Pilgrims from the province of Scythia in Ephessus
The phenomenon of Christian pilgrimage has lately captured the attention of scholars from several angles: in light of the theology, archaeology, art history, sociology, etc. Certain small artefacts (such are the ampullae) belong to the category of objects used by pilgrims. These were acquired by pilgrims from Christian holy places or sanctuaries of martyrs, to take with them the blessings in the form of holy water, blessed oil or even hallowed ground (dust) that has been in contact with the holy characters. With different shapes, but similar functions, the ampullae were sold or gifted by clerics and could be metallic, ceramic, of stone or glass. This paper brings forward for discussion a so called „Asia Minor type” ampulla, with the representation of two Saints, one of whom is the evangelist John of Ephesus. The piece is well preserved and comes from the systematic archaeological excavation conducted in Late Roman fortress of Ibida, in the province of Scythia (Slava, Tulcea County, Romania) during 2016. From a chronology point of view, this finding context is an advantage, as the same archaeological layer produced coins and typical datable ceramic fragments.
In terms of iconography and maybe provenance, the ampulla discovered here is an unique artefact in the Lower Danube area.
The site of Ibida is one of the largest Late Roman fortresses in the Lower Danube region, and the results of the archaeological research demonstrate an intense Christian life here. Besides many typical artefacts, some important Christian features are recorded, at least for the sixth century AD. The monastery complex, which was fully excavated in 1980s, and the basilica from the remnants of which we have only a few fragments, are just two examples that confirm that residents of this city had an active Christian life with important links to famous Christian centres, across long distances, such as Ephesus.
Christian symbols on the weapons and equipment of Roman soldiers
Since the time of Augustus, the weapons and equipment of the Roman soldier had been highly decorated, demonstrating the confidence and wealth of the professional soldiers, a class in Roman society newly created by the Princeps’ reforms. As these items were the soldier’s property, the decorations on them were personal choices, guided by a sense of ‘appropriateness’ rather than conforming to specifications from central command. The preferred motifs typically picture gods or their symbols, doubtless thought to offer protection in battle.
While motifs connected to the traditional Roman gods of war, Jupiter, Mars, Minerva and Victory clearly predominate during the whole of the Principate, additional gods from the Graeco-Roman pantheon and a number of Eastern gods appear more frequently from the mid-2nd century onwards, probably reflecting a change in the soldier’s beliefs.
Considering this long established preference for symbols of divine protection on arms and armour one would expect that the growing number of Christians in the Roman army (even before the battle on the Milvian Bridge, see Brenneke 1997, Shean 2010) would be correlated with a growing number of their symbols on the weapons and equipment. But the first examples of Christian symbols only appear from the 4th century onwards and are relatively sparse.
In my paper, I would like to show how the decorations traditional on the weapons and equipment of the Roman soldier changed to conform to new tastes and beliefs and why the symbols of Christianity were not used on weapons with the same frequency as the earlier ones from the Greaco-Roman pantheon.
Christians in the Late Roman army of Palestine: New evidence from ‘Ayn Gharandal (Arieldela), Jordan
Although the role of the Roman army in spreading Christianity has been much discussed, archaeological evidence attesting to this phenomenon earlier than the 5th century is lacking. Ongoing excavations in the Late Roman fort at ‘Ayn Gharandal in southern Jordan have shed new light on the introduction of Christianity into the Roman military in Palestine during the 4th century.
The site, which has been excavated by the ‘Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project since 2010, was identified in 2013 by the discovery of a monumental Latin inscription as Arieldela of the Notitia Dignitatum. It includes a Roman castellum, bathhouse, and other structures at the site. The primary period of occupation extends throughout the fourth century, followed by abandonment and later reuse in the Islamic period as a burial ground.
This paper will describe the evidence for Christianization of the garrison at Arieldela including graffiti in the site’s bathhouse and focusing on a newly excavated church inside the fort. The church complex, which includes the primary basilica and a room to its north, lies adjacent to the fort’s principia and was used during the course of the fourth century while the garrison was inhabiting the site. It appears to have been abandoned at the same time that the fort and bathhouse went out of use. The site’s graffiti and the church constitute an important witness to Christianity among the Roman military, particularly in the years following the Edict of Toleration.
Christians in the fortresses on the Danube: the archaeological evidence of provincia Scythia
The defensive system of the lower danubian limes in late antiqui-ty was structured within provincia Scythia in an advanced line, corre-sponding to the last course of the Danube, and in a more backward one hinged on large fortified cities, which from Zaldapa to the south reached as far as Noviodunum to the north, passing through Tropaeum Traiani and Ibida, but also through minor fortifications such as Ulmetum and vi-cus Bad(—). Here we intend to concentrate our attention in particular on the fortresses of provincia Scythia which guarded the defensive line orga-nized along the river, in order to define the characteristics of this “Christi-anity at the frontiers” through the analysis of the archaeological record from the settlements which first faced the burden of the defense of the limes, subjected to continuous pressure especially in the last period of its history.
This analysis will move from the monumental evidences, starting with the buildings of the Christian form of worship, which will be defined in their topographical organization as well as in the architectural and wor-ship characters, then considering the structures of the funerary framework and, finally, the inscriptions and the categories of the movable finds. The picture that emerges from the so far known archaeological record seems essentially functional to the communities that inhabited these settlements, in which the military element obviously played a primary role, while the evangelizing impulse, addressed also to the territories beyond the limes, was perhaps entrusted to the initiative of the important centers located in the more backward area to the east of the Danube and, in any case, it appears somewhat resized during the VI century.
Classical heroes and biblical characters. About the Roman belt found in Zmajevac (Ad Novas)
Within the Croatian part of the Danube limes at the beginning of the 1st century on the Gradac (Várhegy) site, above the village of Zmajevac, a Roman castellum was erected. In time, a civilian settlement with belong-ing necropolises, formed around this military fort. Necropolis at Mocsolás site was in the focus of systematic archaeological excavations supervised by S. Filipović (Museum of Slavonia in Osijek) from 1999 to 2008. Exca-vations covered an area of about 1700 m2, more than 175 graves contain-ing skeletal remains were documented. The necropolis dates back to the 4th century. As far as we now, it is the largest Late Antique necropolis along the Croatian limes. Anthropological analysis has shown that in al-most equal proportions both men and women were buried there, as well as a significant number of children. In this paper we will put emphasis on grave No. 86. This was a grave of a young boy deceased at the age of 11-13. Among already exceptional grave finds, such as gilded crossbow fibu-la, two gilded belt buckles with rectangular end fittings embossed in vege-tative and zoomorphic ornaments, bronze inkwell and late roman glass bottle, there were also six gilded rectangular belt mounts with embossed anthropomorphic ornaments. Embossed characters have been cautiously interpreted as classical heroes Mars, Aktaion (?) and Heracles and biblical characters Daniel (?), Moses (?) and Jonah (?). These representations, its religious symbolism and grave context will be the subject of this paper.
Christian soldiers as martyrs at the Danubian frontier
Analysis of the hagiographic texts as sources for military institutions. Main focus is Florianus of Lauriacum.