Funerary Inscription of Apuleia Crysopolis

Late Antique (Christian)

replica: by stonecarver Rob Assie 

gift of: Dr Robert and Lura Mae Sider

date of the original: c. 3rd or 4th century AD

provenance of the original: catacombs of San Callisto, Rome

description: Stele with Latin inscription. Marble replica; marble original. Height 41 cm, width 85 cm, depth 8 cm.

This marble inscription, found in the catacombs of Rome, is a funerary stele or slab which was placed across the opening of aloculus, or slot-type grave. The inscription translates as follows:

Apuleia Crysopolis, who lived for seven years, two months; [her] parents made [this] for their dearest daughter.

Most burials in the catacombs do not bear inscriptions; those that do can be difficult to interpret. Whether Early Christian or traditionally pagan Roman, the inscriptions follow standard Roman formulas. However, there are often Christian clues in the form of phrases such as bene merenti (“to the well deserving”) and quiescet in pace (“rest in peace”).

This particular inscription betrays no overt Christian tendencies in its language. The surname Crysopolis, however, indicates that the child was from a Greek family which had lived in Rome long enough to give her a Latin first name. The letters are roughly chiselled, indicating that perhaps the family was lower class and unable to afford better.

A “Tree of Life”, a common Early Christian symbol, is depicted at left; a “Good Shepherd” bearing a ram is at the right. The image of the “Ram-Bearer” was a traditional Greco-Roman motif representing either Orpheus or the god Hermes (see: Hermes with the Infant Dionysus). The Christians in Rome adopted the symbol (as they did with other elements of the lexicon of traditional Greek and Roman art) and it became widely used to represent Christ; the ram was eventually replaced with a lamb. The motif’s appearance here indicates that the inscription, and thus the child and her family, were probably Christian.

(See also: Funerary Inscription of NicellaFunerary Inscription of Aurelius Hermia and His Wife.)