The Catacombs of Rome
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• Did you know more than 30,000 Greek and Latin inscriptions have been discovered in the catacombs?
The Greek and Latin inscriptions discovered to date in the catacombs were carved for the most part on marble slabs which sealed the tombs. Although these inscriptions reveal that the early Christians came from all walks of life, they nevertheless shared a common faith in Jesus.
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Inscriptions in the Catacombs

The Catacombs of Rome film documents the greek and latin inscriptions discovered in the ancient christian roman cemeteries. These epigraphs reveal the identity of those individual christians who made up the early christian community in Rome. Through the inscriptions we have come to know just how deeply the early christians of Rome expressed their faith in Jesus Christ.
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Inscriptions Study Guide

More than 30,000 greek and latin inscriptions have been discovered in the catacombs, and this number accounts only for the excavations completed to date.

The inscriptions appear for the most part on the marble slabs which sealed the tombs. The inscriptions serve as a true identikit of the deceased, and often of his or her loved ones.

On the inscriptions we find the names of the deceased, their age, their occupation, as well as personal sentiments regarding the deceased and the christian faith.

The epigraphs tell us that the christian community was made up of people from all walks of life. We find workers like Cucumio, who worked in the baths of Caracalla, and soldiers like Marcellus who was a cavalryman in the imperial army. There were slaves as well as nobles, like the lady Petronia, who belonged to a senatorial family.

The infant mortality rate was very high in ancient times, and that is the main reason why we find many tombs of Christian children buried in the catacombs.

The marble slab below sealed the tomb of a little boy named Asellus and the inscription goes on to tell us that he had lived 5 years, 8 months and 23 days. To the left we see the images of the Saints Peter and Paul, with the monogram of Christ above the name of Peter. The Good News of Jesus brought to Rome by the fisherman from Galilee and Paul from Tarsus was clearly professed by the families which made up the christian community.


(Marble catacomb inscription, Pio Cristiano: Vatican Museum)

The early Christians expressed quite openly the love of their individual family members as well as that of their christian faith.

Very often we come across parents refering to their sons and daughters as "beloved son" or "beloved daughter", "rest in peace" or "born again in Jesus". Spouses often express their love for one another: "my faithful wife, mother of my five children".

In the inscription below, the parents dedicate the epitaph to their son of 20 years. The figure to the left represents the resurrection of Lazarus, the most common image found in the catacombs. It reflected the belief of the early Christians in Jesus as the author of eternal life.


(Marble catacomb inscription, Pio Cristiano: Vatican Museum

The christian virtue of virginity is found in the inscriptions, and sometimes appears also among married couples who wished to express their lifelong fidelity to one another.


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