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Mithraic Inscription in Ficulle (Umbria)

(CIL VI.3723)


[image ALT: A closeup of an inscription, handsomely carved on stone. It is a Roman inscription in Ficulle, Umbria (central Italy), the text of which is given and translated on this page.]

Transcription:

1
 
 
 
5
 
 
 
 
10
Soli Invicto
Mitrhaeº
Tiberivs Clavdi
vs Tiberii filivs
Thermodon
spelaevm cvm
signis et aptis
ceterisqve
voti compos
dedit

Translation:

1
2
3
5
4
9
10
6
7
8
To the Unconquered Sun
Mithra
Tiberius Claudius
Thermodon
son of Tiberius,
mindful of his vow,
gave
the cavern with
its statues and
other appropriate items.

Inscription in the church of S. Maria Vecchia, Ficulle, Umbria.
(For a pulled-back view, see my general page on the interior of the church.)

The "cavern" was the heart of the Mithraic sanctuary: sometimes a natural cave, but always at any rate a dark windowless space, usually underground. The spelaeum was very often made to look like a cave as well, with irregular contours of tufa and shells embedded in the walls; much like Lourdes grottoes in modern Catholic practice.

The provenance of this dedicatory inscription, the top of which shows that at some later time it was put to Christian use as a baptismal font or a holy water stoup, is unknown. The TCI Guide to Umbria affirms that it was found "on the other side of the Paglia river", and the comune's site states that no one knows, although some people believe it to have come from under the church; my own tempting candidate, without any evidence to back me up, is that it may have been in the little grottoes under the church of the Maestà (q.v.), about 400 m farther out of town than S. Maria Vecchia.

Despite what can be read elsewhere online, this is not an altar, but merely a dedicatory inscription, the record of a man's generosity to a religious sanctuary; and Tiberius Claudius Thermodon is not a member of the imperial family, except at most by extension: if — pure supposition — his father had been an imperial slave, on being freed he may have taken the name Tiberius Claudius.

These same photographs of mine can be found, with a slightly different translation and a fair amount of additional scholarly context, in the Mithras section of Tertullian.Org under its number in the Catalogue of Monuments and Images of Mithras, CIMRM660. I also owe that page a small correction to my own translation as I give it above.


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Page updated: 16 Aug 14