From Queens to Slaves: Pope Gregory's Special Concern for Women

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From Queens to Slaves: Pope Gregory's Special Concern for Women. By John R. C. Martyn. (Newcastle upon Tyne, England: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011. Pp. ix, 222. $59.99.)

For gender and church scholars especially, From Queens to Slaves does more than its predecessor, Pope Gregory and the Brides of Christ, even if the former contains nearly all of the material from the latter, minus the original Latin text. Whereas Brides of Christ focused specifically on religious women, the current work is a selection of letters from Pope Gregory relating to all women and includes chapters on aristocrats, royals, and slaves as well as sections on the various stages of matrimony (widows, marriage, and cohabitation). Additionally there are thirteen other letters regarding abbesses and nuns that did not appear in Brides of Christ. The newly added index is also particularly helpful.

Yet the retread of material, about which the author is upfront, does not stop with the reprinting of translations. The first chapter of From Queens to Slaves, wherein the author provides the historical setting for Gregory's actions, appears largely unaltered from one book to the next. Much of the minute commentary on the letters has also been reused with little additional insight into the material. The inclusion of numerous typographical errors, like missing quotation marks (30, 59, 70, 71, 74, and more), mislabeled footnotes (84), and a sentence dropped in mid-thought (77), also detracts from the book's overall value.

Of greater concern is that although John R. C. Martyn's commentary explains who is in the letters and the context behind them, observations beyond this usually amount only to a rewording of the translation or notations of little use, like "Pope Gregory wrote totally different letters" to different women depending upon their status (48). …