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Perpetua's Journey

Faith, Gender, and Power in the Roman Empire

Jennifer A. Rea and Illustrated by Liz Clarke

Publication Date - 17 July 2017

ISBN: 9780190238711

232 pages
7 x 10 inches

In Stock

A graphic history set in Roman Africa in 203 CE that examines issues of power, gender, and religion in the ancient world through the story of the Christian martyr Perpetua


Examining issues of power, gender, and religion in the ancient world, Perpetua's Journey: Faith, Gender, and Power in the Roman Empire is a graphic history set in Roman Africa in 203 CE that tells the story of the Christian martyr Perpetua.

The Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis, also known as The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity, is the first extant diary authored by a Christian woman. Vibia Perpetua was a young mother who lived in Roman Africa and, at the age of twenty-two, chose to publicly proclaim her Christian faith. She died as a result of her actions, though she did not die alone; she was part of a group of Christian martyrs, including several slaves, who were placed in prison and then executed in Carthage during the birthday celebrations of Emperor Septimius Severus's son in 203 CE. Perpetua's diary contains her account of the days leading up to her martyrdom.

Perpetua's Journey occupies a space between the many works designed primarily for specialists and advanced scholars, who already know a great deal about Perpetua and the history of the Roman Empire, and lives of saints that are intended for general readers. Perpetua's Journey is unique because it combines both sequential art and historical and social commentary, and it places Perpetua's diary in the context of life in Roman North Africa in 203 CE.


  • Offers a female perspective on the complex relationship that exists between power and gender in antiquity
  • Combines both sequential art and historical and social commentary for the events described in the Passio
  • Explores why Perpetua's diary still resonates with audiences today
  • Includes a translation of the Passio and a conclusion that asks students to question and assess what they have learned

About the Author(s)

Jennifer A. Rea is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of Florida. Her research interests focus on legendary figures from antiquity and in modern science fiction and fantasy. She is the author of Legendary Rome: Myths, Monuments, and Memory on the Palatine and Capitoline (2008).

Liz Clarke is a professional illustrator based in Cape Town, South Africa.


"The newest issue in Oxford's Graphic History Series transports readers into a striking martyr narrative in the first-person account often attributed to Perpetua as a 'diary' and included in the Passion of Perpetua and Felicity. Valued for how vividly it recounts the narrative of a group of male and female Christians in conflict with local authorities, the text is a boon to teachers who want to use it to highlight women in the ancient Christian world. Rea and Clarke's attractive and affordable new treatment will only increase the Passion's popularity in classrooms, as it supplements its story and ancillary resources with a graphic representation of the text."--Ellen Muehlberger, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"This book is groundbreaking and innovative. Jennifer A. Rea and Liz Clarke combine first-rate historical scholarship with stunning graphics in order to cast new light on Perpetua's journey. This contemporary graphic novel captures the essence of ancient martyr as super-heroine, remaining true to the original author's intent while challenging modern interpreters."--Jonathan Reed, University of La Verne

"Perpetua's Journey represents a fresh approach to the study of the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis: by including graphic art alongside critical commentary, it offers modern readers a new experience of the text."--L. Stephanie Cobb, University of Richmond

"Comprehensive, innovative, and engaging, Perpetua's Journey is notable above all for the immediacy and interest of its graphic content. The book will open up study of the Passio to a broader range of readers than ever before, fostering a more active, serious, and sustained engagement with this singular document and its historical context."--Thomas McGinn, Vanderbilt University

"Perpetua's Journey is a timely and impressive work of scholarship and creativity. The introduction, translation, and other supporting materials are detailed, accessible, and balanced, and the graphic representation brings an immediacy-and a new set of questions-to one of antiquity's most fascinating survivals."--Jessica Clark, Florida State University

"This engaging book presents students with a new and bold interpretation of the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis, a text that has both inspired and troubled readers for generations. Its use of the graphic medium does far more than illustrate the story--it provides an aesthetic interpretation of Perpetua's world and brings vividness to the thoughts and actions of a courageous group of Carthaginian Christians. Perpetua's Journey offers much of interest to those familiar with the text, and opens up to new audiences a work that, in modern times, has been largely the hidden delight of scholars."--Isabel Moreira, University of Utah

"This is a terrific new resource for stimulating minds and bringing the past vividly to life. The Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis is already an amazing story; in the hands of Rea and Clarke, this new edition brings the past to life for a new generation of readers."--Nicola Denzey-Lewis, Brown University

Table of Contents

    Maps and Figures
    Chapter One: Carcer et Praetorium, "The Prison and the Palace"
    Chapter Two: Christiana sum, "I Am a Christian"
    Chapter Three: In viridiario, "In the Garden"
    Chapter Four: Damnatio ad bestias, "Condemned to the Beasts"
    The Roman Empire
    Carthage before Rome
    Roman Africa
    The Emperor Septimius Severus
    Roman Religion and Early Christianity
    The Roman Senate
    Religion in the Roman Empire
    Emperor Worship
    The Cults of Ceres and Saturn
    Christians in Imperial Rome
    Magic and Religion
    Christian Persecution
    Severus and Christian Persecutions
    Christianity after 203 CE
    Martyrs in Antiquity
    The Spread of Christianity within the Roman Empire
    Roman Education
    Slaves and Christianity
    Felicity: Portrait of a Slave in Roman Africa
    Prison Life
    Gladiatorial Combat
    The Amphitheater
    Constructing Status in Antiquity
    Authority and Power in the Passio
    The Visions of Perpetua and Saturus
    Perpetua's Death
    About the Translation of the Passio
    A Brief History of the Text
    The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity
    Further Interpretations of the Text
    The Passio after 203 CE
    Further Reading
    The Making of the Graphic Portion of this Text
    Timeline of Events in History (Rome and Carthage)
    Timeline of Christian Persecutions

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