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Melania, a Roman Lady
Wace's Dictionary of Early Christian Biography
Melania (1) , a Roman lady of Spanish extraction, daughter of Marcellinus, who had been consul; born c. 350. Her husband died when she was only 22 years old, leaving her with three children, of whom two died immediately after their father. Full of ascetic enthusiasm, she rejoiced to be now more free to serve Christ, left her son to the charge of the urban praetor, and, though winter was beginning, sailed for the East (Hieron. Ep. xxxix. 4; Chron. Ann. 377, vol. viii. ed. Vall.), c. 372. She seems to have been acquainted with Jerome and his friends, who at that time formed an ascetic society at Aquileia. Her slave Hylas accompanied Jerome to Syria (Hieron. Ep. iii. 3), and Rufinus, from whom Jerome had then recently separated ( ib. ), was with her in 374 in Egypt, and possibly in Palestine (ib. iv. 2). During their stay in Egypt the persecution of the orthodox by Valens arose. Rufinus was imprisoned. Melania, who had only been in Egypt six months, went with a large body of exiled bishops, clergy, and anchorets to a place near Diocaesarea in Palestine, where she supported them at her own expense. Apparently she was joined by Rufinus after a time, and they went together to Jerusalem. There she established herself at the Mount of Olives, where, says Jerome ( Chron. a.d. 377, properly 375), she was such a wonderful example of virtues, and especially of humility, that she received the name of Thecla. She formed a community of 50 virgins and was the means of reconciling to the church a large body of heretics called Πνευματομάχοι . Her house was open to all. Amongst those who visited her was EVAGRIUS, whom she persuaded to embrace the monastic life (a.d. 388). She knew John bp. of Jerusalem intimately, and no doubt shared with Rufinus in the friendship of Jerome and Paula when they settled at Bethlehem in 386, and afterwards in his contention with them. In 397 she returned with Rufinus to Italy, to confirm her granddaughter Melania the Younger in the practice of asceticism. She was received by Paulinus at Nola with great honour, and brought him a piece of the true cross set in gold, sent by John bp. of Jerusalem. She took up her abode at Rome, where she no doubt assisted Rufinus through the controversy as to his translation of Origen's works. She lived probably with her son Publicola and his wife Albina and their two children, the younger Publicola, and the younger Melania, with her husband Pinianus. Palladius, when he came to Rome to plead the cause of Chrysostom, stayed with them. She desired to induce her granddaughter Melania and Pinianus to take vows of separation, and was much displeased that, though willing to vow continency, they would not separate from each other's society. In her vehement enthusiasm she spoke of her conflicts with those who resisted her asceticism as "fighting against wild beasts." In 408, Italy being threatened with the invasion of Alaric, and her son Publicola having died, she determined to leave Rome. Rufinus, having quitted Aquileia on the death of his father, went with her and her daughter-in-law Albina, the younger Publicola, Melania and Pinianus. She had been to Africa in 400 with a letter from Paulinus to Augustine (Aug. Ep. xiv.), and it was now determined that she should go to Sicily and thence to Africa, in both which countries she had estates. In Sicily Rufinus died. She passed on to Africa with the others; and, after vainly attempting to induce Melania and Pinianus to embrace the monastic state, went on to her former habitation on the Mount of Olives, and 40 days after died, aged 60. Palladius, Hist. Laus. c. 118; Paulinus, Epp. 29, 31, 45, 94.
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Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Melania, a Roman Lady'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hwd/​m/melania-a-roman-lady.html. 1911.