"Divine Heiress" explores the vital role of the Virgin Mary in the cultural and religious life of Constantinople in late antiquity. The book examines how the figure of Mary was transformed from a humble Jewish maiden of first century Palestine into a divine and supernatural protector of the city of Constantinople.
After 325 AD, Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. The book shows showing how this new civic religion was an imperial Christianity based on the Roman imperial cult. It demonstrates that the nature of this imperial Christianity allowed the rise of the cult of the Virgin in Constantinople, the new capital of the Roman empire. This is the first book to address the rise of the cult of the Virgin in historical and cultural terms rather than in psychological and mythical terms. It examines all the disparate evidence for the cult and pays particular attention to the religious culture of the Mediterranean. It is also the first book to analyze the early hymns to the Virgin in the context of the ecclesiastical and political battles of the time. The book demonstrates how these hymns preserve the strong indigenous goddess traditions of Demeter/Persephone, Isis, Hecate and Athena.