Skhm Scholarship Essays

Sample Scholarship Essays

If you’re applying for a scholarship, chances are you are going to need to write an essay. Very few scholarship programs are based solely on an application form or transcript. The essay is often the most important part of your application; it gives the scholarship committee a sense of who you are and your dedication to your goals. You’ll want to make sure that your scholarship essay is the best it can possibly be.

Unless specified otherwise, scholarship essays should always use the following formatting:

  • Double spaced
  • Times New Roman font
  • 12 point font
  • One-inch top, bottom, and side margins

Other useful tips to keep in mind include:

  1. Read the instructions thoroughly and make sure you completely understand them before you start writing.
  2. Think about what you are going to write and organize your thoughts into an outline.
  3. Write your essay by elaborating on each point you included in your outline.
  4. Use clear, concise, and simple language throughout your essay.
  5. When you are finished, read the question again and then read your essay to make sure that the essay addresses every point.

For more tips on writing a scholarship essay, check out our Eight Steps Towards a Better Scholarship Essay .

The Book that Made Me a Journalist

Prompt: Describe a book that made a lasting impression on you and your life and why.

It is 6 am on a hot day in July and I’ve already showered and eaten breakfast. I know that my classmates are all sleeping in and enjoying their summer break, but I don’t envy them; I’m excited to start my day interning with a local newspaper doing investigative journalism. I work a typical 8-5 day during my summer vacation and despite the early mornings, nothing has made me happier. Although it wasn't clear to me then, looking back on my high school experiences and everything that led to me to this internship, I believe this path began with a particularly savvy teacher and a little book she gave me to read outside of class.

I was taking a composition class, and we were learning how to write persuasive essays. Up until that point, I had had average grades, but I was always a good writer and my teacher immediately recognized this. The first paper I wrote for the class was about my experience going to an Indian reservation located near my uncle's ranch in southwest Colorado. I wrote of the severe poverty experienced by the people on the reservation, and the lack of access to voting booths during the most recent election. After reading this short story, my teacher approached me and asked about my future plans. No one had ever asked me this, and I wasn't sure how to answer. I said I liked writing and I liked thinking about people who are different from myself. She gave me a book and told me that if I had time to read it, she thought it would be something I would enjoy. I was actually quite surprised that a high school teacher was giving me a book titled Lies My Teacher Told Me. It had never occurred to me that teachers would lie to students. The title intrigued me so much that on Friday night I found myself staying up almost all night reading, instead of going out with friends.

In short, the book discusses several instances in which typical American history classes do not tell the whole story. For example, the author addresses the way that American history classes do not usually address about the Vietnam War, even though it happened only a short time ago. This made me realize that we hadn't discussed the Vietnam War in my own history class! The book taught me that, like my story of the Indian reservation, there are always more stories beyond what we see on the surface and what we’re taught in school. I was inspired to continue to tell these stories and to make that my career.

For my next article for the class, I wrote about the practice of my own high school suspending students, sometimes indefinitely, for seemingly minor offenses such as tardiness and smoking. I found that the number of suspensions had increased by 200% at my school in just three years, and also discovered that students who are suspended after only one offense often drop out and some later end up in prison. The article caused quite a stir. The administration of my school dismissed it, but it caught the attention of my local newspaper. A local journalist worked with me to publish an updated and more thoroughly researched version of my article in the local newspaper. The article forced the school board to revisit their “zero tolerance” policy as well as reinstate some indefinitely suspended students.I won no favors with the administration and it was a difficult time for me, but it was also thrilling to see how one article can have such a direct effect on people’s lives. It reaffirmed my commitment to a career in journalism.

This is why I’m applying for this scholarship. Your organization has been providing young aspiring journalists with funds to further their skills and work to uncover the untold stories in our communities that need to be reported. I share your organization’s vision of working towards a more just and equitable world by uncovering stories of abuse of power. I have already demonstrated this commitment through my writing in high school and I look forward to pursuing a BA in this field at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. With your help, I will hone my natural instincts and inherent writing skills. I will become a better and more persuasive writer and I will learn the ethics of professional journalism.

I sincerely appreciate the committee’s time in evaluating my application and giving me the opportunity to tell my story. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts

Do:Follow the prompt and other instructions exactly. You might write a great essay but it may get your application rejected if you don’t follow the word count guidelines or other formatting requirements.
DON'T:Open your essay with a quote. This is a well-worn strategy that is mostly used ineffectively. Instead of using someone else’s words, use your own.
DON'T:Use perfunctory sentences such as, “In this essay, I will…”
DO:Be clear and concise. Make sure each paragraph discusses only one central thought or argument.
DON'T:Use words from a thesaurus that are new to you. You may end up using the word incorrectly and that will make your writing awkward. Keep it simple and straightforward. The point of the essay is to tell your story, not to demonstrate how many words you know.

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Planners and Searchers

Prompt: In 600 words or less, please tell us about yourself and why you are applying for this scholarship. Please be clear about how this scholarship will help you achieve your personal and professional goals.

Being African, I recognize Africa’s need for home- grown talent in the form of “planners” (assistants with possible solutions) and “searchers” (those with desperate need) working towards international development. I represent both. Coming from Zimbabwe my greatest challenge is in helping to improve the livelihoods of developing nations through sustainable development and good governance principles. The need for policy-makers capable of employing cross-jurisdictional, and cross- disciplinary strategies to solve complex challenges cannot be under-emphasized; hence my application to this scholarship program.

After graduating from Africa University with an Honors degree in Sociology and Psychology, I am now seeking scholarship support to study in the United States at the Master’s level. My interest in democracy, elections, constitutionalism and development stems from my lasting interest in public policy issues. Accordingly, my current research interests in democracy and ethnic diversity require a deeper understanding of legal processes of constitutionalism and governance. As a Master’s student in the US, I intend to write articles on these subjects from the perspective of someone born, raised, and educated in Africa. I will bring a unique and much-needed perspective to my graduate program in the United States, and I will take the technical and theoretical knowledge from my graduate program back with me to Africa to further my career goals as a practitioner of good governance and community development.

To augment my theoretical understanding of governance and democratic practices, I worked with the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) as a Programs Assistant in the Monitoring and Observation department. This not only enhanced my project management skills, but also developed my skills in research and producing communication materials. ZESN is Zimbabwe’s biggest election observation organization, and I had the responsibility of monitoring the political environment and producing monthly publications on human rights issues and electoral processes. These publications were disseminated to various civil society organizations, donors and other stakeholders. Now I intend to develop my career in order to enhance Africa’s capacity to advocate, write and vote for representative constitutions.

I also participated in a fellowship program at Africa University, where I gained greater insight into social development by teaching courses on entrepreneurship, free market economics, and development in needy communities. I worked with women in rural areas of Zimbabwe to setup income-generating projects such as the jatropha soap-making project. Managing such a project gave me great insight into how many simple initiatives can transform lives.

Your organization has a history of awarding scholarships to promising young students from the developing world in order to bring knowledge, skills and leadership abilities to their home communities. I have already done some of this work but I want to continue, and with your assistance, I can. The multidisciplinary focus of the development programs I am applying to in the US will provide me with the necessary skills to creatively address the economic and social development challenges and develop sound public policies for Third World countries. I thank you for your time and consideration for this prestigious award.

Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts

DO:Research the organization and make sure you understand their mission and values and incorporate them into your essay.
DO:Focus on your strengths and turn in any problems or weaknesses into a success story.
DO:Use actual, detailed examples from your own life to backup your claims and arguments as to why you should receive the scholarship.
DO:Proofread several times before finally submitting your essay.
DON'T:Rehash what is already stated on your resume. Choose additional, unique stories to tell sell yourself to the scholarship committee.
DON'T:Simply state that you need the money. Even if you have severe financial need, it won’t help to simply ask for the money and it may come off as tacky.

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Saving the Manatees

Prompt: Please give the committee an idea of who you are and why you are the perfect candidate for the scholarship.

It is a cliché to say that I’ve always known what I want to do with my life, but in my case it happens to be true. When I first visited Sea World as a young child, I fell in love with marine animals in general. Specifically, I felt drawn to manatees. I was compelled by their placid and friendly nature. I knew then and there that I wanted to dedicate my life to protecting these beautiful creatures.

Since that day in Orlando, I have spent much of my spare time learning everything there is to know about manatees. As a junior high and high school student, I attempted to read scholarly articles on manatees from scientific journals. I annoyed my friends and family with scientific facts about manatees-- such as that they are close relatives of elephants--at the dinner table. I watched documentaries, and even mapped their migration pattern on a wall map my sister gave me for my birthday.

When I was chosen from hundreds of applicants to take part in a summer internship with Sea World, I fell even more in love with these gentle giants. I also learned a very important and valuable lesson: prior to this internship, I had imagined becoming a marine biologist, working directly with the animals in their care both in captivity and in the wild. However, during the internship, I discovered that this is not where my strengths lie. Unfortunately, I am not a strong student in science or math, which are required skills to become a marine biologist. Although this was a disheartening realization, I found that I possess other strengths can still be of great value to manatees and other endangered marine mammals: my skills as a public relations manager and communicator. During the internship, I helped write new lessons and presentations for elementary school groups visiting the park and developed a series of fun activities for children to help them learn more about manatees as well as conservation of endangered species in general. I also worked directly with the park’s conservation and communication director, and helped develop a new local outreach program designed to educate Floridians on how to avoid hitting a manatee when boating. My supervisor recommended me to the Save the Manatee Foundation so in addition to my full-time internship at Sea World, I interned with the Save the Manatee Foundation part-time. It was there that I witnessed the manatee rescue and conservation effort first hand, and worked directly with the marine biologists in developing fund-raising and awareness-raising campaigns. I found that the foundation’s social media presence was lacking, and, using skills I learned from Sea World, I helped them raise over $5,000 through a Twitter challenge, which we linked to the various social media outlets of the World Wildlife Federation.

While I know that your organization typically awards scholarships to students planning to major in disciplines directly related to conservation such as environmental studies or zoology, I feel that the public relations side of conservation is just as important as the actual work done on the ground. Whether it is reducing one’s carbon footprint, or saving the manatees, these are efforts that, in order to be successful, must involve the larger public. In fact, the relative success of the environmental movement today is largely due to a massive global public relations campaign that turned environmentalism from something scientific and obscure into something that is both fashionable and accessible to just about anyone. However, that success is being challenged more than ever before--especially here in the US, where an equally strong anti-environmental public relations campaign has taken hold. Therefore, conservationists need to start getting more creative.

I want to be a part of this renewed effort and use my natural abilities as a communicator to push back against the rather formidable forces behind the anti-environmentalist movement. I sincerely hope you will consider supporting this non-traditional avenue towards global sustainability and conservation. I have already been accepted to one of the most prestigious communications undergraduate programs in the country and I plan to minor in environmental studies. In addition, I maintain a relationship with my former supervisors at Save the Manatee and Sea World, who will be invaluable resources for finding employment upon graduation. I thank the committee for thinking outside the box in considering my application.

Scholarship Essay Do's and Don'ts

DO:Tell a story. Discuss your personal history and why those experiences have led you to apply for these scholarships.
DO:Write an outline. If you’ve already started writing or have a first draft, make an outline based on what you’ve written so far. This will help you see whether your paragraphs flow and connect with one another.
DON'T:Write a generic essay for every application. Adapt your personal statement for each individual scholarship application.
DO:Run spellcheck and grammar check on your computer but also do your own personal check. Spellcheck isn’t perfect and you shouldn't rely on technology to make your essay perfect.

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Sample Essays

Related Content:

Horace, Ars Poetica 390 . . . most of the available theories of reading, writing, sexuality, ideology, or any other cultural production are built on male narratives.



“Girls Trained in Beautiful Writing”: Female Scribes in Roman Antiquity and Early Christianity* KIM HAINES-EITZEN 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.

. . . nescit vox missa reverti. Horace, Ars Poetica 390 . . . most of the available theories of reading, writing, sexuality, ideology, or any other cultural production are built on male narratives of gender. Teresa de Lauretis, Technologies of Gender

* This paper was first presented at the 1996 American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in New Orleans. I am grateful for the comments and suggestions of audience members, as well as those of the anonymous readers of this journal. The paper also formed a chapter of my doctoral dissertation, and I am appreciative of the helpful remarks of my advisor, Bart D. Ehrman, and the Journal of Early Christian Studies 6:4, 629–646 © 1998 The Johns Hopkins University Press



Ancient texts were remarkably fluid. Their modification, misinterpretation, or misuse could not be prevented, as ancient authors knew well. Horace captures the risks of “publishing” succinctly, and his words—“the word once sent, never returns”—resonated with other ancient writers.1 The responses to the potential for miscarriage varied from expressions of reluctance to write to inclusions of curse formulas and sharp adjurations for any reader or copyist who would tamper with the text.2 Yet all the responses share the recognition that the fluidity and malleability of texts was unavoidable. Ancient texts are similarly susceptible to modern historians, whose interpretations are inevitably constrained and bound by political, social, and cultural contexts.3 Indeed, studies of “cultural production” in antiquity have altogether too often relied upon “male narratives

other committee members: Elizabeth A. Clark, Dale B. Martin, Paul W. Meyer, David C. Parker, and John Van Seters. Finally, I would like to thank especially Ross Kraemer and Robert Kraft, as well as the members of their seminar on early Christianity at the University of Pennsylvania, with whom I shared the initial ideas and research for this paper: Debra Bucher, Jill Gorman, Shira Lander, Susan Marks, Beth Pollard, and Sarah Schwartz. 1. Horace’s well known phrase, “Quod non edideris: nescit vox missa reverti” (Ars poet. 389–90), is echoed in Sulpitius Severus’ preface to his account of St. Martin (Vita, preface). 2. Clement of Alexandria expresses reluctance in the preface to his Stromata; Rev 22.18–19 offers an illustration of a “curse”; the adjurations to copyists and complaints about copyists mistakes are pervasive, but see especially Cicero, Ep. Q. fr. 3.6; Att. 13.23; Martial, Ep. 2.8; Seneca, De ira 2.26; and Rufinus’ translation of Origen’s Per‹ ÉArx«n, preface: Illud sane omnem, qui hos libros uel descripturus est uellecturus, in conspectu Dei Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti contestor atque conuenio per futuri regni fidem, per resurrectionis ex mortuis sacramentum, per illum “qui praeparatus est diabolo et angelis eius aeternum ignem”; sic non illum locum aeterna hereditate possideat, ubi est “fletus et stridor dentium,” et “ubi ignis eorum non extinguetur et uermis eorum non morietur”: ne addat aliquid huic scripturae, ne auferat, ne inserat, ne immutet, sed conferat cum exemplaribus unde scripserit, et emendet ad litteram et distinguat, et inemendatum uel non distinctum codicem non habeat, ne sensuum difficultas, si distinctus codex non sit, maiores obscuritates legentibus generet (CCL 20:247). See further Marc Drogin, Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses (New Jersey: Allanheld, Osmun and co., 1983); Bruce M. Metzger, “Explicit References in the Works of Origen to Variant Readings in New Testament Manuscripts,” in Biblical and Patristic Studies in Memory of Robert Pierce Casey, eds. J. Neville Birdsall and Robert W. Thomson (Freiburg: Herder, 1963), 78–95; idem, “St. Jerome’s Explicit References to Variant Readings in Manuscripts of the New Testament,” in his New Testament Studies: Philological, Versional, and Patristic (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1980), 199–210. 3. Michel de Certeau, The Writing of History, trans. Tom Conley (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 58.



of gender,” as I hope to show in this article by attending to the role of women as scribes and copyists in Roman antiquity and early Christianity. The history of the following passage from Eusebius illustrates well the potential for and realization of erasure and reinscription, and serves as a useful point of departure for a discussion of female scribes in Roman antiquity:4 At that time also Origen’s commentaries on the divine scriptures had their beginning, at the instigation of Ambrose, who not only plied him with innumerable verbal exhortations and encouragements, but also provided him unstintingly with what was necessary. As [Origen] dictated there were ready at hand more than seven shorthand writers (taxugrãfoi), who relieved each other at fixed times, and as many copyists (bibliogrãfoi), as well as girls trained for beautiful writing (kÒraiw °p‹ tÚ kalligrafe›n ±skhm°naiw); for all of these Ambrose supplied without stint the necessary means.5

Throughout antiquity, poets, novelists, and commentators relied upon the system of patronage for financial support; patrons provided writers with the freedom to devote themselves to their craft.6 Ambrose appears to have provided just such support for Origen, both in Alexandria and later in Caesarea. Eusebius’ story further specifies the kinds of secretaries, copyists, and calligraphers that Ambrose placed at the service of Origen. Shorthand writers were commonly employed in households or public settings to write contracts, letters, or memoranda that were dictated to them.7 Copyists could be found in private settings, as well as

4. It is somewhat ambiguous whether this passage pertains to Origen’s situation at Alexandria or that at Caesarea, although the latter is perhaps more likely. According to Eusebius, it was in 232 c.e. that Origen left Alexandria for Caesarea (HE 6.26). HE 6.19 makes it explicit that Origen was still in Alexandria. 5. HE 6.23; I have modified Oulton and Lawlor’s translation in the LCL. 6. On patronage see Peter Garnsey and Richard Saller, The Roman Empire: Economy, Society, and Culture (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), 148– 59, especially 152–54; Richard Saller, Personal Patronage under the Early Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982). 7. On shorthand writing see F. W. G. Foat, “On Old Greek Tachygraphy,” JHS 21 (1901): 238–67; E. M. Thompson, A Handbook of Greek and Latin Palaeography (Chicago: Ares Publishers Inc., 1975), 82–106; E. Randolph Richards, The Secretary in the Letters of Paul (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1989), 26–43; for a useful illustration of the training of a shorthand writer, see the papyrus contract dated to 155 c.e. in which a certain slave named Chaerammon is sent by his master to apprentice with Apollonius, a shmeiogrãfƒ (writer of signs, i.e., shorthand) (P. Oxy. 724).



the more public settings of libraries and bookshops.8 Most striking, however, is the mention of female calligraphers.9 The fate of Eusebius’ record is worth highlighting: it suffers not only at the hands of ancient writers but also those of modern scholars. The first erasure of Eusebius’ remark takes place already with Jerome, for Jerome claims that Ambrose offered Origen, “seven or more shorthand writers (notarii) . . . and an equal number of copyists (librarii).”10 What has happened to the “girls trained in calligraphy”? Modern attempts to restore Eusebius’ account offer little consolation, for these illustrate the ease with which scholars are able to domesticate ancient texts that are somehow unpalatable. Interpretations of Origen’s female calligraphers have illustrated all too well—to use de Lauretis’ notion—the construction of ancient women according to modern “male narratives of gender.” For example, Albert Schramm approves the notion that these girls are the precursors to the modern “type-writing girls” in his 1903 study of stenography in the ancient Church.11 Ancient and moderns readers of Eusebius have not only effaced the presence of “female scribes,” but also offered interpretations that once again uphold a certain “phallic-centered” orthodoxy and sensibility. Nowhere is this more striking than in G. H. Putnam’s account of Eusebius: “Eusebius

8. There is an abundance of material on ancient libraries, though little deals directly and thoroughly with the subject of the scribe employed in libraries. See especially Thomas Keith Dix, “Private and Public Libraries at Rome in the First Century b.c.: A Preliminary Study in the History of Roman Libraries,” Ph.D. diss. (University of Michigan, 1986); Lorne Bruce, “Palace and Villa Libraries from Augustus to Hadrian,” Journal of Library History 21 (1986): 510–52; Kenneth Quinn, “The Poet and his Audience in the Augustan Age,” ANRW 2.30.1 (1982): 75– 180, especially 125ff. For a helpful summary of the literary evidence for bookshops in Roman antiquity see Raymond J. Starr, “The Circulation of Literary Texts in the Roman World,” CQ 37 (1987): 213–23, especially 219–23. 9. It is not my intention here to explore the precise mechanics of copying implied by Eusebius’ remarks. Harry Gamble offers one explanation: “[Origen’s] oral composition was transcribed by trained stenographers; their shorthand transcripts were then converted into full-text exemplars by copyists who could decipher stenographic notes; and from these exemplars female scribes produced fair copies in a good bookhand” (Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995], 120). See also Erwin Preuschen, “Die Stenographie im Leben des Origenes,” Archiv für Stenographie 56 (1905): 6–14, 49–55. 10. Vir. ill. 61 (PL 23:707). 11. Albert Schramm, “Zur Geschichte der Stenographi in der alten Kirche,” Korrespondenzblatt, Amtliche zeitschrift des Koniglichen stenographischen Instituts zu Dresden 48 (1903): 66.



speaks of young maidens whom the learned men of his time employed as copyists.”12 Other modern interpretations of Eusebius’ comments about Origen’s female calligraphers are simply mistaken. Colin Roberts’ remark in the early 1960s—that Eusebius’ comment represents “the earliest known instance of woman’s invasion of the book trade”13—is problematized by the appearance of female scribes centuries before Origen. Later, in Roberts’ Cambridge History of the Bible entry on the transmission of early Christian literature—an article still widely quoted—Roberts explains Eusebius’ account as “the first reference on record to the employment of women stenographers.”14 As we shall see, both epigraphic and literary evidence offer a direct challenge to Roberts’ stance. The claim that Origen’s female calligraphers were somehow novel or unique misreads the evidence. Eusebius’ illustration or “representation” of the means by which ancient writers, particularly those as fortunate as Origen, composed and transmitted their work, offers no indication that the presence of “girls trained in calligraphy” was unusual or remarkable. But what Eusebius takes for granted requires us to ask: What, precisely, did these female calligraphers do? To what extent were women involved in the transmission of literature in antiquity? Were the “girls trained in calligraphy” a common feature of ancient life? How were these girls trained? Did ancient women occasionally hold professional positions as scribes, secretaries, record keepers, copyists, and shorthand writers? If so, can we determine precisely which women participated in the transmission of literature? Were they urban or rural? Slave, freed, or free? Upper or lower class? Young or old? Furthermore, what are the implications of women’s involvement for our understanding of the transmission of literature in antiquity? And finally, the question at the fore of my discussion here, is it possible that some of our earliest Christian manuscripts were copied by women? This essay represents a preliminary attempt to grapple with these questions. The representation of “woman” as professional scribe in 12. George Haven Putnam, Books and Their Makers During the Middle Ages, vol.␣ 1 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1896), 53, emphasis mine. 13. Buried Books in Antiquity: Habent Sua Fata Libelli. Arundell Esdaile Memorial Lecture, 1962 (London: The Library Association, 1963), 15, emphasis mine. 14. “Books in the Graeco-Roman World and in the New Testament,” The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 1: From the Beginnings to Jerome (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 65, emphasis mine.



antiquity is rare, but undeniably present in the inscriptionary records, ancient literature, and pictorial illustrations. The purpose of this paper is to contextualize Eusebius’ account by outlining and then assessing the evidence for female scribes in antiquity. Where appropriate and possible, the paper seeks additionally to compare how the roles and professions of female scribes differed from those of male scribes, particularly with regard to the copying of ancient literature.15 Finally, I will turn to the evidence for women copying texts in the context of early Christian monasticism. Until now, scholars have not taken seriously the possibility that women were involved in transmitting ancient literature generally or early Christian literature in particular. I. ROMAN-PERIOD EVIDENCE FOR FEMALE SCRIBES Most of the evidence for female scribes in the Roman period is epigraphic. We have some eleven Latin inscriptions from Rome that identify women as “scribes.”16 In these inscriptions we meet with Hapate, a shorthand writer of Greek (notariae Grece) who lived twentyfive years (CIL 6.33892); Corinna, who was a storeroom clerk or scribe, cell(ariae) libr(ariae) (CIL 6.3979); and Tyche, Herma, and Plaetoriae, all three of whom are identified as amanuenses (CIL 6.9541; CIL 6.7373; CIL 6.9542). We also find four women who are identified by the title libraria, a term that not only denoted a clerk or secretary, but also more specifically a literary copyist.17 Among those identified as librariae 15. I have offered more extensive comparisons between female and male scribes in my doctoral dissertation, “Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature” (The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1997). 16. The eleven that I have counted are: CIL 6.3979, 7373, 8882, 9301, 9525, 9540, 9541, 9542, 33892, 37757, 37802. To the best of my knowledge this is a comprehensive list. In compiling this list, I initially drew from the list in Susan Treggiari, “Jobs for Women,” AJAH 1 (1976): 76–104, esp. 78; see also Natalie Kampen, Image and Status: Roman Working Women in Ostia (Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1981), 118; and Mary R. Lefkowitz and Maureen B. Fant, Women’s Life in Greece and Rome (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 223. Epigraphic evidence is notoriously difficult to date precisely in the absence of dates or recognizable historical figures in the inscriptions themselves. The Latin inscriptions discussed here appear to date to the first century b.c.e.-second century c.e. 17. Throughout Cicero’s letters to Atticus, for example, it is quite clear that not only did the librarii write letters that Cicero (and Atticus) dictated to them (Att. 4.16; 6.6; 8.13) but they also were responsible for making copies of letters and other literary works (Att. 12.40; 13.21a), editing and correcting these copies (Att. 12.6a; 13.45), keeping records (Att. 7.3), and maintaining Cicero’s various libraries (Att. 4.4a). For a brief but helpful discussion of librarii, see J. J. Phillips, “The Publication



is Magia, a libraria who died at the age of eighteen (CIL 6.9301); Pyrrhe, simply identified as a libraria (CIL 6.9525); a freedwoman who remains nameless in the inscription, but is identified as a libraria (CIL 6.8882); and Vergilia Euphrosyne, another freed libraria (CIL 6.37802). In some cases, we know about the women in the inscriptions from other sources. For example, a certain Grapte is identified in one inscription as the amanuensis of Egnatia Maximilla—a woman who, according to Tacitus,18 accompanied her husband, Glitius Gallus, when he was exiled by Nero. Furthermore, we know that this Egnatia Maximilla had a substantial personal fortune;19 it should not be surprising, therefore, that she had her own personal amanuensis. In addition to these Latin inscriptions, two Greek inscriptions are useful: an inscription from Tralles identifies a woman as a grammateÊsas[a];20 and an inscription located near the gymnasium at Pergamum identifies, among the girls who were successful in the contests, one girl as a kalligraf¤a.21 It is here that we find a rather close connection with Eusebius’ record, for this inscription suggests similarly that there were “girls trained in beautiful writing.”22 What information can we glean from our collection of Latin and Greek inscriptions? First, class. At least six “scribes”—four amanuenses, the writer of Greek shorthand, and one libraria—in the Latin inscrip-

of Books at Rome in the Classical Period,” Ph.D. diss. (Yale University, 1981), 23–31; most recently see M. McDonnell, “Writing, Copying, and Autograph Manuscripts in Ancient Rome,” CQ 46 (1996): 469–91. 18. Ann. 15.71. 19. That was taken away from her, according to Tacitus, when she went into exile. 20. Papers of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens 2 (1888), no. 390. It must be admitted that the precise meaning of this inscription is unclear due to its fragmentary nature: AÈrhl¤aw EÈfrosun[h. . . . grammateÊsaw. . . . touto. . . . kaye¤druse tÚn. For the reconstruction of grammateÊsasa and the suggestion that this inscription may refer to a woman holding the post of a grammateÊw, see David Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor to the End of the Third Century After Christ, vol.␣ 1 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950), 1519 n. 50. 21. Mitteilungen des kaiserlich deutschen archäologischen Instituts 35 (1910), no.␣ 20. 22. Although Mary R. Lefkowitz and Maureen B. Fant offer a translation of another text in which a woman is identified as “scribe” (Women’s Life in Greece and Rome: A Source Book in Translation, 220), upon a closer look at the papyrus text it appears that they have too loosely translated bubliafÒrow (papyrus carrier) as “scribe.” Furthermore, the editors of the papyrus itself claim that we cannot be certain that we have a female bubliafÒrow in the text (CPR XIII, Griechische Texte IX, ed. H. Harrauer [1987], 57–58).



tions appear to refer to women who were slaves. Two inscriptions quite clearly refer to freedwomen, both of whom are librariae. With the remainder, we cannot be sure whether the women are slaves or freedpersons. In five of the inscriptions, approximately half, it appears that the husbands—or, more precisely, the contubernales—of these scribes and secretaries set up the inscription on their behalf.23 None of these inscriptions, perhaps not surprisingly, record children of these women.24 That these women seem to be either slaves or freedwomen resonates well with what we know about librarii more generally: with the exception of high-level officials who held scribal titles, scribes in the Greco-Roman world were normally slaves or freedpersons.25 With the exception of the shorthand writer in Greek and the storeroom clerk, it is difficult to determine precisely the nature of these female scribes’ work. It may be that those identified as a manu or amanuenses were, as Susan Treggiari has suggested, “employed primarily for writing letters, as personal secretaries, while librariae had more general clerical functions.”26 Unfortunately, however, the evidence itself does not provide this information. Furthermore, when we compare the titles of our female “scribes” to their male counterparts (the notarius, the librarius, and so forth) we find that these “scribes” did more than clerical work; they are not infrequently involved in the copying of literature.27 It is also worth noticing that all of these inscriptions derive from urban areas. Is this simply the result of the serendipitous survival of evidence? Or is it perhaps indicative of the locations where female scribes more generally were to be found? When we note the uniformly urban context of the inscriptions, and the absence of female scribes in rural contexts— for which our evidence is admittedly less than adequate—or the papyri

23. On the presence of contubernales in Roman inscriptions, see especially Susan Treggiari, “Contubernales in CIL 6,” Phoenix 35 (1981): 42–69. 24. Perhaps, as Natalie Kampen and others have suggested, “because of the tendency to commemorate more frequently women who die young than those who die in middle and old age” (Image and Status, 118). 25. See the references to freedmen librarii throughout Cicero’s letters (e.g., Tiro, of course, is Cicero’s freedman who acted as his personal secretary and scribe; see also Att. 13.33 where the librarius Philotimus is identified as a freedman). See also E. J. Kenney, “Books and Readers in the Roman World,” in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature, vol. 2: Latin Literature, eds. E. J. Kenney and W. V. Clausen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 3–32, especially 20; McDonnell, “Writing, Copying, and Autograph Manuscripts,” passim. 26. Treggiari, “Jobs for Women,” 78. 27. In addition to n. 17 above, see Cicero, Agr. 2.13; Cornelius Nepos, Att. 13.3; Martial 2.8.



from the towns of Upper Egypt, the urban context becomes meaningful. Furthermore, these inscriptions, when they are specific on this point, indicate that these female scribes worked for female masters. Such a scenario is particularly plausible in an urban setting. Among the urban upper classes of the Roman period, literate women were commonplace;28 additionally, as Roger Bagnall has suggested, there was a “correlation between the social standing that guaranteed literacy and the means [i.e., employment of scribes] to avoid writing.”29 In this light, the appearance of female scribes in urban contexts employed by upper-class women becomes quite sensible. That female scribes appear in urban contexts in the service of upper-class women is supported by two—and, so far as I have been able to determine, the only two—literary references to female scribes. First, according to Suetonius’ account of Vespasian, when Vespasian’s wife (Flavia Domitilla) died, “he resumed his relations with Caenis, freedwoman and amanuensis of Antonia [Antoniae libertam et a manu], and formerly his mistress.”30 This anecdotal description of Caenis fits well with the information from our Latin inscriptions: a freedwoman who was employed as an amanuensis by another woman. The second literary reference requires more careful analysis. In his well-known Book Six of the Satires, Juvenal catalogues with characteristic ruthless mockery the ways of wives. In the following passage he satirizes the well-to-do lady who idles away her days unjustly punishing her slaves if her husband rejects her sexual advances: If the husband has turned his back upon his wife at night, the libraria is done for. The slaves who dress their mistresses will be stripped of their tunics; the Liburnian will be accused of coming late, and will have to pay for another man’s [i.e., the husband’s] drowsiness; one will have a rod broken over his back, another will be bleeding from a strap, a third from the cat; some women engage their executioners by the year. While the flogging goes on, the lady will be daubing her face, or listening to her lady-friends, or inspecting the widths of a gold-embroidered robe. While thus flogging and flogging, she reads the lengthy Gazette, written right across the page, till at last, the floggers being exhausted, and the inquisition ended, she thunders out a gruff “Be off with you!”31

28. William Harris, Ancient Literacy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989), 252, 270, 314, passim. 29. Reading Papyri, Writing Ancient History (London: Routledge, 1995), 25. 30. Vesp. 3. 31. Satires 6.475–85.



Crucial for my purposes is the very beginning of the passage where Juvenal indicates that the lady’s libraria will suffer her mistress’ temper. Scholars have been loath to translate this term as “clerk,” or “scribe,” or, even less, “copyist,” and have rather argued that here the term libraria is essentially the same as lanipendia, the slave who was responsible for weighing and doling out the wool to the slave wool workers. The scholarly reluctance appears to derive from the ancient Scholia gloss in which the term libraria is replaced with lanipendia.32 Furthermore, scholars have argued that the context supports this interpretation. And finally, some have pointed to etymological reasons for the gloss: it is possible that libraria derives not from the root liber, meaning book, but from libra, a unit of weight, and hence leads to the interpretation of “one who weighs out the wool” (i.e., the lanipendia).33 Each of these arguments, however, is problematic: ancient scholia must be assessed on an individual basis, since it is just as possible that an ancient scribe or copyist has mistakenly—intentionally or unintentionally—glossed a word, as that he (or she) has preserved a good reading. Furthermore, there is nothing in the context that inherently suggests one interpretation over against another: we know that libraria were among the personal servants of wealthy women, and this passage appears essentially to produce a list of various slaves. And finally, most problematic in my opinion, is that if libraria means lanipendia in this passage, it would represent the sole instance in all of Latin literature where this interchange is made.34 Essentially there are no controls on such a

32. The LCL translates libraria here as wool maid. According to E. Courtney’s commentary on the Satires, S—which represents the ancient Scholia preserved in P (the main manuscript used for the LCL text)—understood the use of libraria as the equivalent of lanipendia (“who weighs out the pensum to the female slaves”): E.␣ Courtney, A Commentary on the Satires of Juvenal (London: Athlone Press, 1980), 324. John Ferguson likewise adopts the lanipendia interpretation, but admits the this interchange occurs nowhere else: “libraria . . . the servant who weighs out the wool for the workers, only here in literature, elsewhere called lanipendia” (John Ferguson, Juvenal: The Satires [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979], 206). The OLD does not suggest such an interchange of terms. 33. R. F. Rossi offers a useful discussion of the Juvenal passage, but he is overconfident in his explanation of libraria as meaning lanipendia (“Librarius,” Dizionario epigrafico di antichita romane, 4 [Rome, 1958]: 956). Part of his argument depends on a lack of evidence for female copyists, a point that I am contesting in this essay: “Bisogna anche aggiungere che sembra meno sicuramente demonstrata l’esistenze di donne copiste o scrivane designate col termine libraria” (956). 34. John Ferguson admits this point: Juvenal, 206.



replacement, and therefore I would argue that Juvenal also attests to female slaves who were trained as clerks, secretaries, or copyists, and were in the service of female masters. To the inscriptions and literary references we can add one final piece of Roman-period evidence for female scribes: an early-second-century marble relief from Rome that preserves an illustration of a female record keeper or clerk. The woman is seated on a high-backed chair and appears to be writing on some kind of a tablet; she faces the butcher who is chopping meat at a table.35 It strikes me as particularly interesting that among the few Roman-period visual illustrations of scribes or clerks, one depicts a woman.36 Furthermore, it suggests that the employment of female scribes was not exclusively restricted to female employers, for here we have a vivid portrait of a female scribe working for a male butcher. It may well be, as some have suggested, that librariae could do “freelance” work beyond the household in which they were primarily employed.37 That some women, or girls, of slave and lower-class status were trained as clerks, secretaries, and shorthand writers seems clear from the evidence I have just discussed. These women must have had a certain degree of literacy and training, which they probably received by apprenticeship and/or training with a tutor in the household in which they worked. But have we found any clear indication that female scribes were involved in copying literary texts? Although nowhere is this task specifically mentioned, we cannot rule out this possibility. As I have said, the masculine counterparts to our female scribes, the male librarius in particular, are frequently found to denote male slaves and freedpersons who did copy texts. Furthermore, as I will show, there is explicit evidence for women copying texts within the context of the rise of monasticism in early Christian ascetic circles. Before turning to the late-ancient context of women’s monasticism, I

35. For this description see Kampen, Image and Status, 157 and figure 45. 36. For Roman-period archaeological and artistic evidence for scribes, see especially H.-␣ I. Marrou, MOUSIKOS ANHR: Étude sur les scènes de la vie intellectuelle figurant sur les monuments funéraires romains (Rome: “L’Erma” di Bretschneider, 1964), 149, no. 189; George M. Parássoglou, “DEJIA XEIR KAI GONU: Some Thoughts on the Postures of the Ancient Greeks and Romans When Writing on Papyrus Rolls,” Scrittura e cività 3 (1979): 5–21; idem, “A Roll upon his Knees,” Yale Classical Studies 28 (1985): 273–75; Bruce M. Metzger, “When did Scribes Begin to Use Writing Desks?” in New Testament Tools and Studies, vol. 8: Historical and Literary Studies: Pagan, Jewish, Christian (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 123–37. 37. Kampen, Image and Status, 118.



want very briefly to point out that the Roman evidence is not anomalous in the history of the Mediterranean and Ancient Near East. It may be useful simply to list some of the earlier evidence: at Mari we know of some ten female scribes by name;38 at Sippar the cloister of the celibate naditu women attests fourteen female scribes;39 in Middle and New Kingdom Egypt we find the title “female scribe” on ostraca and seals;40 in Theban tombs there are depictions of women seated with scribal implements under their chairs;41 and a 26th Dynasty tomb also attests the title “female scribe.”42 These examples, not exhaustive of the available evidence,43 show that the Roman period evidence accords well with what we find in earlier periods:44 not only do we find the attestation of “female scribes”; they also appear to have used their skill to serve other women;45 furthermore, as with the Roman evidence, female scribes appear to have been slaves or, at the very least, low-class women.46

38. Samuel A. Meier mentions nine: “Women and Communication in the Ancient Near East,” JAOS 111 (1991): 542; Laurie E. Pearce suggests “at least ten women scribes are known” at Mari (“The Scribes and Scholars of Ancient Mesopotamia,” in Civilizations of the Ancient Near East 4 [New York: MacMillan, 1995], 2266). 39. Meier’s count (“Women and Communication,” 542); the earlier article of Rivkah Harris (“The Organization and Administration of the Cloister in Ancient Babylonia,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 6 [1963]: 121– 57) lists eight by name. 40. See Betsy M. Bryan, “Evidence for Female Literacy from Theban Tombs of the New Kingdom,” Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar 6 (1985): 17–32; and John Baines and C. J. Eyre, “Four Notes on Literacy,” Göttinger Miszellen 61 (1983): 65– 96, esp. 81ff. 41. Bryan, “Evidence for Female Literacy,” passim. 42. Bryan, “Evidence for Female Literacy,” 18. 43. A Greek papyrus from third-century Egypt, for example, also identifies a woman as a shepherdess, scribe, and fuller (Lefkowitz and Fant, Women’s Life in Greece and Rome, 220; identified there as BGU VI 129.11; Michigan papyrus iv.23.G). 44. Again, this evidence is not without methodological and interpretational problems. In fact, some scholars have argued that the the “female scribes” depictions from Egypt actually represent women cosmeticians, perhaps an interpretation more palatable to some modern historians who cannot fathom the appearance of women in a realm traditionally occupied by men (see the views of G. Posener, as discussed by Betsy Bryan, “Evidence for Female Literacy,” passim). 45. They served the “documentational needs of other women in their society” (Pearce, “The Scribes and Scholars of Ancient Mesopotamia,” 2265). 46. Rivkah Harris, “The Female ‘Sage’ in Mesopotamian Literature (with an Appendix on Egypt),” in The Sage in Israel and the Ancient Near East, eds. John G. Gammie and Leo G. Perdue (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 7.



II. FEMALE COPYISTS AND CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM It is in the period after Eusebius’ description of Origen’s scribal resources that we find our clearest evidence for women copying texts. With the rise of Christian monasticism, references to women learning how to read and write, as well as copying texts, become increasingly frequent.47 I will discuss here three illustrations of women as copyists in early Christianity.48

Melania the Younger In the mid-fifth-century hagiographic account of Melania the Younger (ca. 383–439), Gerontius describes her religious zeal as follows: The blessed woman read the Old and New Testaments three or four times a year. She copied them herself and furnished copies to the saints by her own hands. ÉAneg¤nvsken d¢ ≤ makar¤a tØn m¢n palaiån ka‹ kainØn diayÆkhn toË §niautoË tr¤ton ± t°tarton, (ka‹) kalligrafoËsa tÚ aÎtarkew pare›xen to›w èg¤oiw §k t«n fid¤vn xeir«n Ípode¤gmata.49

In this passage it is not entirely clear whether Melania furnished these copies for use in her monastery for women, or whether they were intended for both her monastery for men and the one for women.50 The use of to›w ègio›w may suggest that her copies were intended for an audience beyond the women in her monastery.51 Particularly significant is

47. Our richest source for Christian women reading and studying texts is the corpus of Jerome’s letters; see especially the well known letter to Laeta on the education of her daughter (Ep. 107). The recent study of Philip Rousseau on the subject of educated women in early Christianity offers a helpful summary of literary evidence, but does not engage with modern scholarship on the subject, nor offer any innovative arguments (“‘Learned Women’ and the Development of a Christian Culture in Late Antiquity,” Symbolae Osloenses 70 [1995]: 116–47). 48. To the best of my knowledge, these three illustrations offer the only evidence outside of Eusebius’ remarks for women copying texts in early Christianity. The cases of Melania the Younger and Caesaria the Younger are, of course, found within the specialized setting of women’s monasticism. In the medieval period, the evidence for women copying texts in such settings becomes more frequent. 49. Life, 26. The Greek text and translation in taken from Elizabeth A. Clark, The Life of Melania the Younger (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1984), 12 and 46. I am aware of the debate over the precise Greek text here, but agree with Clark’s argument for the priority of the Greek text (12). 50. On her building projects, see Clark, Life, 115–19. 51. We know that some ascetic women did provide books for men. For example, Marcella figures prominently as a book owner and book lender throughout Jerome’s letters (e.g., Ep. 47 and Ep. 49.4); see also Eusebius’ record of Juliana supplying



the term that is used here to describe Melania’s copying: kalligrafoËsa. Recall Eusebius’ use of the very same verb to describe Origen’s female calligraphers. That this term could be used to denote copying underscores the problem of modern interpretations of Eusebius. Furthermore, Gerontius’ story indicates that he found it plausible that women in monasteries in fifth-century Palestine indeed copied texts. We should note the inversion of the paradigm of scribe as low class; here Melania’s copying is used precisely to show her ascetic devotion (i.e., to raise her “status”).

Caesaria the Younger That monastic women in late antiquity copied texts is supported by the somewhat later account of Caesaria at her convent in Arles: [When Caesarius’] sister, holy Caesaria [the Elder], mother of the monastery, passed on to the rewards of Christ . . . she was succeeded as mother [superior] by Caesaria [the Younger], who is still alive. Her work with her companions is so outstanding that in the midst of psalms and fasts, vigils and readings, the virgins of Christ beautifully copy out the holy books, with their mother herself as teacher. Non multo igitur post monasterii matrem germanam suam Caesariam sanctam, ad praemia Christi migrantem . . . succedente eidem quae nunc superest, Caesaria matre, cujus opus cum sodalibus tam praecipuum viget, ut inter psalmos atque jejunia, vigilias quoque et lectiones, libros divinos pulchre scriptitent virgines Christi, ipsam magistram habentes.52

This testimony, from sixth-century Gaul, suggests the same practice of monastic women copying scriptures as the account of Melania’s life.53 Here we have the added information that the abbess herself taught the women how to copy texts—a useful clue to the education of female scribes.

Origen with Symmachus’ works (HE 6.17). For a later period, see Susan Groag Bell, “Medieval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambassadors of Culture,” Signs 7 (1982): 742–68. 52. Life of Caesarius 1.58 (PL 67:1022). On the issues of date and author, see William E. Klingshirn, trans., Caesarius of Arles: Life, Testament, Letters (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1994), 1. I have here quoted from Klingshirn’s translation. 53. Caesaria’s rule for the nuns at Arles included that “no nun be allowed to enter who does not learn letters” (see Peter Dronke, Women Writers of the Middle Ages: A Critical Study of Texts from Perpetua [203] to Marguerite Porete [1320] [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984], 28).



“Thecla” and the Codex Alexandrinus A third, and my final, illustration brings us closer to early Christian manuscripts and approaches the existence of female scribes from a different angle. Interlaced with the history of the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus winds a rather mysterious and provocative tradition. Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Constantinople who sent this codex to Charles I in 1627, attached a note to the beginning of the Codex that reads as follows: This book of the sacred scriptures, New and Old Testaments, according to the tradition we have, has been written by the hand of Thecla, the noble Egyptian woman, approximately 1300 years ago, shortly after the council of Nicea. The name of Thecla had been written at the end of the book, but because of the annihilation of the Christians in Egypt by the Muslims, other books of the Christians are similarly in disrepair. And so the name of Thecla was torn off and destroyed, but the memory and the tradition are observed recently. Liber iste scripturae sacrae N. et V. Testament, prout ex traditione habemus, est scriptus manu Theclae, nobilis foeminae Aegyptiae, ante mile et trecentos annos circiter, paulo post concilium Nicenum. Nome Theclae, in fine libri erat exaratum, sed extincto Christianismo in Aegypto a Mahometanis, et libri una Christianorum in similem sunt reducti conditione. Extinctum ergo est Theclae nomen et laceratum, sed memoria et traditio recens observat.54

What can we make of Cyril’s record? He suggests that before the end of the manuscript was destroyed, the name of a scribe “Thecla” was written in a colophon at the end. Indeed, there are a number of leaves missing at the end of the second Epistle of Clement, the last text in the codex.55 In addition to Cyril’s memorandum, we find an Arabic note, dated to the thirteenth or fourteenth century, on the second page of the table of contents at the very beginning of the codex. This marginal note reads, “They say that this book was written by the hand of Thecla, the martyr.”56 Sir Thomas Roe, who delivered the manuscript from Cyril to

54. This note is found on the first leaf of the codex; see the photographic facsimile by Helen and Kirsopp Lake, Codex Sinaiticus Petropolitanus, 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1911–22). 55. The table of contents at the beginning lists the apocryphal Psalms of Solomon as concluding the volume and coming after II Clement. 56. It appears that Bentley was responsible for the translation inscribed just beneath the Arabic note: “Memorant hunc librum scriptus fuisse manu Thecla Martyris” (The Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Alexandrinus [London: British Museum, 1955], 36).



Charles I, appears to have received two different stories from Cyril: on one occasion he said that the manuscript was written by Thecla the “protomartyr in the time of Paul”; later, however, he said that Cyril had told him it was written by Thecla, the addressee of some of Gregory Nazianzen’s letters.57 Most scholars have simply dismissed the tradition of “Thecla” as scribe of Alexandrinus. Indeed, beyond the Arabic note, Cyril’s memorandum, and Roe’s comments about the tradition, there is no concrete evidence whatsoever to support the tradition of “Thecla,” whoever she may have been, as the scribe of this codex. But the evidence does raise questions: Did the codex in its original form contain a colophon that named a female scribe? Or, more plausibly, did an oral tradition somehow emerge that associated this codex with “Thecla”? Indeed, we know that Thecla, the “legendary heroine” of the Apocryphal Acts, quickly became a monument and model for women ascetics. Even those Christians who did not take up the ascetic life found it desirable to name their daughters “Thecla.” What strikes me as most significant in the Thecla-Alexandrinus tradition is that nowhere is the plausibility of a female scribe questioned. Indeed, even Wettstein, in his Prolegomena of 1730, suspected the work of a female scribe. Why? Because, he said, the codex was so full of mistakes!58 Lest we find Wettstein’s reasoning persuasive, I should add that the monks at St. Catherine’s in Sinai at the end of the nineteenth century proudly displayed a psalter that they claimed was written by “Thecla,” and when all of its twelve leaves were carefully examined (“under a microscope”), they were found to be completely error-free.59

57. See A Dictionary of Christian Biography (London: J. Murray, 1877–87), 4:897. I have unfortunately been unable to consult Roe’s letters (Negotiations in Embassy to Ottoman Porte, 335: letter 241, 30 Jan 1625; 618: letter 448, 27 Feb 1627). 58. Imperitior fuit librarius, vel ut cum aliis suspicor libraria femina, quoted by C.␣ L. Julbert-Powell, John James Wettstein, 1693–1754 (London: SPCK, 1938), 101. Other explanations have been offered: Tischendorf apparently considered as a possibility that the Thecla referred to was the Thecla with whom Gregory of Nazianazus corresponded, but this would have been earlier than Alexandrinus can properly be dated; Tregelles sought an explanation in the fact that in the New Testament the extant text began with the lectionary reading of Mt 25.6, the lesson in the Greek Church for the festival of St. Thecla, but this does not take into account that the Arabic numeration, which is itself later than the Arabic note about Thecla, begins with the number 26, “so that the twenty-five leaves now lost must have been still extant when that note was written” (Scrivener, Plain Introduction, 102). 59. The only reference I have found for this is in Agnes Smith Lewis, Select Narratives of Holy Women, Studia Sinaitica, no. 10 (London: C. J. Clay and Sons,



When the Thecla-Alexandrinus tradition, for which we have only late attestation, is seen in light of Origen’s calligraphers, Melania’s calligraphic copying, Caesaria who trained her virgins to produce beautiful copies, as well as the evidence for female scribes more generally in the Mediterranean world, the suggestion that some of our earliest Christian manuscripts may have been copied by women becomes comprehensible and plausible. Such a proposal has implications for our understanding of the transmission of literature in antiquity, and early Christian texts in particular. For how can we trace the dynamic life of texts if we cannot restore something of the identity of those responsible for copying these texts? Indeed, knowledge of the transmitters themselves is of utmost importance.60 We cannot dismiss ancient scribes as “mere copyists”;61 the laments of ancient writers and studies of modern scholars draw us to the opposite conclusion.62 Scribes and copyists—as readers and writers who were embodied socially, culturally, and religiously—played an integral

1900), xiii. Although there is evidence that women were on the whole less literate and less educated than men throughout antiquity, there is nothing to suggest that when they were educated or trained to write, that their level of ability was inferior. On the general subject of women’s education, see F. A. Beck, “The Schooling of Girls in Ancient Greece,” Classicum 9 (1978): 1–9; Susan Cole, “Could Greek Women Read and Write?” in Reflections of Women in Antiquity, ed. Helen P. Foley (New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1981), 219–45; Susan Pomeroy, “‘Technikai kai Mousikai’: The Education of Women in the Fourth Century and in the Hellenistic Period,” AJAH 2 (1977): 51–68. 60. This argument is discussed more fully in my dissertation, “Literacy, Power, and the Transmitters of Early Christian Literature” (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1997). 61. As does Robin Lane Fox with regard to early Christian scribes (“Literacy and Power in Early Christianity,” in Literacy and Power in the Ancient World, eds. Alan K. Bowman and Greg Woolf [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994], 131). 62. Jerome’s comments are particularly illuminating: “If then you find errors or omissions which interfere with the sense, these you must impute not to me but to your servants; they are due to the ignorance or carelessness of the copyists, who write down not what they find but what they take to be the meaning, and do but expose their own mistakes when they try to correct those of others” (Ep. 71; translation is from NPNF 6:153, emphasis mine). Modern textual critics have become increasingly attuned to the ways in which individual copyists altered their texts in accordance with their beliefs. See, e.g., the comments of James E. G. Zetzel, Latin Textual Criticism in Antiquity (New York: Arno Press, 1981), 254; Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); see also Roger E. Stoddard, “Morphology and the Book From an American Perspective,” Printing History 17 (1990): 2–14; and Roger Chartier, The Order of Books, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 9ff.



role in the (re)production and (re)creation of ancient texts. Attention to the ancient representation of women as scribes restores not only Eusebius’ account, therefore, but also an aspect of the history of women that has all too often been overlooked, and a facet to the identity and role of ancient scribes and copyists. Kim Haines-Eitzen is Assistant Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University

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