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Melania the Younger

From Rome to Jerusalem

Elizabeth A. Clark

Publication Date - 25 February 2021

ISBN: 9780190888237

304 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock


Melania the Younger: From Rome to Jerusalem explores the richly detailed story of Melania, an early fifth-century Roman Christian aristocrat who renounced her staggering wealth to lead a life of ascetic renunciation. Hers is a tale of "riches to rags." Born to high Roman aristocracy in the late fourth century, Melania encountered numerous difficulties posed by family members, Roman officials, and historical circumstances in disposing of her wealth, property (spread across at least eight Roman provinces), and thousands of slaves. Leaving Rome with her entourage a few years before Alaric the Goth's sack of Rome in 410, she journeyed to Sicily, then to North Africa, finally settling in Jerusalem-all while founding monasteries along the way. Towards the end of her life, she traveled to Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) in an attempt to convert to Christianity her still-pagan uncle, who was on a state mission to the eastern Roman court.

Throughout her life, she was accustomed to meet and be assisted by emperors and empresses, bishops, and other high dignitaries. Embracing a fairly extreme asceticism, Melania died in Jerusalem in 439. A new English translation of her Life, composed by a long-time assistant who succeeded her in the direction of the male and female monasteries in Jerusalem, accompanies this biographical study.


  • Presents a revealing portrait of an immensely important figure in early Christianity
  • Provides a translation of the Greek version of Melania's Life
  • Explores the later Roman Empire through the life of a noblewoman
  • Includes research on ancient wealth inequality; slavery; transportation problems; women's roles and status

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth A. Clark is John Carlisle Kilgo Professor, Emerita, at Duke University. Her previous books include History, Theory, Text; Reading Renunciation; Founding the Fathers; and The Fathers Refounded.


"... Clark seizes every opportunity to connect Melania's story to larger economic and social structures. The result is extraordinary. Readers are treated to expert distillations of a wide range of complex topics ..." -- BLAKE LEYERLE, University of Notre Dame, ARYS: Antiquity, Religions and Societies

"The study is remarkable. Clark, an experienced teacher and an accomplished scholar, has drawn a compelling and inspiring picture of early Christianity.... [It] cleverly blends solid philology and exciting storytelling. Thanks to her mastery of the subject and her pedagogical skills, Clark has succeeded in making eminently complex topics, sometimes distant from our current concerns, understandable and interesting. Clark's book is a scientific page-turner. I hope that this accessible study will serve as an introductory text for courses on paleochristianism." -- Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Magisterial.... [Clark] shows us how dramatically what we can see in Melania has changed." -- Times Literary Supplement

Table of Contents

    Family Trees

    Chapter One: Finding Melania
    Chapter Two: Rome: Empire, City, and Church
    Chapter Three: Aristocracy, Family, and Property
    Chapter Four: Pagans and Christians in Late Ancient Rome
    Chapter Five: Ascetic Renunciation
    Chapter Six: Exiting Rome and the Sack of the City
    Chapter Seven: To Sicily and North Africa
    Chapter Eight: To Jerusalem
    Chapter Nine: To Constantinople and Back
    Translation: The Life of Saint Melania the Younger


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