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 p371  Crypta

Article by William Ramsay, M.A., Professor of Humanity in the University of Glasgow
on p371 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

CRYPTA (from κρύπτειν, to conceal), a crypt. Amongst the Romans, any long narrow vault, whether wholly or partially below the level of the earth, is expressed by this term; such as a sewer (crypta Suburae, Juv. Sat. V.196) [Cloaca]; the carceres of the circus [Circus, p285]; or a magazine for the reception of agricultural produce (Vitruv. VI.5;º comp. Varro, R. R. I.57).

The specific senses of the word are:—

1. A covered portico or arcade; called more definitely crypto-porticus, because it was not supported by open columns like the ordinary portico, but closed at the sides, with windows only for the admission of light and air (Plin. Epist. II.15, V.6, VII.21; Sidon. Epist. II.2). These were frequented during summer for their coolness. A portico of this kind, almost entire, is still remaining in the suburban villa of Arrius Diomedes at Pompeii [Porticus].

Some theatres, if not all, had a similar portico attached to them for the convenience of the performers, who there rehearsed their parts (Suet. Cal. 58; compare Dion Cass. LIX.29;º Joseph. Antiq. XIX.1 § 14). One of these is mentioned by P. Victor (Regio IX) as the crypta Balbi, attached to the theatre built by Cornelius Balbus at the instigation of Augustus (Suet. Aug. 29; Dion Cass. LIV.25), which is supposed to be the ruin now seen in the Via di S. Maria di Cacaberis, between the church of that name and the S. Maria di Pianto.

2. A grotto, particularly one open at both extremities, forming what in modern language is denominated a "tunnel," like the grotto of Pausilippo, well known to every visitant of Naples. This is a tunnel excavated in the tufo rock, about 20 feet high, and 1800 long, forming the direct communication between Naples and Pozzuoli (Puteoli), called by the Romans crypta Neapolitana, and described by Seneca (Epist. 57) and Strabo who calls it διώρυξ κρυπτὴ (V p246; compare Petron. Frag. XIII).

A subterranean further used for any secret worship, but more particularly for the licentious rites consecrated to Priapus, was also called crypta (Petron. Sat. XVI.3; compare XVII.8).

3. When the practice of consuming the body by fire was relinquished [Funus], and a number of bodies were consigned to one place of burial, as the catacombs for instance, this common tomb was called crypta (Salmas. Exercit. Plinian. p850; Aring. Rom. Subterr. I.1 § 9; Prudent. Περὶ Στέφ. XI.153). One of these, the crypta Nepotiana, which was in the vicus Patricius, under the Esquiline (Festus, s.v. Septimontium), was used by the early Christians, during the times of their persecution, as a place of secret worship, as well as of interment, and contains many interesting inscriptions (Nardini, Rom. Antic. IV.3; Maitland, The Church in the Catacombs).

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Page updated: 26 May 18