Christianity introduced a new moral epoch in the course of human history. Its effect was necessarily transforming upon those who came under its sway. Being cosmopolitan in its nature, we have now to study woman as being somewhat dissociated from racial type and national manner, and we shall seek to ascertain how she met and was modified by Christian conditions. These had a larger effect upon her life than upon that of man; for, by its nature, Christianity gave an opening for the higher possibilities of her being of which the old religions took little account. In the realm of the spiritual, it, for the first time, assented to her equality with man. That the women of the first Christian centuries submitted themselves to the influence of that religion in a varying degree, the following pages will abundantly show. And it will be seen that in the many instances where the Christian doctrine was not permitted to dominate the life, the dissimilarity of those women from their prototypes in former heathendom is correspondingly lessened. While it is not possible to treat this subject without illustrating the above-mentioned fact, the authors beg to remind the reader that this is distinctively a historical and not a religious work. Though, under other circumstances, they would be very willing to state positive views in regard to many questions herein suggested, it is not within the province of this book to defend or refute any religious institution. The aim is solely and impartially to represent the life of the Christian women of the first ages.
Though this is a work of collaboration, Mr. Brittain is solely responsible for the part of the book treating of the women of the Western Roman Empire, and Mr. Carroll is solely responsible for that discussing the women of the Eastern Roman and Byzantine Empires. Differences of personal characteristics, based upon dissimilarity of national temperament, reveal themselves in these women of Rome and Constantinople, but the Christian principle, through its transforming and elevating influence on the lives of pagan women, gives unity to the volume, and presents a type of womanhood far superior to any that had up to this time been produced by the Orient or early Greece or ancient Rome.