Historian of the ancient world Bettany Hughes uses the latest scholarship to take us back to the 2nd century AD, as pagan Europe began to embrace Christianity. What emerged out of this crucible of religious change marked the beginning of the end for women as religious leaders for a millennium and half. Common wisdom would have it that women went from goddesses to flower arrangers in just over a century. But why - and was it that straightforward?
Bettany finds that the history of women in the early church is written more in the fragments of stone left behind than in the scriptures. She visits Rome and traces the activities of women in the early church as they fought hand in hand with men to see their faith survive. Things got more difficult after Christianity became the recognised religion of the Roman Empire and beyond. But this is not just a tale of capitulation and annihilation; women fought doggedly for their positions. From Nicea to Northumbria, Bettany follows the decline - but not quite fall - of women in the early church.