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Taêse and Tsansnô
(late 4th early 5th century) Egypt

Taêse and Tsansnô

Coptic nuns


In the 5th century CE, Taêse and Tsansnô, two nuns living in The White Monastery monastery in Southern Egypt (where lived 2,200 monks and 1,800 nuns and whose Archimadrite was Shenoute the Great)) were chastised for "running after" other women in "friendship and physical desire".

This instance - with its unusual specificity of details - is part of a general discourse on women's homoerotic activities in Late Antique Egypt that is shaped by the (mostly) male monastic writers whose records survive. While this material dates from a fairly late (and geographically peripheral) part of the Roman Empire, enough continuity can be identified to use it as a window on broader Roman thought.

Record of punishment of women for homoerotic activity: Canon 4 of Shenoute from White Monastery Coptic Codex BZ, p 347 (Bibliothèque Nationale 130.1, 140 recto) - The name Taêse is highlighted in orange.

A nun named Taêse was accused of running after a nun named Tsansnô "in friendship and physical desire". A nun named Tsansnô (this name is uncommon enough that it is likeky to be the same person) was accused of running after her neighbors (understood to be the nuns with cells near hers in the monastery) in "friendship".

The punishment of the women was to be administered by the Archimandrite Shenoute the Great (348 - 466), who was to beat the women on their feet while the female Elder and a senior woman where to hold them down. The beating of feet was a traditionally Egyptian punishment found in Pharaonic sources, intended to be a painful and long-lasting reminder to those punished.

Saint Shenoute the Great of Atripe (348 - 466) - Archimandrite

In many eras and cultures, same-sex bed-sharing was completely ordinary and even expected, not only among family members, but perhaps by employer and servant, and certainly by close friends. In these cultures, sharing a bed carried no implication of engaging in erotic activity. But conversely, this practice created a context where erotic activity could take place with little notice or comment.

Concerns about same-sex relations in convents date back at least to the time of Saint Augustine in the 5th century. Those concerns covered even trivial actions like hand-holding and terms of endearment, showing that some of the concern was for the particularity of the friendship, not specifically the possibility of sex. Activities that were a cause for concern could be discouraged with corporal punishment as well as lesser penances.


Source: http://alpennia.com/ - https://books.google.it/

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