The portrayal of Christian heroism in the Psychomachia of Prudentius.
Flint, Angela Joan.
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This study addresses a neglected area in Late Ancient literary scholarship, namely, the portrayal of Christian heroism in Prudentius’ Psychomachia. The research question advanced in this study investigates whether Prudentius’ didactic, literary portrayal of Christian heroism in the Psychomachia strengthened Christians’ requirement for a socially appropriate modality of heroic identity pertaining to the circumstances of their post-martyrdom context, in the early fifth century. This research has prioritised close reading of the text of the Psychomachia alongside consideration of relevant primary texts and the adoption of an interdisciplinary approach involving the disciplines of theology, classics and anthropology. The most significant conclusion of this study is that Prudentius’ portrayal of early fifth-century Christian heroism in the Psychomachia specifically responded to the socio-religious needs of early fifth-century Christian society regarding heroic identity, because this poet’s portrayal of Christian heroism in this epic poem negated the lingering social power existing in early fifth-century Roman Christianity regarding the heroic function of the body and the soul in a post-martyrdom context. More explicitly, this study finds that through the interiorization of early fifth-century Christian heroism in the Psychomachia, Prudentius sought to counteract enduring social perceptions that the epitome of Christian heroism and the locus of sanctity was embodied in the tortured body of the Christian martyr. This study has demonstrated how Prudentius’ literary expression of the interiorization of Christian heroism in the Psychomachia was influenced by Platonic philosophies as well as prevailing early fifth-century ascetic Christian ideologies regarding the dichotomy between the soul and the body. It is the argument of this dissertation that Prudentius reconceptualised Christian society’s perceptions of the nature of Christian heroism in a post-martyrdom context through his literary communication that early fifth-century Christian heroism was realised through heroically ridding the soul of pagan vice and transforming the Christian’s soul into an interiorized locus of Christian sanctity. Prudentius’ literary vision of heroism in the Psychomachia was orientated towards the future of Christianity, not the past. This dissertation has endeavoured to contribute to contemporary Prudentian scholarship by moving some ways towards explicating Prudentius’ portrayal of heroism in the Psychomachia. It is hoped that this study will encourage emerging Prudentian scholars to seek and explore under-researched areas of this complex and multidimensional Christian epic poem of Late Antiquity.