This chapter presents a sketch of early Syriac literature during the Roman/Byzantine period, before the Arab conquests. Although its beginnings were pre-Christian, the bulk of Syriac writings is made up of typically Christian compositions, belonging mainly to the literary genres such as exegetical, dogmatic, polemical, ascetic, monastic, as well as canon law, etc. Much of the output of the epoch is religious poetry, in which Syriac authors excelled, having become renowned even outside the Syriac sphere, as is the case with Ephrem’s poems that reached Greek and other Christian Oriental literatures. Short accounts of the Syriac Bible translations are provided, and of the compositions of the most important authors, such as BarDaisan, Jacob of Serum, Isaac of Antioch, Philoxenos of Mabbogh, and others, as well as accounts of two genres: historiography and biography/hagiography.
During the centuries between the date of the mythical founding of Rome and the first decades of the sixth century AD when Justinian’s Corpus Iuris Civilis was enacted, the legal condition of women underwent substantial transformation. To understand this process it is necessary to recall that during the first centuries of its history Rome was a patriarchal society, where only patres familias enjoyed full civil and political rights. Other members of the family enjoyed only certain rights, and some did not enjoy any at all. Over the centuries paternal authority underwent important changes, which in different ways limited it. Rome had grown from a small village of peasants and shepherds to a metropolis that ruled the world. Political, social, economic conditions (not to say mentalities and religious beliefs and practices) changed the way of thinking of the Romans, their way of life and their attitude and behaviour towards women.