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Roman Drawings of Crucifixions: What They Tell Us

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Although I'm a religious skeptic, this article from a religious source has some interesting insights:


The Earliest Image of a Crucified Person?

The drawing is a bit of graffiti from Puteoli,  Rome’s major seaport, where St. Paul landed and found fellow Christians in Acts 28:13-14.  Archaeologists found it on the wall of a guesthouse that was being excavated and dated it from the time of either Emperor Trajan (98-117) or Hadrian.

It depicts a crucified woman.



Also related is the Alexamenos graffito, thought to be an early depiction of Jesus (as a crucified donkey-headed figure):


Alexamenos Graffito, found on a wall near the Palentine Hill in Rome, reproduced at the beginning of this post.  This one, dated around 200 A.D., is making a direct reference to Christ.  The inscription, in semi-literate Greek reads “Alexamenos worships his God.”

The figure of Alexamenos is dressed like a slave.  Scholars think the drawing may have been made by one slave mocking another for his Christianity.  Another room in the excavated building has the inscription “Alexamenos is faithful."




Animated GIF


Summary: I find it interesting that Alexamenos, the man who is mocked in the image, is dressed as a slave. This would be consistent with my hypotheses that the Jesus movement would have its greatest appeal to the least historically studied segments of society: the underclass, women , and slaves. The Jesus movement would not be initially embraced by the ruling elite. Modern historians of ancient Rome, whose source material would mostly deal with these elites, would underestimate the movement's pervasiveness throughout the lower and less powerful classes. The Jesus movement would also contrast with the Mystery Cults, which could be potentially more exclusionary both by gender and social position.


guy also known as gaius



Edited by guy

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Dressed as a slave? That's not entirely consistent with Roman culture. After all, at one point the Senate debated an idea to identify slaves by some means, clothing or symbol, I don't recall what the idea was. The move was vetoed on the grounds that if slaves were identifiable, they would realise how many of them there were.

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