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"Girls Trained in Beautiful Writing": Female Scribes in Roman Antiquity and Early Christianity

From: Journal of Early Christian Studies
Volume 6, Number 4, Winter 1998
pp. 629-646 | 10.1353/earl.1998.0071


Embedded within Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History is a rather curious reference to Origen's female calligraphers (HE 6.23). This article seeks first to contextualize Eusebius' remarks by surveying the evidence--both literary and epigraphic--for female scribes in Greco-Roman antiquity and early Christianity. The appearances of women as amanuenses, notariae, and librariae in Latin literature and inscriptions are explored. The article then turns to the evidence for women copying texts in late-ancient Christian monasticism. The central proposal of the article--that some of our earliest Christian manuscripts may have been copied by women--offers a new dimension to the history of the textual transmission of early Christian writings.