Edoardo Ferrarini

«Arcana germanitas»: Marriage, Aristocracy and Asceticism in Early Christianity

  • Abstract

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Keywords: Ascetic Practices, Conjugal Continence, Paulinus of Nola

Between the end of the 4 th and the beginning of the 5 th century, when the monastic movement also spread in the West, numerous members of Roman senatorial aristocratic families were attracted to ascetic practices, including the experience of conjugal continence, i.e. a chaste cohabitation within the context of licit marriage. This paper presents the case of Paulinus of Nola and Therasia and aims to analyse the literary descriptions of conjugal continence in Paulinus’ correspondence. It examines in particular Ep. 18 to Victricius, Bishop of Rouen, Ep. 44 to Aper and Amanda and Ep. 51 addressed to Eucher, the future Bishop of Lyon, and to his wife Galla. Once monasticism gained a firmer foothold, it became the natural forum for asceticism, experienced in seclusion from the world and in a strict isolation from the other sex.

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