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The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity edited by Thomas Heffernan

Thomas Heffernan’s edition The Passion of Perpetua and Felicity was published by Oxford University Press in 2012.

One of the most widely read and studied texts produced in Late Antiquity is the prison diary of a young woman who was martyred in the year 202 or 203 C.E. in Carthage, as part of a civic celebration. Her name was Perpetua, and, despite her honorable marriage and her baby son, she refused to recant her faith after she was arrested with a group of Christians. Imprisoned with her was a slave girl called Felicitas, who was in an advanced state of pregnancy. Felicitas gave birth just before she entered the arena, where the two women were mauled by wild animals and died with their fellow inmates. A description of their heroic deaths is appended to the diary by an editor, who tells us that, as they died, Perpetua and Felicitas arranged each other’s clothes modestly and finally bid farewell in this life with the kiss of peace.

This remarkable document survives in one Greek manuscript and nine Latin versions. Perpetua’s story is read in numerous courses and, thanks to the Frontline (PBS) special “From Jesus to Christ,” it has found a growing popular audience. Thomas Heffernan’s new edition of this extraordinary work contains much that has never been done before, including a new English translation and the first detailed historical commentary in English on the entire narrative of the Passion. It also includes newly edited versions of the Latin manuscripts and – rarer still – a version of the Greek manuscript. He concludes the book with a description of all of the known manuscripts and thorough scholarly indices of the text itself.

“a meticulous line-by-line commentary” – Peter Thonemann, Times Literary Supplement

“Heffernans edition combines delight with instruction and deserves all the praise and honor that it has received.” – Praise from the prize committee of the 2012 Modern Language Association Prize for a Scholarly Edition

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