Agapetae

In the first century CE to the third century CE, the Agapetae were Christian virgins who consecrated themselves to God with a vow of chastity. They were one of a number of early Christian 'classes' of virgins who associated with men as 'sisters'. The Agapetae lived with laymen, originally in a spiritual community of mutual support. The laymen too took vows of chastity, and looked after the material interests of their 'sisters'.

Abuses and scandals occurred, however. St. Cyprian and St. Jerome both condemned the practice. In 314 the Council of Ancyra forbade virgins consecrated to God to live with men as sisters. The practice did continue for some years. The Agapetae are distinct from the Subintroductae, who were another class of virgins who lived with clerics. The name comes form the Greek word agapetai, meaning 'beloved'.

The Agapetae were also a branch of the Gnostics in the late fourth century CE, who held that sexual relations were only improper if the mind was impure.

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