These headings of the author's are used here as local links to text on this webpage.
Sanctity of tombs guaranteed to all creeds alike. — The Christians' preference for underground cemeteries not due to fear at first. — Origin and cause of the first persecutions. — The attitude of Trajan towards the Christians, and its results. — The persecution of Diocletian. — The history of the early Christians illustrated by their graves. — The tombs of the first century. — The catacombs. — How they were named. — The security they offered against attack. — Their enormous extent. — Their gradual abandonment in the fourth century. — Open-air cemeteries developed in proportion. — The Goths in Rome. — Their pillage of the catacombs. — Thereafter burial within the city walls became common. — The translation of the bodies of martyrs. — Pilgrims and their itineraries. — The catacombs neglected from the ninth to the sixteenth century. — Their discovery in 1578. — Their wanton treatment by scholars of that time. — Artistic treasures found in them. — The catacombs of Generosa. — The story of Simplicius, Faustinus and Viatrix. — The cemetery of Domitilla. — The Christian Flavii buried there. — The basilica of Nereus, Achilleus and Petronilla. — The tomb of Ampliatus. — Was this S. Paul's friend? — The cemetery "ad catacumbas." — The translation of the bodies of SS. Peter and Paul. — The types of the Saviour in early art. — The cemetery of Cyriaca. — Discoveries made there. — Inscriptions and works of art. — The cemetery "ad duas Lauros." — Frescoes in it. — The symbolic supper. — The discoveries of Monsignor Wilpert. — The Academy of Pomponio Leto.
The Roman law which established the inviolability of tombs did not make exceptions either of persons or creeds. p307Whether the deceased had been pious or impious, a worshipper of Roman or foreign gods, or a follower of Eastern or barbaric religions, his burial-place was considered by law a locus religiosus, as inviolable as a temple. In this respect there was no distinction between Christians, pagans, and Jews; all enjoyed the same privileges, and were subject to the same rules. It is not easy to decide whether this condition of things was an advantage to the faithful. It was certainly advantageous to the Church that her cemeteries should be considered sacred by the law, and that the State itself should enforce and guarantee the observance of the rules (lex monumenti) made by the deceased in connection with his interment, and tomb; but as the police of cemeteries, and the enforcement of the leges monumentorum, was intrusted to the college of high priests, who were stern champions of paganism, the church was liable to be embarrassed in many ways. When, for instance, a body had to be transferred from its temporary repository to the tomb, it was necessary to obtain the consent of the pontifices; which was also required in case of subsequent removals, p308and even of simple repairs to the building. Roman epitaphs constantly refer to this authority of the pontiffs, and one of them, discovered by Ficoroni in July, 1730, near the Porta Metronia, contains the correspondence exchanged the subject between the two parties. The petitioner, Arrius Alphius, a favorite freedman of the mother of Antoninus Pius, writes to the high priests: "Having lost at the same time wife and son, I buried them temporarily in a terra-cotta coffin. I have since purchased a burial lot on the left side of the Via Flaminia, between the second and the third milestones, and near the mausoleum of Silius Orcilus, and furnished it with marble sarcophagi. I beg permission of you, my Lords, to transfer the said bodies to the new family vault, so that when my hour shall come, I may be laid to rest besides the dear ones." The answer was: "Granted (fieri placet). Signed by me, Juventius Celsus, vice-president [of the college of pontiffs], on the 3d day of November [A.D. 155]."
The greatest difficulty with which the Christians had to deal was the obligation to perform expiatory sacrifices in given circumstances; as, for instance, when a corpse was removed from one place to another, or when a coffin, damaged by any accidental cause, such as lightning, inundation, fire, earthquake, or violence, had to be opened and the bones exposed to view. But these were exceptional cases; and there is no doubt that the magistrates of Rome were naturally lenient and forbearing in religious matters, except in time of persecution. The partiality shown by early Christians for underground cemeteries is due to two causes: the influence which Eastern customs and the example of the burial of Christ must necessarily have exercised on them, and the security and freedom which they enjoyed in the darkness and solitude of their crypts. Catacombs, however, p309could not be excavated everywhere, the presence of veins or beds of soft volcanic stone being a condition sine qua non of their existence. Cities and villages built on alluvial or marshy soil, or on hills of limestone or lava, were obliged to resort to open-air cemeteries. In Rome itself these were not uncommon. Certainly there was no reason why Christians should object to the authority of the pontiffs in hygienic and civic matters. This authority was so deeply rooted and respected, that the emperor Constans (346‑350), although a stanch Christian and anxious to abolish idolatry, left the pontiffs full jurisdiction over Christian and pagan cemeteries, by a constitution issued in 349.1
From apostolic times to the persecution of Domitian, the faithful were buried, separately or collectively, in private tombs which did not have the character of a Church institution. These early tombs, whether above or below ground, display a sense of perfect security, and an absence of all fear or solicitude. This feeling arose from two facts: the small extent of the cemeteries, which secured to them the rights of private property, and the protection and freedom which the Jewish colony in Rome enjoyed from time immemorial. The Romans of the first century, populace as well as government officials, made no distinction between the proselytes of the Old Testament and those of the New.
Julius Caesar and Augustus treated the Jews with kindness, and when S. Paul arrived in Rome the colony was living in peace and prosperity, practising religion openly in its Transtiberine synagogues.2 The same state of things p310prevailed throughout the peninsula. Thus the rabbi or archon of the synagogue at Pompeii called the Synagoga Libertinorum (the existence of which was discovered in September, 1764), could take, in virtue of his office, an active part in city politics and petty municipal quarrels, and in his official capacity could sign a document recommending the election of a candidate for political honors, as is shown by one of the Pompeian inscriptions:—
The persecution which took place under Claudius was really the first connected with the preaching of the gospel. According to Suetonius (Claud. 25) the Jews themselves were the cause of it, having suddenly become uneasy, troublesome, and offensive, impulsore Chresto, that is to say, on account of Christ's doctrine, which was beginning to be preached in their synagogues. The expression used by Suetonius shows how very little was known at the time about the new religion. Although Christ's name was not unknown to him, he speaks of this outbreak under Claudius as having been stirred up personally by a certain Chrestus, as though he were a living member of the Jewish colony. At that early stage the converts to the gospel were identified by the Romans with the Jews, not by mistake or error of judgment, but because they were legally and actually Jews, p311or rather one Jewish sect which was carrying on a dogmatic war against the others, on a point which had no interest whatever in the eyes of the Romans, — that is, the advent of the Messiah. This statement is corroborated by many passages in the Acts, such as xviii.15; xxiii.29; xxv.9; xxvi.28, 32; xxviii.31. Claudius Lysias writes to the governor of Judaea that Paul was accused by his fellow-citizens, not of crimes deserving punishment, but on some controversial point concerning their law. In Rome itself the apostle could preach the gospel with freedom, even when in custody, or under police supervision.4 And as it was lawful for a Roman citizen to embrace the Jewish persuasion, and give up the religion of his fathers, he was equally free to embrace the Evangelic faith, which was considered by the pagans a Jewish sect, not a new belief.
The pagans despised them both, and mixed themselves up with their affairs only from a fiscal point of view, because the Jews were subject to a tax of two drachms per head, and the treasury officials were obliged to keep themselves acquainted with the statistics of the colony.
This state of things did not last very long, it being of vital importance for the Jews to separate their cause from that of the new-comers. The responsibility for the persecutions which took place in the first century must be attributed to them, not to the Romans, whose tolerance in religious matters had become almost a state rule. The first attempt, made under Claudius, was not a success: it ended, in fact, with the banishment from the capital of every Jew, no matter whether he believed in the Old or the New Testament. Judaeos, impulsore Chresto assidue tumultuantes, Claudius Romae expulit (Suetonius: Claud. 25). It was, however, a passing cloud. As soon as they were allowed to p312come back to their Transtiberine haunts the Jews set to work again, exciting the feelings of the populace, and denouncing the Christians as conspiring against the State and the gods, under the protection of the law which guaranteed to the Jews the free exercise of their religion. The populace, impressed by the conquests made by the gospel among all classes of citizens, was only too ready to believe the calumny. The Church, repudiated by her mother the Synagogue, could no longer share the privileges of the Jewish community. As for the State, it became a necessity either to recognize Christianity as a new legal religion, or to proscribe and condemn it. The great fire, which destroyed half of Rome under Nero, and which was purposely attributed to the Christians, brought the situation to a crisis. The first persecution began. Had the magistrate who conducted the inquiry been able to prove the indictment of arson, perhaps the storm would have been short, and confined to Rome; but as the Christians could easily exculpate themselves, the trial was changed from a criminal into a politico-religious one. The Christians were convicted not so much of arson (non tam crimine incendii) as of a hatred of mankind (odio generis humani); a formula which includes anarchism, atheism, and high treason. This monstrous accusation once admitted, the persecution could not be limited to Rome; it necessarily became general, and more violent in one place or another, according to the impulse of the magistrate who investigated this entirely unprecedented case.
Was the hope of a legal existence lost forever to the Church? After Nero's death, and the condemnation of his acts and memory, the Christians enjoyed thirty years of peace. Domitian broke it, first, by claiming with unprecedented severity the tribute from the Jews and those "living p313a Jewish life;"5 secondly, by putting the "atheists," that is, the Christians, to the alternative of giving up their faith or their life. These measures were abolished shortly after by Nerva, who sanctioned the rule that in future no one should be brought to justice under the plea of impiety or Judaism. The answer given by Trajan to Pliny the younger, when governor of Bithynia, is famous in the annals of persecutions. To the inquiries made by the governor, as to the best way of dealing with those "adoring Christ for their God," Trajan replied, that the magistrate should not molest them at his own initiative; but if others should bring them to justice, and convict them of impiety and atheism, they deserved punishment.6 These words contain the solemn recognition of the illegality of Christian worship; they make persecution a rule of state. The faithful were doomed to have no respite for the next two centuries, except what they could obtain at intervals from the personal kindness and tolerance of emperors and magistrates. Those of the Jewish religion continued to enjoy protection and privileges, but Christianity was either persecuted or tolerated, as it happened; so that, even under emperors who abhorred severity and bloodshed, the faithful were at the mercy of the first vagrant who chanced to accuse them of impiety.
Strange to say, more clemency was shown towards them by emperors whom we are accustomed to call tyrants, than by those who are considered models of virtue. The author of the "Philosophumena" (book ix., ch. 11) says that •Commodus granted to Pope Victor the liberation of the Christians who had been condemned to the mines of Sardinia by Marcus Aurelius. Thus that profligate emperor was really more merciful to the Church than the philosophic author of p314the "Meditations," who, in the year 174, had witnessed the miracle of the Thundering Legion. The reason is evident. The wise rulers foresaw the destructive effect of the new doctrines on pagan society, and indirectly on the empire itself; whereas those who were given over to dissipation were indifferent to the danger; "after them, the deluge!"
At the beginning of the third century, under the rule of Caracalla and Elagabalus, the Christians enjoyed nearly thirty years of peace, interrupted only by the short persecution of Maximus, and by occasional outbreaks of popular hostility here and there.7
In 249 the "days of terror" returned, and continued fiercer than ever under the rules of Decius, Gallus, and Valerianus. The last persecution, that of Diocletian and his colleagues, was the longest and most cruel of all. For the space of ten years not a day of mercy shone over the ecclesia fidelium. The historian Eusebius, an eye-witness, says that when the persecutors became tired of bloodshed, they contrived a new form of cruelty. They put out the right eyes of the confessors, cut the tendon of their left legs, and then sent them to the mines, lame, half blind, half starved, and flogged nearly to death. In book VIII., chapter 12, the historian says that the number of sufferers was so great that no account could be kept of them in the archives of the Church. The memory of this decade of horrors has never died out in Rome. We have still a local tradition, not altogether unfounded, of ten thousand Christians who were condemned to quarry materials for Diocletian's Baths, and who were put to death after the dedication of the building.
Towards the end of 306, Maxentius stopped the persecution, but the true era of peace did not begin before 312, which is the date of Constantine's famous "edict of Milan," p315granting to the Church liberty and free possession of her places of worship and cemeteries forever.
The events of which I have given a summary sketch are beautifully illustrated by the discoveries which have been made in early Christian cemeteries, from May 31, 1578, which is the date of the discovery of the first catacomb, to the present day.
From the time of the apostles to the first persecution of Domitian, Christian tombs, whether above or below ground, were built with perfect impunity and in defiance of public opinion. We have been accustomed to consider the catacombs of Rome as crypts plunged in total darkness, and penetrating the bowels of the earth at unfathomable depths. This is, in a certain measure, the case with those catacombs, or sections of catacombs, which were excavated in times of persecution; but not with those belonging to the first century. The cemetery of these members of Domitian's family who had embraced the gospel — such as Flavius Clemens, Flavia Domitilla, Plautilla, Petronilla, and others — reveals a bold example of publicity.
Entrance to the Crypt of the Flavians.
The entrance to the crypt, discovered in 1714 and again in 1865, near the farmhouse of Tor Marancia, at the first milestone of the Via Ardeatina, is hewn out of a perpendicular cliff, which is conspicuous from the high road (the modern Via delle Sette Chiese). The crypt is approached through a vestibule, which was richly decorated with terra-cotta carvings, and, on the frieze, a monumental inscription enclosed by an elaborate frame. No pagan mausolea of the Via Appia or the Via Latina show a greater sense of security or are placed more conspicuously than this early Christian tomb. The frescoes on the ceiling of the vestibule, representing biblical scenes, such as Daniel in the lions' den, the history of Jonah, etc., were exposed to daylight, and through the p316open door could be seen by the passer. No precaution was taken to conceal these symbolic scenes from profane or hostile eyes. We regret the loss of the inscription above the entrance, which, besides the name of the owner of the crypt, probably contained the lex monumenti, and a formula specifying the religion of those buried within. In this very catacomb, a few steps from the vestibule, an inscription has been found, in which a Marcus Aurelius Restitutus declares that he has built a tomb for himself and his relatives (sibi et suis), provided they were believers in Christ (fidentes in Domino). Another tombstone, discovered in 1864, in the Villa Patrizi, near the catacombs of Nicomedes, states that none might be buried in the tomb to which it was attached except those who belonged to the creed (pertinentes ad religionem) of the founder.
The time soon came when these frank avowals of Christianity p317were either impossible or extremely hazardous; and although legally a tomb continued to be a locus religiosus, no matter what the creed of the deceased had been, a vague sense of anxiety was felt by the Church, lest even these last refuges should be violated by the mob and its leaders. Hence the extraordinary development which underground cemeteries underwent towards the end of the first and the beginning of the second century. These catacombs were considered by the law to be the property of the citizen who owned the ground above, and who either excavated them at his own cost, or gave the privilege of doing so to the Church. This is the reason why the names of our oldest suburban cemeteries are derived, not from the illustrious saints buried in them, but from the owner of the property under which the catacomb was first excavated. Balbina, Callixtus, Domitilla were never laid to rest in the catacombs which bear their names. Praetextatus, Apronianus, the Jordans, Novella, Pontianus, and Maximus, after whom other cemeteries are named, are all totally unknown persons. When these cemeteries became places of worship and pilgrimage, after the Peace of Constantine, the old names which had sheltered them from the violence of persecutors were abandoned, and replaced by those of local martyrs. Thus the catacomb of Domitilla became that of Nereus and Achilleus; that of Balbina was named for S. Mark; that of Callixtus for SS. Sixtus and Caecilia; and that of Maximus for S. Felicitas.
One characteristic of Christian epigraphy shows what a comparatively safe place the catacombs were. Inscriptions belonging to them never contain those requests to the passer to respect the tomb, which are so frequent in sepulchral inscriptions from tombs above-ground, and which sometimes, on Christian as well as pagan graves, take the form of an p318imprecation. An epitaph discovered by Hamilton near Eumenia, Phrygia, contains this rather violent formula: "May the passer who damages my tomb bury all his children at the same time." In another, found near the church of S. Valeria, in Milan, the imprecation runs: "May the wrath of God and of his Christ fall on the one who dares to disturb the peace of our sleep."
The safety of the catacombs was not due to the fact that their existence was known only to the proselytes of Christ. The magistrates possessed a thorough knowledge of their location, number, and extent; and we have evidence of raids and descents by the police on extraordinary occasions, as, for instance, during the persecutions of Valerian and Diocletian. The ordinary entrances to the catacombs, which were known to the police, were sometimes walled up or otherwise concealed, and new secret outlets opened through abandoned pozzolana quarries (arenariae). Some of these outlets have been discovered, or are to be seen, in the cemeteries of Agnes, Thrason, Callixtus, and Castulus. In May, 1867, while excavating on the southern boundary line of the Cemetery of Callixtus, de Rossi found himself suddenly confronted with sandpits, the galleries of which came in contact with those of the cemetery several times. The passage from one to the other had been most ingeniously disguised by the fossores, as those who dug the catacombs were called.8
The defence of these cemeteries in troubled times must have caused great anxiety to the Church. Tertullian tells how the population of Carthage, excited against the Christians, sought to obtain from Hilarianus, governor of Africa, the destruction of their graves. "Let them have no burial-ground!" (areae eorum non sint) was the rallying cry of the mob.
p319 The catacombs are unfit for men to live in, or to stay in even for a few days. The tradition that Antonio Bosio spent seventy or eighty consecutive hours in their depths is unfounded. When we hear of Popes, priests, or their followers seeking refuge in catacombs, we must understand that they repaired to the buildings connected with them, such as the lodgings of the keepers, undertakers, and local clergymen. Pope Boniface I., when molested by Symmachus and Eulalius, found shelter in the house connected with the Cemetery of Maximus on the Via Salaria. The crypts themselves were sought as a refuge only in case of extreme emergency. Thus Barbatianus, a priest from Antiochia, concealed himself in the Catacombs of Callixtus to escape the wrath of Galla Placidia.
Many attempts have been made to estimate the extent of our catacombs, the length of their galleries, and the number of tombs which they contain. Michele Stefano de Rossi, brother of the archaeologist, gives the following results for the belt of catacombs within three miles of the gates of Servius:9 — (A) Surface of tufa beds, capable of being excavated into catacombs, •67,000,000 square feet. (B) Surface actually excavated into catacombs, from one to four stories deep, •22,500,000 square feet, — more than a square mile. (C) Aggregate length of galleries, calculated on the average construction of six different catacombs, 866 kilometres, equal to 537 geographical miles.a1
The sides of the galleries contain several rows of loculi, sometimes six or eight. Some bodies are buried under the floor, or in the cubiculi which open right and left at short intervals. Assuming these galleries to be capable of containing p320two bodies per metre, the number of Christians buried in the catacombs, within three miles from the gates of Servius, may be estimated at a minimum of 1,732,000.a2
The construction of this prodigious labyrinth required the excavation and removal of •96,000,000 cubic feet of solid rock.
With regard to the number of inscriptions, I quote the following passage from Northcote's "Epitaphs," page 3: "Of Christian inscriptions in Rome, during the first six centuries, de Rossi has studied more than fifteen thousand, the immense majority of which were taken from the catacombs; and he tells us there is still an average yearly addition of about five hundred, derived from the same source. This number, vast as it is, is but a poor remnant of what once existed. From the collections made in the eighth and ninth centuries it appears that there were once at least one hundred and seventy ancient Christian inscriptions in Rome, which had an historical or monumental character; written generally in metre, and to be seen at that time in the places which they were intended to illustrate. Of these only twenty-six remain, either whole or in parts. In the Roman topographies of the seventh century, one hundred and forty sepulchres of famous martyrs and confessors are enumerated; we have recovered only twenty inscribed memorials, to assist us in the identification of these. Only nine epitaphs have come to light belonging to the bishops of Rome during the same six centuries; and yet, during that period, there were certainly buried in the suburbs of the city upwards of sixty. Thus, whatever facts we take as the basis of our calculation, it would seem that scarcely a seventh part of the original wealth of the Roman church in memorials of this kind has survived the wreck of ages; and de Rossi gives it as his conviction that there were once more than one hundred thousand of them."
p321 When the catacombs began to be better known to the general public, and were visited by crowds of the devout or curious, they became one of the marvels of Rome. Travellers who so admired the syringes or crypts of the kings of Thebes, calling them τὰ θαύματα (the wonders), could not help being struck with awe at the great work accomplished by our Christian community in less than three centuries. An inscription found by Deville at Thebes, in one of the royal crypts, and published in the "Archives des missions scientifiques," 1866, vol. II. p. 484, thus refers to the parallel wonders of Roman and Egyptian catacombs: "Antonius Theodorus, intendant of Egypt and Phoenicia, who has spent many years in the Queen-city of Rome, has seen the wonders (τὰ θαύματα) both there and here." The allusion to the catacombs in comparison with the syringes is evident. The inscription dates from the second half of the fourth century.
To the edict of Milan, and to the peace which it gave to the Church, we must attribute the origin of the decadence of underground cemeteries. Burial in open-air cemeteries having become secure once more, there was no reason why the faithful should give preference to the unhealthy and overcrowded crypts below. The example of desertion was set by the Popes themselves. Melchiades (311‑314), who was the first to occupy the Lateran palace after the victory of the Church, was the last Pope buried near his predecessors in caemeteris Callisti in cripta. Sylvester, his successor, was buried in a chapel built expressly, above the crypt of Priscilla, Mark above the crypts of Balbina, Julius above those of Calepodius, and so on. Still, the desire of securing a grave in proximity to the shrine of a martyr was so intense that the use of the catacombs lasted for a century longer, although in diminishing proportions. When a p322gallery is discovered which contains more graves than usual, and has been excavated even in the narrow ledges of rock which separated the original loculi, or else at the corners of the crossings, which were usually left untouched, as protection against the caving-in of the earth, we may be sure we are approaching a martyr's altar-tomb. Sometimes the paintings which decorate a martyr's cubiculum have been disfigured and their inscriptions effaced by an over-zealous devotee. The accompanying cut shows the damage inflicted on a picture of the Good Shepherd in the cubiculum of S. Januarius, in the Catacombs of Praetextatus, by an unscrupulous disciple who wished to be buried as near as possible to his patron-saint.
Cubiculum of Januarius.
By the end of the fourth century burials in catacombs became rare, and still more between 400 and 410. They were apparently given up altogether after 410. The development of open-air cemeteries increased in proportion, those p323of S. Lorenzo and S. Paolo fuori le Mura being among the most popular. In 1863, when the entrance-gate to the modern Camposanto adjoining S. Lorenzo was built, fifty tombs, mostly unopened, were found in a space •ninety feet long by forty feet wide. Since that time five hundred tombstones have been gathered in the neighborhood of that favorite church. As regards S. Paul's cemetery, more than one thousand inscriptions, whole or in fragments, were found in rebuilding the basilica and its portico, after the fire of 1823;10 two hundred in the excavations of S. Valentine's basilica, outside the Porta del Popolo. These last excavations are the only ones illustrating a Christian cemetery which are left visible; but their importance is limited. The cemeteries of Arles and Pola, alluded to by Dante, have disappeared;• and so has the magnificent one of the officers and men employed in the Roman arsenal at Concordia Sagittaria, which was discovered in 1873, near Portogruaro, by Perulli and Bartolini. This cemetery, which contains, in the section already explored, nearly two hundred sarcophagi, cut in limestone, in the shape of Petrarch's coffin, at Arquà, or Antenor's at Padua, was wrecked by Attila in 452, and buried soon after by an inundation of the river Tagliamento, which spread masses of mud and sand over the district, and raised its level •five feet. The accompanying plate is from a photograph taken at the time of the discovery.
I have just stated that burial in catacombs seems to have been abandoned in 410, because no inscription of a later date has yet been found. The reader will easily perceive the reason for the abandonment. On August 10, 410, Rome was stormed by Alaric, and the suburbs devastated. This fatal year marks the end of a great and glorious era
p324in Christian epigraphy, and in the history of catacombs the end of the work of the fossores. More fatal still was the barbaric invasion of 457. The actual destruction began in 537, during the siege of Rome by Vitiges. The biographer of Pope Silverius expressly says: "Churches and tombs of martyrs have been destroyed by the Goths" (ecclesiae et corpora sanctorum martyrum exterminata sunt a Gothis). It is difficult to explain why the Goths, confessed and even bigoted Christians (Arians) as they were, and full of respect for the basilicas of S. Peter and S. Paul, as Procopius declares, should have ransacked the catacombs, violated the tombs of martyrs, and broken their historical inscriptions. Perhaps it was because none of the barbarians could read Latin or Greek epitaphs, and make the distinction between pagan and Christian cemeteries; or perhaps they were moved by the desire of finding hidden treasures, or securing relics of saints. Whatever may have been the reason of their behavior, we must remember that two encampments, at least, of the Goths were just over catacombs and around their entrances; one on the Via Salaria, over those of Thrason; the other on the Via Labicana, above those of Peter and Marcellinus. The barbarians could not resist the temptation of exploring those subterranean wonders; indeed they were obliged to do so by the most elementary rules of precaution in order to insure the safety of their entrenchments against surprises. Here I have to record a remarkable coincidence. In each of these two catacombs the following memorial tablet has been seen or found, written in distichs by •Pope Virgilius:—
"When the Goths pitched their camps under the walls of Rome, they declared an impious war against the Saints:
"And destroyed in their sacrilegious attack the tombs dedicated to the memory of martyrs:
"Whose epitaphs, composed by •Pope Damasus, have been destroyed. p325
"Pope Virgilius, having witnessed the destruction, has repaired the tombs, the inscriptions, and the underground sanctuaries after the retreat of the Goths."
The repairs must have been made in haste, between March, 537, the date of the flight of Vitiges, and the following November, the date of the journey of Virgilius to Constantinople, from which he never returned. Traces of this Pope's restorations have been found in other catacombs. In those of Callixtus the fragments of a tablet, dedicated by •Damasus to S. Eusebius, have been found, dispersed over a large area, and also a copy set up by Virgilius in the place of the original. In those of Hippolytus, on the Via Tiburtina, an inscription was discovered in 1881, which stated that the "sacred caverns" had been restored praesule Virgilio. The example of Virgilius and his successors in the See of Rome was followed by private individuals. The tomb of Crysanthus• and Daria on the Via Salaria was restored, after the retreat of the barbarians, pauperis ex censu, that is, with the modest means of a devotee.
Nibby has attributed the origin of cemeteries within the walls to the invasion of Vitiges, burial within the city limits having been strictly forbidden by the laws of Rome. But the law seems to have been practically disregarded even before the Gothic wars. Christians were buried in the Praetorian camp, and in the gardens of Maecenas, during the reign of Theodoric (493‑526). I have mentioned this particular because it marks another step towards the abandonment of suburban cemeteries. The country around Rome having become insecure and deserted, it was deemed necessary to place within the protection of the city walls the bodies of martyrs who had been buried at a great distance from the gates. The first translation took place in 648: the second in 682, when the bodies of Primus and Felicianus were p326removed from Nomentum, and those of Viatrix, Faustinus and Simplicius from the Lucus Arvalium (Monte delle Piche, by la Magliana). The last blow to the catacombs was given by Paschal I. (817‑824). Contemporary documents mention innumerable transferences of bodies. The mosaic legend of the apse of S. Prassede says that Pope Paschal buried the bodies of many saints within its walls.11
The official catalogue of the remains removed on July 20, 817, which was compiled by the Pope's notary and engraved on marble, has come down to us. It speaks of the translation of twenty-three hundred bodies, most of which were buried under the chapel of S. Zeno, which Paschal I. had built as a memorial to his mother, Theodora Episcopa. The legend in the apse of S. Caecilia speaks, likewise, of the transference to her church of bodies "which had formerly reposed in crypts" (quae primum in cryptis pausabant): among them those of Caecilia herself, Valerianus, Tiburtius, and Maximus. The finding and removal of Caecilia's remains from the Catacombs of Callixtus is one of the most graceful episodes in the life of Paschal I. He describes it at length in a letter addressed to the people of Rome.
After many unsuccessful attempts to discover the coffin of the saint, he had come to the conclusion that it must have been stolen by the Lombards, when they were besieging the city in 755. S. Caecilia, however, told him in a vision where her grave was; and hurrying to the catacombs of the Appian Way he at last discovered her crypt and coffin, together with those of fourteen Popes, from •Zephyrinus to •Melchiades. It is only fair to say that the discoveries made in this very crypt, between 1850 and 1853, confirm the account of Paschal in its minutest details. p327
The first half of the ninth century thus marks the final abandonment of the catacombs, and the cessation of divine worship in their historical crypts. In later times we find little or no mention of them in Church annals. When we read of Nicholas I. (858‑867) and of Paschal II. (1099‑1118) visiting the cemeteries, we must believe that their visits were to the basilicas erected over the catacombs, and to their special crypts, not to the catacombs themselves. In the chronicle of the monastery of S. Michael ad Mosam we read of a pilgrim of the eleventh century who obtained relics of saints "from the keeper of a certain cemetery, in which lamps are always burning." He refers to the basilica of S. Valentine and the small hypogaeum attached to it (discovered in 1887), not to catacombs in the true sense of the word. The very last account referring directly to them dates from the time of Pope Nicolas I. (858‑867) who is said to have restored the crypt of Mark on the Via Ardeatina, and of Felix, Abdon, and Sennen on the Via Portuensis. At this time also the visits of pilgrims, to whose itineraries, or guidebooks, we are indebted for some such knowledge of the topography of suburban cemeteries, come to an end. The best itineraries are those of Einsiedeln, Salzburg, Wurzburg, and William of Malmesbury; and the list of the oils from the lamps burning before the tombs of martyrs, which were collected by John, abbot of Monza, at the request of queen Theodolinda. The pilgrims left many records of their visits scratched on the walls of the sanctuaries; and to these graffiti also we are indebted for much information, since they contain formulas of devotion addressed to the saint of the place. They are very interesting in their simplicity of thought and diction, as are generally the memoirs of early pilgrims and pilgrimages. I shall mention one, discovered not many years ago in the p328cemetery of Mustiola at Chiusi. It is a plain tombstone, inscribed with the words:—
HIC · POSITUS · EST · PEREGRINUS · CICONIAS · CUIUS · NOMEN · DEUS · SCIT ·
"Here is buried a pilgrim from Thrace, whose name is known only to God." The tale is simple and touching. A pilgrim on his way to Rome, or back to his country, was overtaken by death at Chiusi, before he could make himself known to those who had come to his help. They could only suppose he had come from Thrace, the country of the Cicones, possibly from the language he spoke, or from the costume he wore.
On May 31, 1578,º a workman, while digging a sandpit in the vineyard of Bartolomeo Sanchez at the second milestone of the Via Salaria, came upon a Christian cemetery containing frescoes, sarcophagi, and inscriptions. This unexpected discovery created a great sensation,12 and the report was circulated that an underground city had been found. The leading men of the age hastened to the spot; among them Baronius, who speaks of these wondrous crypts three or four times in his annals.13 It seems that the network of galleries, crossing one another at various angles, the sky-lights, the wells, the symmetry of the cubiculi and arcosolia, the number of loculi with which the sides of the galleries were honeycombed, affected the imagination of visitors even more than the pictures, the sarcophagi, and the epitaphs. The subjects of the frescoes were so varied as to contain almost the whole cycle of early Christian symbolism. There were the Good Shepherd and the Praying Soul, Noah and the p329ark, Daniel and the lions, Moses striking the rock, the story of Jonah, the sacrifice of Isaac, the three men in the fiery furnace, the resurrection of Lazarus, etc. The bas-reliefs of the marble coffins represented Christian love-feasts and pastoral scenes. The epitaphs contained simply names, except one, which was raised by a girl "to her sweet nurse Paulina, who dwells in Christ among the blessed." These pious memorials of the primitive church led the learned visitors to investigate their meaning and value, as well as the history and name of those mysterious labyrinths. The origin of Christian archaeology, therefore, really dates from May 1, 1578.º Antonio Bosio, the Columbus of subterranean Rome, was but three years old at that time, but he seems to have developed his marvellous instinct on the strength of what he saw in the Vigna Sanchez in his boyhood. The crypts, however, had but a short life: the quarry-men damaged and robbed them to such an extent that, when Bosio began his career in 1593, every trace of them had disappeared. They have never been found since. We can only point out to the lover of these studies the site of the Vigna Sanchez. It is marked by a monumental gate, on the right side of the Via Salaria, crowned by the well-known coat-of‑arms of the della Rovere family, to whom the property was sold towards the end of the sixteenth century. The gate is •a little more than a mile from the Porta Salaria.
From that time to the first quarter of the present century, we have to tell the same long tale of destruction. And who were responsible for this wholesale pillage? The very men — Aringhi, Boldetti, Marangoni, Bottari — who devoted their lives, energies and talents to the study of the catacombs, and to whom we are indebted for many standard works on Christian archaeology. Such was the spirit of the age. Whether an historical inscription came out of one p330cemetery or another did not matter to them; the topographical importance of discoveries was not appreciated. Written or engraved memorials were sought, not for the sake of the history of the place to which they belonged, but to ornament houses, museums, villas, churches and monasteries. In 1863, de Rossi found a portion of the Cemetery of Callixtus, near the tombs of the Popes, in incredible confusion and disorder: loculi ransacked, their contents stolen, their inscriptions broken and scattered far and wide, and the bones themselves taken out of their graves. The perpetrators of the outrage had taken care to leave their names written in charcoal or with the smoke of tallow candles; they were men employed by Boldetti in his explorations of the catacombs, between 1713 and 1717. Some of the tombstones were removed by him to S. Maria in Trastevere, and inserted in the floor of the nave. Benedict XIV. took away the best, and placed them in the Vatican Library. They have now migrated again to the Museo Epigrafico of the Lateran Palace. Those left in the floor of S. Maria in Trastevere were removed to the vestibule of the church in 1865.
In 1714, some beautiful paintings of the first century were discovered in the crypt of the Flavian family (Domitilla) at Torre Marancia. They were examined by well-known archaeologists and churchmen, whose names are scratched or written on the walls: Boldetti, Marangoni, Bottari, Leonardo da Porto Maurizio, and G. B. de Rossi (the last two since canonized by the Church), and by hundreds of priests, nuns, missionaries, and pilgrims. No mention is made of this beautiful discovery in contemporary books; but an attempt was made to steal the frescoes, which resulted, as usual, in their total destruction.14 The catacombs owe their sad fate to the riches which they contained. In times of p331persecution, when the fossores were pressed by too much work and memorial tablets could not be secured in time, it was customary for the survivors to mark the graves of the dear ones either with a symbol, a word, or a date scratched in the fresh cement; or with some object of identification, such as glass cups, medallions, cameos, intaglios, objects cut in rock crystal, coral, etc. If the work of exploration has been carried on actively in the last three centuries, it is on account of the rich harvest which searching parties were sure to reap whenever they chanced to come across a catacomb or part of a catacomb, yet unexplored, with these signs of recognition untouched.
The best works of the glyptic art, the rarest gems, coins, and medallions of European cabinets have come to light in this way. Pietro Sante Bartoli, who chronicled the discoveries made in Rome in the second half of the seventeenth century, speaks several times of treasure-trove in catacombs:15
"In a Christian cemetery discovered outside the Porta Portese, in the vineyard of a priest named degli Effetti, many relics of martyrs have been found, a beautiful set of the rarest medallions (bellissima serie di medaglioni rarissimi), works in metal and crystal, engraved stones, jewels, and other curious and interesting objects, many of which were sold by the workmen at low prices." And again: "The opening of a catacomb was discovered by accident under the Casaletto of Pius V., outside the Porta S. Pancrazio. Although the crypt had never been entered, and promised to be very rich, no excavations were attempted, owing to the dangerous condition of the rock. One object only was extracted from the ruinous cavern; a polychrome cameo of marvellous beauty (di meravigliosa bellezza) representing a Bacchanalian. The stone measured •sixteen p332inches in length by ten in width. It was given to cardinal Massimi."16 The number of catacombs has been greatly exaggerated. Panvinius and Baronius stated it as forty-three; Aringhi and his followers raised this number to sixty. De Rossi, however, in vol. I., p. 206, of the "Roma sotterranea" proves that the number of catacombs excavated during the first three centuries, within a radius of •three miles from the walls of Servius Tullius, is but twenty-six; besides eleven of much less importance, and five which were excavated after the Peace of Constantine.
It would be impossible to give even a summary description of these forty-two cemeteries, within the limits of the present chapter. De Rossi's account of Lucina's crypts in the Cemetery of Callixtus occupies one hundred and thirty-two folio pages, and has required thirty-five plates of illustration. I must confine myself to the mention of the few discoveries, connected with the history and topography of underground Rome, which have come within my personal experience, or which I have had occasion to study.
The Catacombs of Generosa. In 1867, while watching with my friend commendatore Visconti (the present director of the Vatican Museum) the excavations of the Sacred Grove of the Arvales, on the Via Campana, five miles outside the Porta Portese, I witnessed for the first time the discovery of a catacomb. The experience could not have been more pleasant, nor the history of the first occupants of these crypts more interesting.
In the persecution of Diocletian two brothers, Simplicius and Faustinus, were tortured and put to death for their p333faith, and their bodies were thrown into the Tiber from the bridge of Aemilius Lepidus. The stream carried them to a considerable distance, and their young sister Beatrix, who was anxiously watching the banks of the river for the recovery of their dear remains, discovered them lying in the shallows of la Magliana, near the grove of the Arvales. She buried them in a small Christian cemetery which a certain Generosa had excavated close by, under the boundary line of the grove itself. Beatrix, left alone in the world, found shelter in the house of one of the Lucinas; but the persecutors, to whom her pious action had evidently been reported, discovered her retreat, and killed her by suffocation, seven months after the execution of Simplicius and Faustinus. Lucina laid her to rest in the same cemetery of Generosa, by the side of her brothers. This touching story is related in contemporary documents.
The accompanying illustration represents the portrait of Viatrix discovered in the Catacomb of Generosa in the spring of 1868.
The Cemetery of Domitilla. The farm of Torre Marancia, at the crossing of the Via Ardeatina and the Via delle Sette Chiese, is familiar to archaeologists on account of the successful excavations which the duchess of Chablais made there in the spring of the years 1817 and 1822. Bartolomeo Borghesi, who first visited them in April, 1817, describes the remains of a noble villa of the first century, with mosaic pavements, fountains, statuary, candelabra, and frescoes. The pictures of Pasiphae, Canace, Phaedra, Myrrha, and Scylla, which are now in the Cabinet of the Aldobrandini Marriage, in the Vatican Library, were discovered in one of the bedrooms of the villa. Other works of art, now exhibited in the third compartment of the Galleria dei Candelabri, were found in the peristyle. An exact description of these discoveries, with maps and illustrations, is given by Marchese Biondi in a volume called "Monumenti Amaranziani," published in Rome in 1825.
The Villa Amaranthiana, from which the modern name of Torre Marancia is derived, belonged to two ladies, one of imperial descent, Flavia Domitilla, a relative of Domitian and Titus, the other of patrician birth, Munatia Procula, the daughter of Marcus. Domitilla's name appears twice in documents attesting her ownership of the ground; the first is the grant of a sepulchral area, measuring •thirty-five feet by forty, to Sergius Cornelius Julianus ex indulgentia Flaviae Domitillae; the other mentions the construction of another p336tomb, Flaviae Domitillae divi Vespasiani neptis beneficio.17
These concessions refer to burial-plots above ground, on the Via Ardeatina. Much more important was the permission given by Domitilla for the excavation of a catacomb in the service of the Church, which had just been established in Rome by the apostles. The catacomb consisted originally of two sections; one for the use of those members of the imperial Flavian family who had been converted to the gospel, and one for common use. I have already given a brief account of the first (see p. 10). The entrance to the crypts was built in a conspicuous place, under the safeguard of the law which guaranteed the inviolability of private tombs. The place can still be visited. On each side of the entrance are apartments for the celebration of anniversary banquets, the ἀγάπαι or love-feasts of the early Church. Those on the left are decorated in the so‑called Pompeian style, with birds and festoons on a red ground. Here is the well, the drinking-fountain, the washing-trough, and the wardrobe. On the opposite side is the schola, or banqueting-room, with benches on three sides. There is no doubt that the builders and owners of these crypts were Christians; because the graves within were arranged for the interment of bodies, not for cremation; that is, for sarcophagi and coffins, not for cinerary urns; and, as I stated at the beginning of the previous chapter, the pagans of the first century, and of the first half of the second, were never interred. The Domitilla after whom the catacombs were named was a niece of Vespasian, Divi Vespasiani neptis. The reader will remember that in chapter i. I quoted Xiphilinus as saying that in the year 95 some members of the imperial family were condemned by Domitian on the charge of atheism, together with other leading personages, p337who had adopted "the customs and persuasion of the Jews," — an expression which means the Christian faith. Among those condemned he mentions Clemens and Domitilla, whose genealogy is still subject to some uncertainty.
A tombstone discovered in 1741, by Marangoni, in these very catacombs, mentions two names, Flavius Sabinus and Flavia Titiana. They are descendants, perhaps grandchildren, of Flavius Sabinus, the brother of Vespasian. Sabinus was prefect of Rome during the persecution of Nero; but Tacitus18 describes him as a gentle man, who hated violence (mitem virum abhorrentem a sanguine et caedibus). His second son, Titus Flavius Clemens, consul A.D. 82, was executed in 95 on account of his Christian faith; and Flavia Domitilla, his daughter-in‑law, was banished for the same cause to the island Pandataria. There is a record of the banishment of another Flavia Domitilla to the island of Pontia; but her genealogy and relationship with the former have not been yet clearly established. Some writers, however, have identified her with the niece of Vespasian, mentioned in the inscription referred to above, as owner of the villa of Torre Marancia and founder of the catacombs. The small island, where she spent many years in solitary confinement, is described by S. Jerome as one of the leading places of pilgrimage in the fourth century of our era.
The "Acta Martyrum" state that Flavia Domitilla, niece of Flavius Clemens, was buried at Terracina, with her attendants, Theodora and Euphrosyne; and that her body-servants, or cubicularii, Nereus and Achilleus, who were executed for the same reason, were laid to rest in the crypts of the Villa Amaranthiana, •half a mile from Rome, near the tomb of Petronilla, the so‑called daughter of S. Peter. In the early itineraries the place is also indicated as the p338"cemetery of Domitilla, Nereus, and Achilleus, near Santa Petronilla." Bosio discovered it towards the end of the sixteenth century, and mistook it for the Cemetery of Callixtus. The discoveries made in 1873 leave no doubt as to its identification with the famous burial-place of the Flavians; they brought to light, not a crypt of ordinary dimensions, but a basilica equal in size to the one dedicated to S. Lorenzo by Constantine.
Basilica of Nereus, Achilleus and Petronilla.
The pavement of the basilica is sunk to the level of the second floor of the catacombs, in order that the graves of Nereus, Achilleus, and Petronilla could be enclosed in the altar, without being raised, or touched at all. The body of the church is divided into nave and aisles by two rows of columns, mostly of cipollino, some of which were stolen in 1871 by the farmer; the others were found in 1876 lying on the floor, in parallel lines from northeast to southwest, as if they had been overthrown by an earthquake.
The Execution of Acilleus.
The character of the letters and the style of the bas-relief are those of the first half of the fourth century. Of the sister column, with the name and martyrdom of NEREVS, only a small bit has been found. Another monument of equal value is a broken slab containing, in the first line, the letters . . . .RVM; in the second, the letters . . . .ORVM; and below these, the cross-shaped anchor, p340the mysterious but certain emblem of Christian hope. As the position of the symbol determines the middle point of the inscription, it is easy to reconstruct the whole text, by a calculation of the size of each letter:—
"the tomb of the Flavian family," namely, of those relatives of Domitilla who had embraced the Christian faith.
Under the pavement of the nave, aisles, and presbytery, are numberless graves, some of which belong to the original catacombs, before they were cut and disarranged by the building of the basilica; others are built in accordance with the architectural lines of the basilica itself. A grave belonging to the first series, that is, to a gallery of the catacombs which had been blocked by the foundations of the left aisle, bears the date of the year 390; while a sarcophagus placed at the foot of the altar is dated Monday, May 12, 395. It is evident, therefore, that the basilica was built between 390 and 395, during the pontificate of Siricius.
Petronilla and Veneranda.
The younger figure, on the right, is Petronilla Martyr; the elder is a matron named Veneranda, buried January 7 p342(DEPositaVI. IDVS. IANVARIAS), in the sarcophagus below the picture. There is no doubt that Petronilla was buried in close proximity to this cubiculum. The story of her relationship to S. Peter has no foundation whatever; it rests on an etymological mistake, by which the name Petronilla is treated as a diminutive of Petrus, as is Plautilla of Plautius or Plautia, and Domitilla of Domitius or Domitia. Petrus is not a Latin name; it came into use with the spreading of the gospel, and only in rare and exceptional cases. The young martyr was named after a member of the same Flavian family to which this cemetery belonged, Titus Flavius Petron, an uncle of Vespasian. Her kinship with the apostle must consequently be taken in a spiritual sense.
Towards the end of 1881 another remarkable discovery took place in these catacombs: that of a cubiculum which in style of decoration is unique. It looks more like the room of a Pompeian house than a Christian crypt. Its architectural paintings with groups of frail columns supporting fantastic friezes, and enclosing pastoral landscapes, might be compared to the frescoes of the Golden House of Nero, or those of the house of Germanicus on the Palatine; but they find no parallel in "subterranean Rome."
The name of the owner of this conspicuous tomb is engraved above the arcosolium; AMPLIATI. The size and the beauty of the letters, the peculiarity of a single cognomen in a possessive case, the fact that a man of inferior condition19 should own such a tomb; that at a later period, a staircase had been cut through the rock, to provide a direct communication between the Via Ardeatina and the tomb, for the accommodation of pilgrims the care used to keep p343the tomb in good order, as shown by later restorations, — all these circumstances make us believe that Ampliatus was a prominent leader of our early Christian community.
Such being the case, the mind runs at once to the paragraph of S. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (xvi.8): "Salute Ampliatus my beloved in the Lord," and one feels inclined to kneel before the tomb of the dear friend of the apostle. However, when discoveries of this kind happen, it is wise to proceed with caution, and examine every detail from a sceptical point of view. Doubtless the cubiculum of Ampliatus was made and painted in the first century of our era. The type of the letters engraved above the tomb is peculiar to painted or written inscriptions of the beginning of the second century. It is possible, therefore, that the name was at first painted on the white plaster, and engraved on marble many years after the deposition of Ampliatus. As regards Ampliatus himself, it is true that according to Greek tradition he died when Bishop of Moesia,20 but the tradition is derived from an apocryphal source. There are those who doubt whether all the salutations contained in S. Paul's epistle are really addressed to the faithful residing in that and belonging to the Roman community.21 Another difficulty arises from the fact that in the same cubiculum a tombstone has been found, inserted in the wall above the arcosolium, between two painted peacocks, with this inscription: "Aurelius Ampliatus and his son Gordianus have placed this memorial to Aurelia Bonifatia, wife and mother incomparable, and truly chaste, who lived 25 years, 2 months, 4 days, and 2 hours." Although the name Aurelius is not uncommon on tombstones of the first century in this very Cemetery of Domitilla, there is no doubt p344that the tablet of Aurelia Bonifatia belongs to a later period. The name Bonifatius — derived from bonum fatum, not from bonum facere as commonly believed - did not come into use before the middle of the second century. At all events, Ampliatus, husband of Bonifatia and father of Gordianus, may be the son, grandson, or even a later descendant of the man in whose memory the cubiculum was originally built.
Shall we recognise in this man the friend of S. Paul? I do not think the question can as yet be answered with certainty. Further excavations in the galleries radiating from the crypt may disclose fresh particulars, and supply more conclusive evidence.
The discoveries of which a summary description has here been given deserve a place of honor in the comments to Suetonius' "Lives of the Emperors." The exploration of underground Rome must be greeted with pleasure, not only by the pious believers in Christ and his martyrs, but also by agnostic students of classical history. A tombstone, which on one side is inscribed with the records of the victories gained by the imperial legions, on the other with the simple and humble name of a Christian who has given his life for his faith, is a monument worthy the consideration• of all thoughtful men. Christian archaeology has an intimate and indissoluble connection with classical studies, and there is no discovery referring to the first century of Christianity which does not throw new and often unexpected light on general history, art, and science. Those made at Torre Marancia in 1875 illustrate the history of Rome and the Campagna, after the fall of the emperor. In the niche where the episcopal chair was placed, — behind the high altar, in the middle of the apse, — a rough hand has sketched the figure of a priest, dressed in a casula, in the p345act of preaching from his seat. This sketch reminds us of Gregory the Great, when in this very cemetery of Nereus and Achilleus, in this very apse, he read one of his homilies from this episcopal chair, deploring to the panic-stricken congregation the state of the city, the queen of the world, desolated by famine, by pestilence, and by the Lombards, who at that very moment were burning and plundering the villas and farms of the surrounding Campagna.
Cemetery ad Catacumbas.22 The cemetery near the church of S. Sebastiano was originally called in an indefinite way cimiterium ad catacumbas. The etymology of the name is uncertain. De Rossi suggests the roots cata, a Graeco-Latin preposition of the decadence, signifying "near," and cumba, a resting-place. The word would therefore mean apud accubitoria, "near the resting-places," an allusion to the many tombs which surrounded the old crypt above and below ground. This crypt dates from apostolic times, or, at all events, from a period much earlier than the martyrdom of Sebastian, the Christian officer whose name it now bears.
The great interest of the cemetery is derived from the shelter which the bodies of the apostles are said to have had in its recesses during the fiercest times of persecution. The temporary transferment of the remains of SS. Peter and Paul, from their graves on the Via Cornelia and the Via p346Ostiensis, to the catacombs, is no a mere tradition. It is described by •Pope Damasus in a metric inscription published by de Rossi,23 and by •Pope Gregory in an epistle to the empress Constantina, no. 30 of book iv. A curious entry in the calendar called Bucherianum, from its first editor, seems to point to a double transferment. The entry is dated June 29, A.D. 258:—
Tertio Kalendas Julias, Tusco et Basso consulibus, Petri in Vaticano, Pauli in Via Ostiensis• - utriusque in Catacumbas.
Since, in early calendars, the date is only appended in case of transferment of remains, archaeologists have suggested the theory that the bodies of the apostles may possibly have found shelter in the catacombs of the Appian Way a second time, during the persecution of Valerian (A.D. 258). Marchi asserts that the evidences of a double concealment are still to be found in the frescoes of the crypt, some of which belong to the first, others to the third, century; but this hardly seems to be the case. I lowered myself into the hiding-place on February 23 of the present year, and, after careful examination, have come to the conclusion that its paintings are by one hand and of one epoch, the epoch of •Damasus. However, whether they were laid there once or twice, its temporary connection with the apostles made the "locus ad catacumbas" one of the great suburban sanctuaries. The cubiculum, called Platonia, was decorated by Damasus with marble incrustations. According to the Acts of S. Sebastian (January 20) he expressed the wish to be buried "ad catacumbas, at the entrance of the crypt, near the memorial of the apostles." These events were represented in the frescoes of the old portico of S. Peter's, destroyed in 1606‑1607 by Paul V. One of them p347showed the bodies of the apostles, bandaged like mummies, being lowered into the place of concealment; the other, Lucina and Cornelius bringing back the bodies to their original graves in the Via Cornelia and the Via Ostiensis.
A remarkable monument was discovered in the crypt four years ago. It is a marble bust, or rather the fragment of a bust, of the Redeemer, with locks of hair descending on each shoulder,24 a work of the fourth century.
THE IDEAL ROMAN FIGURE OF CHRIST
The portrait head of Jesus
in the Sancta Sanctorum.
To this type belongs the bust discovered four years ago in the "locus ad catacumbas". According to an ingenious hypothesis of Bottari, adopted by de Rossi, the Paneas group is represented on the Lateran sarcophagus, engraved by Roller in the second volume of his "Catacombs," plate 58.
The Cemetery of Cyriaca. This, the principal cemetery of the Via Tiburtina, was excavated in the hill above the basilica of S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura. It is the one with which I have had most to do, because the building of the new Camposanto, together with the sinking of the foundations of the new tombs, has been the occasion of frequent discoveries. One of the characteristic features of Cyriaca's cemetery is the large number of military inscriptions from the praetorian camp which were used to close the graves, the name of the deceased Christian being engraved on the blank side of the slab. On December 23, 1876, a landslide of considerable extent took place along the southern face of the p351rock in which the catacombs are excavated, in consequence of which many loculi, arcosolia, and painted cubicula were laid open. I happened to witness the accident, and was able to direct the exploration of the graves. Among the objects discovered, I remember a pair of silver earrings, a necklace of gold and emeralds, •sixteen inches long, clay objects of various kinds, gladiatorial and theatrical lamps, and nine Christian tombstones. One of them was engraved on the back of a slab from the praetorian camp, containing the roster of one hundred and fifty soldiers from the twelfth and fourteenth city cohorts (cohortes urbanae). Each individual has his praenomen, nomen, and cognomen, carefully indicated, together with the names of his father, tribe, and country. The men are grouped in companies, which are indicated by the name of their captains, such as the "company of Marcellus" or the "company of Tranquillinus," with the consular date of the year in which Marcellus and Tranquillinus p352were in command of that company. Another part of the same roster, engraved on a slab of the same marble and size, and containing many more names, was found a century and a half ago in the same place, and removed to the Vatican Museum.
One of the tombs, discovered during the following January, seems to have belonged to a lady of rank. A gold necklace and a pair of opal earrings were found in the earth which filled the grave. Relatives or friends of the occupants of the cubiculum had written on the plaster words of affection and devotion, such as "Gaianus, live in Christ with Procula;" "Semplicius, live in Christ."
It is to be regretted that, in order to make room for the daily victims of death, the municipality of Rome should be obliged to turn out of their graves the faithful of the third and fourth centuries who were buried in the neighborhood of S. Lorenzo. In 1876 I witnessed the discovery of a section of the old cemetery at the foot of the hill of Cyriaca. The tombs were mostly sarcophagi, with reliefs, the subjects of which are taken from the Bible. One of them, carved in the rude but pathetic style of the fifth century, represents the crossing of the Red Sea, and the Egyptian hosts, led by Pharaoh, following closely on the Jews. The waves are closing over the persecutors, just as the last of the fugitives emerges safely on land. The "column of fire" is represented, according to the Vitruvian rules, with base and capital; and the costumes of the warriors of the Nile are those of Roman gregarii, or privates, under Constantine. Another sarcophagus shows the Virgin Mary, with the infant Savior in her arms, receiving the offering of the Eastern kings. A third represents a sort of pageant of court dignitaries of one of the Valentinians. Besides these and many other pieces of p353sculpture seventy-two inscriptions or fragments of inscriptions were dug up, mostly from the pavement of a ruined chapel, one of the seven by which the basilica of S. Lorenzo was surrounded in ancient times.
Inscription from the grave of Alexander, a dentist.
Alexander was a dentist; the unknown owner of the other slab was a general surgeon, yet the symbol of dentistry occupies the prominent place in his display of tools. In my experience of Roman or Latin excavations, in which thousands of tombs have been brought to light, I have hardly ever met with a skull the p354teeth of which showed symptoms of decay, or evidence of having been operated upon by a professional hand. Specimens of filling are even more rare than those of gold plating. Of this latter process we have now a beautiful sample in a skull discovered in the excavations of Faleria, and exhibited in the Faliscan Museum at the Villa Giulia, outside the Porta del Popolo. The gold socket or plating of three molar teeth is still in excellent condition. And here I may recall the ancient law, mentioned by Cicero (De Leg. ii. 24), which made it illegal to bury a body with gold, except such as had been used in fastening the teeth.
The Cemetery ad Duas Lauros (of SS. Peter and Marcellinus).29 To the left of the second milestone of the Via Labicana there was an imperial villa, named ad Duas Lauros (the two laurels), where the empress Helena was buried by Constantine, and Valentinian III. was murdered when playing with other youths, in 455.b Adjoining the tomb of the empress, which was described in chapter iv., pp. 197 sq., were two cemeteries, — one above ground, belonging to the "Equites Singulares," or body guards; the other, below. The latter was the largest of the Via Labicana, and was known in early Church annals under the same name as the imperial villa. In 1880‑82 a third and deeper network of galleries was excavated for the sake of extracting the pozzolana, the beds of which support the tufa and the catacombs excavated in it. Some damage was done to the tombs, but the Italian proverb Non tutto il male viene per nuocere• proved true once more on this occasion. The excavation of the catacombs, which is generally p355a difficult and costly work, and sometimes impossible, when the owner of the ground above them objects to this form of trespassing on his estate, here became an easy matter, the earth being simply thrown into the sandpits from the catacombs above. The discoveries made on this occasion, added to the descriptions and drawings left by former explorers, give us a thorough knowledge of these labyrinths. The impression which they make at first is rather poor; but this is due chiefly to the ravages committed by early explorers.
The inscriptions are few and not particularly interesting, except one, which was discovered in 1873, and is written in excellent style: "Aurelius Theophilus, a citizen of Carrhae, a man of pure mind and great innocence, at the age of twenty-three has rendered his soul to God, his body to the earth." His native city, the Haran, or Charan of the Bible, where Abraham lived, is known in Church annals as one of the strongholds of paganism in Mesopotamia. When Julian the Apostate led the Roman armies against the Persians, in 362, he halted for some time at Carrhae, to perform impious and cruel sacrifices in the sanctuary of Luno. A description of the crime is given by Theodoretus in Book III. ch. xxvi. At that time Carrhae, in spite of its devotion to the old religion, had a bishop named Vitus, who died in 381, and was succeeded by Protogenes. According to Theodoretus, he succeeded in "cultivating that wild field which had been covered with idolatrous thorns." Aurelius Theophilus was probably a contemporary of these events, as the inscription on his tombstone belongs undoubtedly to the end of the fourth century. There are also a few inscriptions scratched on plaster, by pilgrims who visited the three historical crypts of Marcellinus and Peter, Gorgonius, and Tiburtius. To save devout visitors the trouble and danger p356of crossing the labyrinths, each of these crypts was made accessible directly from the ground above by means of a staircase. The graffiti are found mostly on the sides or at the foot of these staircases, or else on the door-posts of the crypts themselves.
The historical and religious associations of this catacomb are summed up and illustrated in a beautiful picture representing the Savior with S. Paul on his right and S. Peter on his left: and, on a line below, the four martyrs who were buried in the cemetery, Gorgonius, Peter, Marcellinus, and Tiburtius, pointing with their right hands to the Divine Lamb on the mountain. The heads of the two apostles are particularly fine, and the shape of their beards most characteristic. This well-known fresco, preserved in cubiculum no. 25 of Bosio's plan, was discovered in 1851 by de Rossi, in a curious manner. Having obtained from padre Marchi permission to carry the excavations towards the cubiculum, and finding that the work proceeded too slowly for his impatience, he crept on his hands and feet for •fifty yards along the narrow gap between the ceiling of the galleries and the earth with which they were filled, and reached the cubiculum nearly suffocated. Here, by means of a skylight which was not obstructed by rubbish, he found that the place was used as a deposit for carrion, as the half-putrefied carcass of a bull was lying under the famous fresco.
Many cubiculi were painted by one artist, whose power of invention was rather restricted. He has but two subjects: the story of Jonah, and the Symbolic Supper. Of this last there are four representations, all reproduced from the same pattern, of which I give an example. A family consisting of father, mother, and children, are sitting around a table, upon which the ἰχθὺς or fish is served; the banquet is presided over by two mystic figures, Irene or Peace on the left, p357Agape or Love on the right. The head of the family addresses Peace with these words: "Irene, da calda!" and Love, "Agape, misce mi!" The last words are easily understood: "Give me to drink," the verb mescere being still used in the same sense in Tuscany, where a wine-shop is sometimes called a mescita di vino. The meaning of the word calda is not certain.c There is no doubt, as Bötticher says, that the ancients had something to correspond to our tea: but the calda seems to have been more than an infusion; apparently it was a mixture of hot water, wine, and drugs, that is, a sort of punch, which was drunk mostly in winter.30 The names written in charcoal above the principal inscriptions in this illustration are those of Pomponio Leto and his academicians.31
Another artist distinguished himself in these catacombs, p358not from skill in design and color, but from the beautiful subjects chosen by him for the decoration of the walls and ceilings of three cubiculi, — compositions which may be called "The Gospel Illustrated." They have been admirably described and reproduced by photographs and in outline by monsignore Joseph Wilpert, in his book referred to in the note on page 354.• The intuition of this learned man in detecting paintings which have been effaced by age, dampness, and smoke is fully appreciated by students of Christian archaeology: but on this occasion he accomplished a real tour de force. When, on December 19, I entered the cubiculum no. 54, in which the paintings are, and he began to point out to me the outlines of figures and objects, I thought he was laboring under an optical delusion; I could see nothing beyond a blackened and mouldy plaster surface. My eyes, however, soon became initiated to the new experience, and able to round the lines of this curious palimpsest. The dark spots soon grew into shape, and lovely groups, inspired by the purest Christian symbolism, appeared on the walls. There are thirteen pictures, representing the following-named subjects: the annunciation, the three magi following the star (which is shaped like the monogram ), their adoration at Bethlehem, the baptism of our Lord, the last judgment, the healing of the blind, the woman of Samaria, the Good Shepherd (twice), the Orantes (twice).
The catacombs of SS. Peter and Marcellinus have another attraction for students. Poor as they are in epitaphs and works of art, they contain hundreds of names of celebrated humanists, archaeologists, and artists who explored these depths in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and made record of their visits. When one walks between two lines of graves, in the almost oppressive stillness of the cemetery, p359with no other company than one's thoughts, the names of Pomponius Letus and his academicians, of Bosio, Panvinio, Avanzini, Severano, Marangoni, Marchi, and d'Agincourt, written in bold letters, give the lonely wanderer the impression of meeting living and dear friends; and one wonders at the great love which these pioneers of "humanism" must have had for antiquities, to have spent days and days, and to have held their conferences and banquets, in places like these.
In chapter I, page 10, of "Ancient Rome," I mentioned Pomponio's Academy, and its visits to the crypts of Callixtus. Since the publication of my book, and the subject has been investigated again and illustrated by Giacomo Lombroso32 and de Rossi.33 It appears that after the trial which the Academicians underwent at the time of •Paul II., and their unexpected liberation from the Castle of S. Angelo, they decided to turn over a new leaf. From a fraternity which was pagan in manners and instincts, which had made itself conspicuous by the use of profane language, and by the celebration of profane meetings over the tombs of the martyrs, they became the "Societas litteratorum S. Victoris et sociorum in Esquiliis," a literary society under the patronage of S. Victor and his companion saints, namely, Fortunatus and Genesius. Their pontifex maximus became a president; their sacerdos a priest, whose duty it was to say mass on certain anniversaries. The most important celebration fell, as before, on April 21, the birthday of Rome. We have a description by an eye-witness, Jacopo Volaterrano, of that which took place in 1483: "On the Esquiline,34 p360near the house of Pomponius, the society of literary men has celebrated the birthday of Rome. Divine service was performed by Peter Demetrius of Lucca; Paul Marsus delivered the oration. The dinner was served in the hall adjoining the chapel of S. Salvatore de Cornutis," etc. In 1501, after the death of Pomponius, the anniversary meetings were held on the Capitol; the solemn mass was sung in the church of the Aracoeli, while the banquet took place in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. The convivial feast of 1501 was not a success. Burckhardt describes it as satis feriale et sine bono vino (commonplace and with no good wine).
Was the conversion of the Academicians a sincere one? We believe it was not; they manifested under Sixtus V. the same feelings which had brought them to justice under Paul II.
In the calendars of the Church of Rome only one name is registered on April 21, that of Pope Victor. His alleged companions, Fortunatus and Genesius, were singled out of old, disused calendars of the church of Africa, unknown to the Latins. Why did the academicians select such enigmatic and obscure protectors? The reason is evident. Genesius was chosen because his name suggested an allusion to the genesis (natalis) or birthday of Rome; Victor and Fortunatus, likewise, were considered names of good omen, with a suggestion of the Victory and Fortune who presided over the destinies of ancient Rome.
p361 Under the protection of these alleged saints, Pomponius and his friends worshipped, and celebrated the birthday of Rome, and the goddesses connected with the city.35
This state of things did not wholly escape the attention of contemporary observers. One of them, Raffaele Volaterrano, expressly says: "Pomponius Laetus worshipped Romulus and kept the birthday of Rome; the beginning of a campaign against religion (initium abolendae fidei)."
The Roman academy found the means of keeping faithful to its traditions, and to the spirit of its institutions, in spite of the reform of its statutes. Victor, Fortunatus, Genesius, in whose honor divine service was performed on April 20, did not represent to the initiated the saints of the Church, but the fortunes of ancient Rome, its founder, the Paliliae. Still, we are not yet able to discover whether all this was done simply out of love and admiration for the ancient world, under the influence of the Renaissance of classical studies; or from hatred and contempt of Christian faith: initium abolendae fidei.
General Note on Chapter VII: Principal authorities: — Philip de Winghe: Cod. biblioth. Bruxell. 17872. — Panvinius: De Caemeteriis Urbis Romae. Rome, 1568. — Antonio Bosio: Roma sotterranea; opera postuma. Roma, 1632‑34. — Paolo Aringhi: Roma subterranea novissima. Roma, 1651 fol. Cologne, 1659 fol. — M. A. Boldetti: Osservazioni sopra i cimiteri de' SS. martiri. Roma, Salvioni, 1720. — Giovanni Bottari: Sculture e pitture estratte dai cimiteri di Roma. 3 vol. Roma, 1737‑54. — Filippo Buonarroti: Vasi antichi di vetro ornati di figure, etc. Firenze, 1716, 4. — Raoul Rochette: Le catacombe di Roma. Milano, 1841. — Giuseppe Marchi: Monumenti delle arti cristiane primitive. Roma, Puccinelli, 1844. — Raffaele Garrucci: Storia dell' arte cristiana. Roma: 6 vol. fol.; Vetri ornati di figure in oro, trovati nei cimiteri dei Cristiani. Rome, Salviucci, 1858. — Louis Perret: Les catacombes de Rome, etc. 6 vol. fol. Paris, 1852‑1856. — De Rossi: Roma sotterranea cristiana. 3 vol. fol. Roma, Salviucci, 1864; Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae. 2 vol. fol. Rome, 1861‑1887; Bullettino di archeologia cristiana. Roma, Salviucci, 1863‑1901. — Northcote and Brownlow: Roma sotterranea. 2 volumes 8vo, 2d ed. London, Longmans, 1878. — Northcote: Epitaphs of the Catacombs. London, Longmans, 1878. — Henry Parker: The Catacombs of Rome. Oxford, Parker, 1877.
constitution of Constans issued in 349: See Cod. Theodos. ix. 17, 2.
Jewish colony in Rome: On the subject of the Jewish colony in Rome, see: — Emmanuel Rodocanachi: Le saint-siège et les Juifs: le Ghetto à Rome. Paris, Didot, 1891. — A. Bertolotti: Les Juifs à Rome. Revue des études juives, 1881, fasc. 4. — Raffaele Garrucci: Cimiterio degli antichi Ebrei. Roma, 1862. — Pietro Manfrin: Gli Ebrei sotto la dominazione romana. Roma, 1888‑1890. — Ettore Natali: Il Ghetto di Roma. Roma, 1887. — Perreau: Education et culture des Israelites en Italie au moyen âge. Corfou, 1885.
painted Fabius Eupor inscription: This "poster," painted in red letters, which is now in the Museo Nazionale, Naples, was published by Zangemeister in vol. IV., p. 13, n. 117, of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum. — Prof. Mommsen, in the Rheinisches Museum, xix. (1864), p. 456, contradicts the opinion of de Rossi as regards the religious persuasion of this Fabius Eupor (Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1864, pp. 70, 92).
Paul could preach the gospel with freedom, even when in custody: See Champagny: Rome et la Judée, p. 31, of the first edition.
Domitian claiming tribute from the Jews: See Suetonius, Domitian, chap. 92; Dion Cassius, lxvii. 13.
Trajan to Pliny the younger: See Pliny, Epistolae, x. 67.
the Christians enjoyed nearly thirty years of peace: See de Rossi: Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1868, p. 19.
passage disguised by the fossores: See Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1867, p. 76.
Michele Stefano de Rossi on the number of tombs within three miles of the gates of Servius: See Atti dell' Accademia dei Nuovi Lincei, sessione 6 maggio, 1860.
inscriptions found in rebuilding the basilica of S. Paolo fuori le Mura: Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1863, p. 75.
. . . passim corpora condens
Plurima sanctorum subter haec moenia ponit.
great sensation at the discovery of the Christian cemetery at the second milestone of the Via Salaria: The attention of learned men had been directed towards Christian underground Rome just ten years before this event, by the publication of Panvinio's pamphlet De caemeteriis urbis Romae, 1566.
Baronius on the Christian cemetery at the second milestone of the Via Salaria: Ad ann. 575; 130, 226.
paintings of the first century in the crypt of the Flavian family at Torre Marancia: See Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1865, p. 36.
treasure-trove in catacombs: See Fea: Miscellanea, vol. I., pp. 238, 245, etc.
polychrome cameo of marvellous beauty: It is now in the Vatican Library. A good engraving is to be found in Buonarroti's Osservazioni sui medaglioni, p. 497.
Domitilla's name appears twice as owner of the ground: Historiar., iii. 65.
Thayer's Note: There is something wrong here, and irrecoverably so for me. This is almost identical with the next note (q.v.) but there is nothing about Domitilla in that passage of Tacitus: it is a proofreading error in Lanciani. If you can supply the intended reference, please let me know.
a man of inferior condition: The name Ampliatus belongs to servants and freedmen; it was never used by men of rank, whether pagans or Christians.
Ampliatus Bishop of Moesia: Baronius ad Martyr. 31 October.
Cemetery ad Catacumbas: Orazio Marucchi: Di un ipogeo scoperto nel cimitero di S. Sebastiano. Roma, 1879; Un antico busto del Salvatore, etc., in the Mélanges de l'Ecole française, 1888, p. 403. — Pietro d' Achille: Il sepolcro di S. Pietro. Roma, 1867. — Giovanni B. Lugari: Le catacombe ossia il sepolcro apostolico dell' Appia. Roma, 1888. — De Rossi: Roma sotterranea cristiana, vol. III., p. 427; Il sepolcro degli Uranii cristiani a S. Sebastiano, in the Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1886, p. 24. — Pietro Marchi: Monumenti primitivi delle arti cristiane, p. 212, tav. xxxix‑xli.
Pope Damasus in a metric inscription published by de Rossi: Inscriptiones Christianae, vol. II. 32, 77.
fragment of a bust of the Redeemer: Represented in plate ix. of the Mélanges de l'Ecole française de Rome, 1888.
Christ as the Good Shepherd, in the Lateran Museum: This is also illustrated by Martigny: Dictionnaire, 2d ed. p. 586. — Kraus: Realencyclopädie, ii. p. 580. — Northcote and Brownlow: Roma Sotterranea. London, 1879. (ii. p. 29.) — Roller: Catacombes, planche i., xl. n. 2. — Garrucci: arte cristiana, tav. 428, 5. — Duchesne: Bulletin critique,º Décembre, 1882, p. 288. — De Rossi: Bullettino comunale, 1889, p. 131, tav. v., vi.
image of Jesus in the chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum: See: — Giovanni Marangoni: Istoria dell' oratorio appellato Sancta Sanctorum. Roma, 1747. — Gaspare Bambi: Memorie sacre della cappella di Sancta Sanctorum. Roma, 1775. — Giuseppe Soresini: Dell' immagine del SS. Salvatore ad Sancta Sanctorum. Roma, 1675. — Benedetto Millini: Oratorio di S. Lorenzo ad Sancta Sanctorum. Roma, 1616. — Raffaele Garrucci: Storia dell' arte cristiana, vol. I. p. 408. — Rohault de Fleury: Le Latran.
Paneas group: On the subject of the Paneas group see: — André Peraté: Note sur le groupe de Paneas, in Mélanges de l'Ecole française de Rome, 1885, p. 302. — Raoul-Rochette: Discours sur les types imitatifs qui constituent l'art du Christianisme, 1834. — Bayet: Recherches pour servir à l'histoire de la peinture en Orient, p. 29. — Orazio Marucchi: Di un busto del Salvatore, etc., in the Mélanges, 1888, p. 403. — Eusebius: H. E. VII., 185, edition Teubner, p. 315. — Grimouard de St. Laurent: Guide de l'art Chrétien, ii. p. 215.
Cemetery ad Duas Lauros: See: — Bossio:º Roma sotterranea, p. 591, D. — Bruder: Die heiligen Martyren Marcellinus und Petrus. Mainz, 1878. — De Rossi: Bullettino di archeologia cristiana. 1882, p. 111. — Wilpert: Ein Cyclus christologischer Gemälde aus der Katacombe der heiligen Petrus und Marcellinus. Freiburg, 1891.
calda: See Becker: Gallus, p. 4.
Thayer's Note: For further discussion and an illustration of a calda-server,
Pomponio's Academy and its visits to the crypts of Callixtus: Giacomo Lombroso: Gli accademici nelle catacombe, in the Archivio della società romana di storia patria, 1889, p. 219.
De Rossi on Pomponio's Academy and its visits to the crypts of Callixtus: Bullettino di archeologia cristiana, 1890, p. 81. — See also: de Nollac: Mélanges de l'Ecole française de Rome, 1866, p. 165.
on the Esquiline: The house of Pomponius and the seat of the Academy was not on the Esquiline, but on the Quirinal, on the area of the Baths of Constantine, opposite the gate of the Colonna Gardens. The mistake in the name of the hill must be attributed to Pomponius himself, who had written on the door of the house: —
POMPONI · LAETI · ET · SOCIETATIS · ESCVVILINAI
After the reform of the statutes, another sign, less classic in style, was put up:
the birthday of Rome: The Temple of Fortune in Rome was dedicated on this very day. See Mommsen, in the Corpus inscriptionum latinarum, vol. I. p. 392.
Now 866 km equals 537 miles ("geographical" or statute, as opposed to nautical); and at two bodies per meter, 866 km must represent 1,732,000 bodies.
Lanciani's notes surely had metric measurements, which he then converted in this book written for an American audience; the kilometers must then be the primary figure, and the two other figures can be explained by plausible printer errors (587 for 537, and 752 for 732), so that this is almost certainly the correct emendation.
Still, once we have a mistake, doubt and other possibilities remain.
b Bury (History of the Later Roman Empire, p300) places the imperial assassination at a different Ad Lauros; Platner-Ashby throw doubt on any Ad Lauros at all, preferring to place it in the Campus Martius (q.v.).
c Maybe with absolute precision, the term isn't as clear as scholars might like; but it was a sort of toddy or mulled wine: see the article Calida in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.
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Early Roman Christian Cemeteries
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