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be preserved with tender affection. This feeling is well described by Prudentius:
Hinc maxima cura sepulcris
This community had grown with wonderful rapidity, so as, even in the reign of Nero, to be exposed to a cruel-it might have been supposed an exterminating - persecution. They were of sufficient importance to be cast forth, as it were a scapegoat, to the populace, who were maddened, after the fire of Rome, by the most blind and furious passions of our nature, panic, revenge, superstition; and perhaps to divert the thoughts of the multitude from the Government, against whom some suspicious murmurs had begun to spread.
But the religion had a life which defied, which gained strength from persecution. During the reign of Domitian, in Rome, certain members of the imperial family were accused of belonging to this, for a time, proscribed race. What truth there
may be in the accusation, we do not distinctly know (the whole transaction is very obscure); yet we would fain indulge the hope that, in their death, these victims had the consolations of Christianity.
And still the Christians grew and multiplied throughout the Roman world—in Rome especially, the centre of that world. There can be little doubt that, during what has been called the golden age in the Roman history, the reigns of Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and that of Marcus Aurelius down to the great Eastern plague, they were in constant unchecked accretion ; they were in still advancing proportion to the pagan population. Of this wonderful revolution during those times history is silent; for the best of reasons, because there is no history,
Of the long reign of Antoninus Pius we have a few pages in the volume of the Augustan historians. But, as the living Christians increased in numbers, so also must the number of their dead. That too, which, as it were, narrowed the space required for interment, the practice of cremation, by which the body was reduced to the dimensions of a small urn, which contained the ashes, and might be respectfully stowed away in the small niches of a columbarium-this practice now almost universal among the great and wealthy (Statius, as we have seen, mentions the case of Priscilla as something rare and unusual), was to the Christians a revolting abomination. Another circumstance perhaps added to their difficulty. The tomb of the great family might admit, as a special privilege, the remains of a few faithful and favourite freedmen, even of slaves; but these added only a few urns with their ashes; and, though it is pleasing to contemplate the usage, as showing the growth of a more humane feeling which was stealing over cruel Roman slavery, it was exceptional rather than common. But to the Christian the body of the freedman or slave (no doubt these social distinctions still subsisted) was as holy as that of his master. He had the same hope of the resurrection; to him extended that equality which alone can level all earthly distinctions—the same title to immortality. The lowest Christian was equal to his master in the hope of rising in glory from the grave. What then was to be done with Christian slaves ? indeed with Christian poor? Were they to be left, abandoned, unregarded, unmourned, to be borne on the cheap sandapila by those whose office it was, and cast into the horrible pits on the Esquiline, where the scanty earth could not (as in the time of Horace) protect them from the prowling wolf and the obscene bird of prey ? We must, indeed, observe that, even among the heathen Romans, there had grown up some respect for the remains of the poor. Not only imperial personages, such as Augustus and Livia, founded common sepulchres for their household, their freedmen, and slaves. It was not an uncommon act of magnificence and generosity to dig or to build
a columbarium (so called from its likeness to a dovecote with its rows of niches, one above another) for the poor or for slaves. One, undoubtedly heathen, situated not far from the tomb of the Scipios, has been described by Campana in the ‘Bulletino dell' Instituto,' 1840, p. 135; another, as clearly pagan, in the Vigna Codini, described by Herzen (" Annali d'Instituto,' 1856), contained niches for 600 urns. To the columbarium was usually attached an ustrinum, which showed that the practice of burning the dead was extended to the poor and to slaves. There were speculators also, who, like our cemetery companies, let out columbaria and niches in them. There were burial clubs too (sodalitates), which received a monthly payment, and had a common chest, from which was paid, on the decease of each member, a sum for his funeral expenses, funeraticum. The reader will find very curious details on this subject, with references to the various scattered authorities, chiefly from inscriptions, in the Römische Alterthümer' of Becker, continued by Marquardt, Th. iv. pp. 154, 155; Th. v. pp. 372, 373.
There were family sepulchres too, and gentilitian sepulchres, from the earliest period, in Rome. The Christians would consider themselves very naturally as one great family, and would speedily grow to a gens; and every religious feeling would induce them to desire that, as they were to each other · loving and pleasant in their lives, so in their death they would not be divided. But not only separate, but far more spacious burial-places would soon be required for them, than for those whose ashes were crowded together in narrow And where were these to be found? Within the walls of the city interment was sternly forbidden by the law. These laws were maintained in strict force even under the Christian Emperors. When the superstitious desire had grown up of being buried under or near the altars of the churches to which the relics of saints and martyrs had been transferred, the practice was still interdicted with the utmost severity. That furtive piety sometimes eluded this law (we are irresistibly reminded of one
of the cleverest scenes in •Les Misérables') is shown by the strength and the frequent reiteration of the enactments.
Nor could the cemeteries of the Christians be conveniently constructed at any great distance from the city. The principal catacombs are all within three miles of the walls. But within this distance, crowded as it already must have been along all the great roads with heathen cemeteries and monuments, and with houses, gardens, vineyards, large plots of ground would be, no doubt, very costly. Here and there a wealthy Christian might devote a vineyard or a garden to this holy purpose. It was possible, it should seem, to secure by law the peaceable transmission of such hallowed places either to natural heirs, or even to religious descendants; yet there might be times when their violation, their desecration, might be enjoined by persecuting rulers or by a fanatic populace. As the living were not yet secure on the face of the earth, so neither were the dead under its immediate surface. But why not deeper beneath the earth? Why might not subterranean chambers be formed, comparatively inaccessible ; separate, as it were, in holy seclusion alike from the stir of the living world and the intermingling of profaner dead ? Might not the bodies of the brethren be deposited entire, only subject to natural decay, to await in God's good time the glad day of resurrection ?
From these deep-seated feelings, from this necessity (ingenious, inventive, keen-sighted, as necessity ever is), began the famous Roman Catacombs. It is to be observed, too, that in all probability the Christians were not, if we may so speak, the inventors or first discoverers of these subterranean receptacles for the dead. The Jews had the same, if not so strong, yet a profound hereditary aversion to any mode of sepulture but
5 . Ne alicujus fallax et arguta sollertia se ab hujus præcepti intentione subducat, atque Apostolorum et Martyrum sedem humanis corporibus existimet esse concessam, ab his quoque, ut a reliquo civitatis, noverint se atque intelligant esse submotos,'-quoted by M. S. de Rossi, Analisi, p. 43. M. de Rossi must excuse us if we dismiss with a quiet smile what he seems inclined to treat with gravity, an inscription in the church of S. Pudenziana, near an altar of that church, commemorating the discovery of the bodies of five Holy Martyrs, with the sponge yet red with their blood. And this in the year 1803!!!
interment. It is unquestionable that the earliest Catacombs were Jewish. One was discovered by Bosio, at a very early period in the investigation, undoubtedly Jewish, near their great settlement on the Vatican hill; another more recently, intended for those who, to Juvenal's indignation, had taken up their residence about the romantic but desecrated Valley of Egeria. In other parts of Italy Jewish Catacombs have come to light, of which there can be no question; for, instead of the usual ornaments and sacred things buried with the Christians appear the seven-branched candlestick and other sacred emblems of the Jewish faith..
On the Christian Catacombs, we have now before us the first volume of what we may consider the classic and authoritative work. It bears the name of the Cav. de Rossi ; and could not bear a name which would so strongly recommend it to every one who takes an interest in this important subject. All who bave visited Rome will bear witness to the indefatigable industry, sagacity, perseverance, even bodily labour, which the Cavaliere has devoted to the investigation of the Roman Catacombs. The crowning proof of this has been his discovery, by very acute powers of discernment and of reasoning, of the true Catacomb of S. Callistus, up to his time misplaced, and supposed to be that close to the Church of S. Sebastian. Many will bear witness to his extreme courtesy in unfolding to the uninitiated as well as to the initiated the secrets of his subterranean treasure-house. The Cavaliere de Rossi has been singularly fortunate also in the zealous co-operation of his brother, Michael Stefano de Rossi, a man of very high scientific attainments (he exhibited a very curious instrument at our Great Exhibition, invented for the purpose of taking accurate measurements and levels in the Catacombs, to which we believe a prize was awarded), and with a knowledge of geology, which has thrown a full and steady light on the origin, extent, boundaries, ramifications, construction, and nature of these vast sepulchral
Compare Bosio and Cimitero degli Antichi Elvrei, par Raffaelle Garrucci, Roma, 1862 ; and Milman, Hist, of the Jews, vol. ii. PP. 456-159.