Inscriptions by Christians of Rome before Constantine
The paper will be delivered at the late antique seminar, on Thursday, 5 April, at 4.45 p.m., in the Library of Papyrology and Roman Law (Faculty of Law building, Collegium Iuridicum I) on the main campus.
This paper will deal with the early epigraphical evidence from the basilica of S. Sebastiano on the via Appia (the ancient Basilica Apostolorum). In the first half of the 2nd century, a funerary area was set in a previously abandoned open-sky quarry near the via Appia. The quarry itself gave the name to the place, known in Antiquity by its toponym κατὰ κύμβας, “near the cavity”. In this place, we have found – side-by-side with common epitaphs displaying no sign of Christianity – the very first examples of funerary epigraphs by Christians in Rome, still in their original places. They are all datable to the period between mid-2nd to the early 3rd century, and so are more or less contemporary to or even older than the fragmentary graffito possibly mentioning the name of Peter, scratched on the so-called ‘red wall’ in the Vatican necropolis. In the mid-3rd century, the funerary settlement was deliberately substituted by another structure, a courtyard surrounded by a porch: its plastered walls display hundreds of devotional graffiti mentioning the names of the founders of Christian community of the City, the Apostles Peter and Paul: we are here at the origins of the epigraphic feature of the Christian devotion towards the martyrs and the saints.