Caeciliae, passio Susannae and passio Chrysanthi et Dariae.