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date: 09 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

With the rise of Christianity came an enhanced focus on the lives and pursuits of children. Thus, material drawn from early Christian texts, especially homilies and hagiographical writings, allows us to construct a fuller picture of late antique childhood. Because children could be fully initiated into this new religion, they were also eligible to hold minor offices and to enter monastic communities. Accompanying these concrete practices was a developing concept of the child. This notion was strongly ambivalent. On one hand, children were praised as ideal disciples who possessed ascetic virtues “by nature.” On the other, they were invoked as figures of unrestrained passion and worldly concern: the epitome of a lack of virtue. Early Christian authors mobilized both sets of associations to convey their understanding of basic human nature and to shame their listeners into moral renovation.

Keywords: Asceticism, baptism, child, disciple, Christianity, education (moral and literary), hagiography, initiation, liturgical participation, monasteries

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