This unit will provide students with a comprehensive overview of women in Late Antiquity (the period of transition from the ancient to the medieval world, 3rd to 8th century AD), and attitudes towards them. By reading selected primary sources, this unit will introduce students to some of the most powerful and influential women in antiquity, and the role they played in religious and theological debates. Religion will be the backdrop in directing our discussions given that it provided one of the most important ways in which women participated in the public sphere in Late Antiquity.

Women such as Hypatia the philosopher, Melania the aristocrat, Theodora the Empress, Pelagia the harlot, and Syncletica the desert mother will be considered. In addition, by studying the Upper Egyptian town of Jeme, we will look at women’s lives in a typical Coptic town in Late Antique Egypt to understand the status of women and the role they played in the home as well as in religious, social and economic life.

Unit code: AH1150A (Approved)

Points: 18.0

Unit level: Undergraduate Level 1

Unit discipline: History

Proposing College: St Athanasius College

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Learning outcomes


Describe a historical overview of women's history in Late Antiquity and the various roles they played;


Articulate how attitudes towards women changed in the transition from Ancient to Medieval times;


Describe the various theologies that were prominent in Late Antiquity and the role some of the women (considered in the unit) played in these debates;


Demonstrate an ability to interpret primary sources in their historical context.


Face to Face: 12 weekly sessions consisting of lectures, presentations, and class discussion.

Indicative Bibliography

Primary sources:

Secondary sources:

  • Brock, Sebastian & Susan Harvey, Holy Women of the Syrian Orient, (London, 1998).
  • Clark, Elizabeth, Women in the Early Church (Collegeville, 1983).
  • Clark, Gillian, Women in Late Antiquity, (Oxford, 1994).
  • Coon, Lynda, Sacred Fictions: Holy Women and Hagiography in Late Antiquity, (Philadelphia, 1997).
  • Dietz, Maribel, Wandering Monks, Virgins, and Pilgrims, (University Park, 2005).
  • Grubbs, Judith Evan, Women and the Law in the Roman Empire, A Sourcebook, (Routledge, 2002).
  • Kraemer, Ross, Her Share of the Blessings: Women's Religions among Pagans, Jews and Christians in the Greco-Roman World, (Oxford, 1992).
  • Kraemer, Ross & Mary Rose D'Angelo, Women and Christian Origins (Oxford, 1999).
  • Wilfong, T.G., Women of Jeme. Lives in a Coptic Town in Late Antique Egypt (Ann Arbor, 2005). USD18 Articles that are compulsory weekly readings will be made available online [in PDF format].


Type Description Word count Weight (%)

l presentation + 1500 word written summary

0 35.0

Essay 1000 words

0 30.0

l presentation + 1500 word written summary

0 35.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 1 Nov, 2017

Unit record last updated: 2019-01-25 11:45:43 +1100