Introduction to Digital Humanities

RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

The Sacrifices of Perpetua and Felicitas

Perpetua’s diaries are one of the most important documents that demonstrate the amounts of bravery individuals need to support their religious beliefs in the third century. Perpetua believes that self-sacrifices will improve the rights of Christians and lead to more Christian activities than before. Although Perpetua’s father asks her to change her minds, Perpetua insists in sacrificing in the arena. Perpetua also has some visions that she will overcome the challenges before the tribunal starts. I think Perpetua’s commitments to Christianity are the main reason that gives her strengths to face the dangers.

Perpetua’s diaries also talk about Felicitas who has the similar characteristics as Perpetua. Felicitas is also a courageous individual who wants to sacrifice herself to improve the Chrisitans’ rights. She is willing to join Perpetua when she gives birth to a child. When they enter arena, Perpetua and Felicitas do not consider using armors. Their inner strengths allow them to stay calm despite the dangers from the beasts in the surroundings. Although they manage to survive by cooperating with one another, Perpetua is determined to sacrifice her life. I support Perpetua’s action because I think religions tend to enable individuals develop benevolent personalities and embrace peace. However, I do not think that I will be able to sacrifice my life because I cannot leave family members behind. Perpetua knows that her sacrifice might lead to more rights for Christians in the Roman Empire because she succeeds to show the importance of religions in helping people achieve more happiness in life.




  1. I agree that religion makes people more calm and at peace with themselves and the world. I like how you mentioned how Perpetua wanted to sacrifice her life for a greater good and how you added that you admire that, but you yourself could never do that. I honestly feel the same way. It is crazy to see how brave and courageous others can be. I believe that when you are that spiritual it is much easier to be brave and unafraid. I can relate to how you say that you could not leave your family and friends.

  2. Agreeing – to a degree – with Mimi, religion brings a sense of peace to the world, which is a result of reflection. The readings brings to light martyrs, who were willing to risk their lives for the benefit of a religion. This is obviously a stark contrast to today’s world where religious values are often criticized by the media and social justice advocates. (In this post I am not taking any sides, I’m just making an observation.) However, I do believe religion gave individuals strength to conquer fear and adversity, such as the beast. Where can religion find a role similar to this in modern day society?

  3. So to piggy back off shane’s comment a bit, do you think it is dangerous for academics to look at the importance of martyrs, along with holding them in a seeming praise. In the modern day people such as Islamic Fundamentalists are martyrs for their cause, yet obviously we do not hold them in a high light in any way. We would not call them calm or serene before their deaths. Is their a difference though in their system of beliefs vs that of Perpetua and Felicitas?

    • Speaking only for myself as an academic, I study them in order to learn more about the phenomenon of martyrdom and what martyrdom meant to the people at that time — including all the layers we talked about in class, such as gender, social class, performance in the arena, etc.
      Even some early Christians did think people who volunteered for martyrdom (like Perpetua) were, well, inappropriate let’s say.
      On the difference between then and now: Perpetua and Felicitas don’t try to kill others in their own pursuit of death for God. I think that is a difference. I don’t think the difference has to do with Christianity or Islam, though; there are Christians who will kill others in the name of their religion.

  4. Religion in society today should not play a role in the governance of the people because of each individuals religious preference. I can’t level much with Perpetua and Felicitas because their bravery to die for the rights of Christians I do think was necessary for those people to get their rights… Now I’m kind of drawing a resemblance to God. He died for us, would people hold Perpetua and Falicitas in sucha high regard as God? They did die for the rights of Christians. -CC

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