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Christianity in Pompeii

Pompeii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Pompeii, like its nearest neighboring town, Herculaneum, there was a Christian community until the fatal eruption of 79 AD. This could happen quite early. So in one of the books of the New Testament, namely in the book of Acts, the visit of the Apostle Paul to the small town of Puteoli on the road to Rome is mentioned.

Acts 28
13 From there we set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The following day we reached Puteoli.
14 I spent a week with them. And so we came to Rome.

The town of Puteoli is located on the north coast of the Gulf of Naples, to the west of modern Naples. It is possible that Christianity in this region originated precisely from this city. Although of course it could come here and from Rome a little later than the journey of the Apostle Paul.

 

One of the important evidence of the presence of the Christian community in Pompeii was found in 1962 on the wall of one of the buildings, which became known as the Hotel of the Christians. It is difficult to say if the hotel really belonged to a Christian religious group, but the graffiti painted in coal on the outer wall of the building clearly belongs to Christians. It says: "Strange ideas have captured the mind" A "(the unspecified name of a person with the letter A), who is now a prisoner of Christians." We do not know who this man “A” was, but it seems that family members and / or friends were really stunned by the turn with the fate of this man or woman. The one who wrote it apparently wanted to shame this inhabitant of Pompeii and even scare him away from his newfound religion. The persecutions of Emperor Nero were over, but during the eruption, Christianity was a forbidden religion. Belonging to Christianity could cost life, freedom, or the whole state.

Some historians also suggest that the inscription belongs to the owners of a brothel, which stands on the other side of the street. It is possible that this kind of "A" was a great lover of women. After his conversion to Christianity, it is quite logical to assume that this person stopped going to the brothel, thereby causing damage to the brothel owners. But all this is only speculation. Unfortunately, most of the graffiti was washed away, because the inscription was made with coal.

 

 

 

House of Paquius Proculus

 

Christianity in PompeiiChristianity in PompeiiAnother possible indication of the presence of Christians in Pompeii we can see in the house of Paquius Proculus. Paquius Proculus is an interesting and mysterious figure in the history of Pompeii. Perhaps he was a Christian, though he concealed it. One of the reasons for this is the fact that pagan symbols were diligently destroyed in his bakery. Some of them were torn off, and the phallus symbols were covered with plaster. In addition, a strange symbol appeared in the bakery with him, resembling a Christian cross (in the photo on the left). During the excavations, archaeologists at his private residence also found the Sator cross-shaped crossword on the door jamb in their home. It is possible that this may be a sign of belonging to the Christian faith.

Sator is a polydrom, that is, it can be read in both directions.

 

ATOR
(From serere = sow) sow, seeder; Founder, grandparent (usually divine); author
AREPO
Unknown word, most likely, a proper name, or coined, or, perhaps, of Egyptian origin.
Tenet
(From Ténéré = hold) holds, holds; comprehends; possesses; masters; saves
OPERA
(Noun) work, care; help, service, effort / concern; (From opus): work, business.
Rotos
(From the noun Rota) wheel

It would seem silly, but it is enough to transfer letters and we have a Christian cross with the words "Pater Noster" or Our Father and the letters Alpha and Omega. The beginning and end of the alphabet.

Помпеи христианство

By the way, in the neighboring Herculaneum, there were also found possible traces of the presence of Christians in the Roman region of Campania in antiquity.

 

 

Signs of Christian presence in the nearby Herculaneum that was also destroyed along with Pompeii

House of the Bicentary (Casa del Bicentenario)

Herculaneum Christian Cross

The house of the Bicentary was found in Herculaneum in 1938 and 200 years after the start of the excavation of Herculaneum. This is probably one of the most interesting buildings in the city, as it is perhaps the world's first Christian prayer house or chapel. In the wall of one of the rooms there is a cruciform depression, where a wooden cross apparently hung. There are still nail marks in the wall. Also on both sides there are traces of metal buttonholes, on which wooden shutters were hung. That is, most of the time the cross was not visible and these shutters opened only during prayers. The very location of this room suggests that outsiders did not enter here. It was a small closet, hidden from the eyes of a stranger.

In principle, this is not surprising. Although the Romans belonged to different religions and cults quite liberally, but a certain framework still existed. One could pray to anyone, anywhere, but recognition of the supremacy of the Roman gods was obligatory. That is, it was possible to worship Mithra or Osiris, but Jupiter was the main God. When visiting the Roman family for the etiquette of that time, it was necessary to bring several gifts: for the owner of the house, his wife, his children and of course one gift for the genius or deity of this house. If a person refused to bring a gift to the genius, it was not just an insult to the deity, it was a challenge that could bring grief to the family of the god living there. The same principles existed throughout the Roman Empire. Those religions that did not recognize the Roman gods were considered enemy simply because the Roman gods could take up arms against the Romans for their softness towards heretics.

Judaism was given some relief. They were allowed to pray, but Romans avoided Jews in personal relationship. To make friends with a Jew was to incur the wrath of the gods or his own patron genius. Therefore, European anti-Semitism takes roots far beyond the borders of Christianity. While if it was possible to compromise with the Jews for the sake of tranquility in the empire, then they did not stand on ceremony with Christianity. Jews existed within their ethnic borders. They didn't try to convert Romans into their faith. The new religion on the other hand had no hard ethnic borders. New ideas fascinated many Romans and turned them away from the old Roman gods. Therefore, a relatively liberal Roman society was so tough with representatives of the new religion: they were burned at the stake, thrown at animals in the arenas of amphitheaters and generally found clever ways to destroy Christians. It didn't work in the end.