Perpetua Emotions Essay

In Perpetua’s Passio Sanctarum Perpetuae et Felicitatis, Perpetua experienced a wide range of emotions from anger to joy, caused by her relationship with her family members and her religious faith.

As Perpetua wrote about her life as she prepared for martyrdom, she noted a discussion with her father about her religion and how it angered her. He refused to accept her as a Christian, which caused a strain on their relationship. Perpetua first attempted to help him understand why she felt so strongly about her identity by comparing herself to a vase. She gestures to a vase lying nearby, writing, “Et ego dīxī eī: “Numquid aliō nōmine vōcārī potest quam quod est?”” (And I said to him: “Surely it is not able to be called by another name than what it is?”). When he agreed, she declared that she cannot call herself anything except what she was, a Christian. She was angry with her father, and he was furious with her too, jumping on top of her and nearly tearing out her eyes. Once he left, she was finally able to calm down, “Tunc paucīs diēbus quod caruissem patre, Dominō gratiās ēgī et refrigerāvi absentiā illīus.” (Then within a few days because I had been without [my] father, I gave thanks to God and I cooled off with the absence of that man.)

When Perpetua was in jail, she experiences a variety of emotions, many of which were caused by her infant son, who was in jail with her. While she loved him, she was often worried for him. She expresses her concerns about her son, writing, “Ego infantem lactābam iam inediā ēfectum; sollicita prō eō…” (I was nursing my baby now, having been weakened with a lack of food; worried for him…) Perpetua continued mentioning the extent of her worry, adding, “Tālēs sollicitūdinēs miltīs diēbus passa sum…” (I have suffered such worries for many days…)

However, having her son in jail with her also brought Perpetua much joy. She often expressed how much pain and suffering she endured, but being able to see her son always made her happier: “et usurpāvī ut mēcum infāns in carcere manēret.” (I enjoyed that my infant was remaining with me in jail.) Seeing him every day also gave Perpetua strength: “et statim convaluī et relevāta sum ā labōre et sollicitūdine infantis, et factus est mihi carcer subitō praetōrium, ut ibi māllem esse quam alicubī.” (I grew strong and I have been raised up from the effort and worry of my child and the jail has suddenly been made a palace; so that I was preferring to be there [rather] than anywhere). Simply being with her son was enough to make her want to stay there, which contrasts greatly with her relationship with her father.

Perpetua’s family and journey of becoming a Christian and fighting for her religion influenced her emotions greatly, and her account of her own martyrdom clearly shows the impact of those experiences on her life.

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