Saint Thecla and the wild beast, 5th century A.D., probably made in Egypt.
Saint Thecla was a female saint from ancient Anatolia (Turkey). The Acts of Paul and Thecla detail her story with her originally being betrothed but then leaving to follow Paul. She is sentence to being eaten alive by beasts after a man assaults her and claimed she attacked him. The beasts try to attack her but a lioness saves her before it dies. Thecla then has a mystic baptism after which her attacker says to release her. She is taken care of by a Roman woman after which she leaves to find Paul and continue her spiritual journey. The text can be read here.
The original text of The Acts of Paul and Thecla survives in many languages including Greek, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, and Latin. St. Thecla is venerated in most pre-Reformation Christian Churches but the text is considered apocryphal but is popular among the Eastern Churches. The text is considered apocryphal because the story involves partially self baptism and also that some were attempting to use the text as basis for women’s ordination. (See Tertullian’s De Baptismo Chapter 17)
In terms of art, the above iconography was probably made in Egypt however it shares other traits with the ancient Near East that admin Lady Xoc/Chaotic Bleu discovered. With both the lions and also Thecla’s pose, the piece is similar to Inanna/Ishtar on the Burney Relief (also called Queen of the Night) and to the Egyptian piece depicting the Canaanite goddess Qadesh/Qetesh (both pieces posted on this blog). We aren’t suggesting that Thecla is connected to either goddess, put that such a pose of a woman, whether divine or human, may be a common theme in ancient Near Eastern art.