History Of Country Region
Also during that same key juncture of Damasus’s pontificate began the process of conversion of not a few members of aristocratic families, along with the emergence of an enterprising class that would occupy increasingly important roles in the pontifical curia. For them, prestige, ancestry and power were perpetuated also in their final dwelling. This occurred esp. in the great cemeterial basilicas of Via Cornelia, Via Ostiense, Via Appia and Via Tiburtina which, for their monumental visibility and the prestige of the associated martyrs Peter, Paul, Lawrence, became the preferred cemeteries of the upper echelons of society, whether lay or clerical. Minneapolis/St. Paul Map There was not a systematic exclusion of ordinary deceased, but a very limited space was reserved for them, little more than for common mass graves, in which there was no possibility of an inscription. Concentrated to a high degree 54% in these monumental cemeteries certainly not by chance was one of the most typical products of Late Antique funerary epigraphy: the inscription in verse, which, beginning precisely in the second half of the 4th c., Minneapolis/St. Paul Map attained a notable diffusion, thanks especially to the powerful impulse of the activity, in many respects unique and unrepeatable, of Damasus with the composition of the elogia martyrum, and in the wake of the entrance into the community of those familiar groups that were most rooted in the traditional culture. The epigraphical genre of the carmina classical in its expressive forms, metrical structures and graphical forms would become the Church of Rome’s official form for public exposition: the great inscriptions that adorn churches St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s, Minneapolis/St. Paul Map S. Maria Maggiore, S. Sabina are in verse, and beginning with Pope Liberius 352-366: ICUR IX 24831 the funerary inscriptions of the popes began to be composed in verse.
Nothing of what can be observed in monumental cemeteries and churches with respect to the quantity and quality of epigraphical production is reflected in the anonymous pockets of some catacombs active from the mid 4th to the first decades of the 5th c., where in vain do we look for individuals belonging to the lites of society, burial arrangements of some pretention, or even less inscriptions in verse. The users of these cemeteries seem to belong to culturally and economically depressed social classes: the already sporadic and in some cases even exceptional practice of the written funerary memorial shows evidence of having undergone an irreversible collapse. The data pointing in this direction seems incontrovertible: in level I of the cemetery of Panfilo, put in use between 348 and 361 ICUR X 26549, 26550, of 325 burials in niches loculi only 3% bear a written text; in the complex of S. Agnese on the Via Nomentana the percentage of tombs bearing writing is 14% of a total of 5,753 tombs, in the catacomb of Commodilla on the Via Ostiense it does not exceed 13%, and in that of Marcellino e Pietro on the Via Labicana only 10% 2,200 of the 22,500 burials are accompanied by an inscription. In essence written death was no longer, as in the 3rd c., a balanced reflection of the actual social stratification of the communities, but tended to be concentrated more and more in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the aristocracy and the public and pontifical bureaucracies, contexts in which, due to tradition and contingent necessity pastoral and professional, the production and circulation of written culture continued to be vital. Illuminating in this sense is the situation observable in the basilica Apostolorum on the Via Appia where, from 340 to the first decades of the 5th c. the period of greatest activity, there were about 1,000 burials.
Here, relative to contemporary underground cemeteries, the greatest difference besides the obvious morphological and structural differences is that of the frequency of a written memorial, which are concentrated in a high percentage 60% in burials belonging to the societal hierarchies: viri clarissimi and clarissimae feminae ICUR V 13355 anno 389, 13507, 13551, 13594, 13796a; 13327 anno 371, 13335 anno 389, 13484, 13491, 13562, 13606, 13740, viri perfectissimi ICUR V 13487, viri ac feminae honesti ICUR V 13309 anno 360, 13365 anno 394, 13385 anno 404, 13411, 13413 anno 518, 13674. In this as in other suburban complexes St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s, S. Lorenzo were tangibly manifest the symptoms of that process of selection that in the centuries of the Early Middle Ages would lead Roman epigraphical production in a single direction: that of inscribing the great A. Petrucci.
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