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Grant number like: FA-55851-11

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Bernadette Joan Brooten
Brandeis University (Waltham, MA 02453-2728)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2011 – 6/30/2012

Enslaved Women and Female Slaveholders in Early Christianity, First to Sixth Centuries

Christian thinking about marriage, gender, and sexuality still shapes norms and values. Early Christianity developed in a slave-holding society, but slavery's effects on Christian thought remain under-researched. Unlike earlier Mediterranean societies, the Roman Empire saw the rise of slavery on a massive scale. Slaveholders owned the sexual functions of their enslaved laborers and their offspring. Slavery thrived in the early church, shaping both its moral imagination and daily life. Early church writers document that chastity and slavery rarely co-existed. I will examine how the institution of slavery affected enslaved girls and women, those at risk of enslavement, and slaveholding women. I will document how the early Christian majority decision to tolerate slavery, including the enslavement of fellow Christians, and to anathematize those who encouraged enslaved persons to flee from their owners, shaped teachings on marriage, fidelity, chastity, and celibacy.