16 March 2009

Resting Places

kymeterion anastasias

resting place of Anastasia

Greek Christians of the 5th and 6th centuries mostly didn't spell very well. Their grave markers were smaller than a piece of typing paper and the lettering on this is much better than most. All we can say about Anastasia is that her parents were Christian because they named her for the Resurrection.

Christian epigraphs sometimes mention occupations, so that among those from Corinth we get teamster, deaconess, servant, pickle-maker, bath attendant, guardsman, city council member, and goatherd. Argos has produced less than a tenth of the epigraphs of Corinth, but among those are anothe rmember of the city council, a maker of lampwicks, and a silentiarios who was a court official from Constantinople but his stone is misspelled and badly carved, and it is difficult to think what he was doing in Argos.

resting place
of Elpid
eforos silenti
arios wherein is
laid the lady of
his house Viola

In Argos there are fewer than twenty Christian epigraphs--"resting place" identifies a Christian grave--and two Jewish, and sometimes small narratives are implied. One tiny stone suggests that Theodote died, and her parents had a stone carved for her, its inscription beginning and ending with a cross. Then her sisters died and their names had to be added. Perhaps there is another explanation, but I think of the shock of parents who have lost three daughters.

The grave of Theodote and Agatha
and Theotekna

Rhoda lost a daughter, too, one she had named for Sunday, and that she was poor is suggested by the fact that she had to make use of a stone worn down by use possibly as a stepping stone. Rhoda could, at best, have earned about 5 solidi a year, and she could have made the choice to sell Kyriaki to a brothel for that much. If she had had to buy a gravesite it would have cost her about 3 solidi. Still, her stone suggests something disturbing about Argos. We are talking about survivals, not actual original numbers, but survivals are all we have to work with as historians and archaeologists. There is a higher percentage of anti-Semitic epigraphs from Argos than from any other late antique city.

The resting place of Kyriaki
daughter of Rhoda if anyone
opens it except for her
heirs let him have
the anathema of Judas

Which may explain some of the anxiety on the stone of these Christian Jews that requires three crosses and two assertions of payment:

resting place
of Arabanna paid
for the pur
chaser Salomon

Another anti-Semitic inscription was found in the burial space of a monastery that had been established in one of the underground passages of he great baths in Argos:
these resting places belong to the holy monastery of
the most holy church - - - - - - - - - if anyone should
dare to remove these things from those living in solitude
in this holy monastery, he will have from God his portion with
those saying crucify him

The monastery was dedicated to the Apostle Paul, and the surviving stones and inscription from the small sanctuary are so beautifully carved that I am tempted to think that Ariadne had been their benefactor. There is something else, quite provocative.

Two generations after establishing their monastery, the
monks seem to have acquired part of one of the houses next to the baths, which they used for an entrepreneurial effort. The private bath of the house (attached to a working aqueduct) has produced vast numbers of lamps marked with crosses, and some three hundred glass vials marked with A and a cross.

It looks as if the monks in the Argos baths were selling, or giving in exchange for contributions, water in these vials purported to come from the great spring near the basilica and monastery of the Apostle Paul at Kefalarion. This is perhaps an unfair assumption, based on too little evidence, but Argos had for centuries depended on tourists for income, monks were supposed to be self-supporting, and they did have this stock of three hundred vials, too big for perfume and too small for wine. And they had running water. It is difficult to know what to think.

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