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The letters of Saint Jerome are an essential source for our knowledge of Christian life in the 4th-5th centuries; they also provide insight into one of the most striking and complex personalities of the time. Jerome's loving encouragement of his friends alternates with fierce invective against his enemies. His reaction to Alaric's sack of Rome shows ambiguity similar to his guilty feelings about continually quoting pagan classics. Seven of the eighteen letters in this selection deal with a primary interest of Jerome's: the morals and proper role of women. Three of these give elaborate portraits of women in marriage; two are concerned with the education of girls; one instructs a widow on maintaining her chastity. The most famous letter here fervently extols virginity.
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