Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Inscription in Basilica Maiorum

Tomb inscription (restored)
S. Raven, Rome in Africa. p. 153
Here are the martyrs
Saturus, Saturinus,
Revocatus, Secundulus,
Felicitas, Perpetua, who suffered on the Nones (7th) of March

In Carthage a magnificent basilica was afterwards erected over the tomb of the martyrs, the Basilica Maiorum, where an ancient inscription bearing the names of Perpetua and Felicitas has been found.

L. Ennabli La Basilique de Mcidfa (1982) pages 5-17 reproduces early excavation drawings, plans and photographs.

Liliane Ennabli Carthage Une Metropole Chretienne 1997. The Basilica Maiorum pp 229 - 230
Appendix F in W. Fannari

- inscription probably from the Catholic restoration of the church under Vandal king Hilderic (523-530 AD) link

- Basilica known from St. Augustine's sermons

- Victor Vitensis Historia Persecutionis Africanae Provincis tells that on October 19 439 Vandals destroyed the amphitheatre and but did not destroy the burials when they requisitioned the basilica to Arian Christianity

(errors in A. Leone Changing Townscapes in North Africa from Late Antiquity to the Arab Conquest. 155 ref "destroyed basilica, mosaic with the names of ...")

Et ut de necessaries loquar, basilicam majorem, ubi corpora sanctarum maryrum Perpetuae atque Felicitatis sepula sunt, Celerinae vel Scillitanorm et alias quas non destruxerunt, suae religione licential tyrannical manipaverunt.

"And to mention the essential, they requisitioned the basilica Maiorum for their religious purposes with the permission of the tyrant. The basilica was the burial place of the martyred saints Perpetua, Felicity, Celerina, the Scillitans, and all others that were not destroyed."

"Since the martyrs of the year 203 were interred on this location, it seems logical to regard the site as a cemeterial basilica that was built to honor the martyrs buried in the areae Maiorum. These area might have initially been a private funerary enclosure that belonged to Perpetua's family, the Vibii. A.L. Delattre found the family's name on several pagan epitaphs on this site." p. 229

Alfred-Louis Delattre, Inscriptions chr├ętiennes. Cosmos 542 (Jume 1895): 337-339.

W. Farrini link has Delattre's description of the discovery of the inscription on the morning March 29, 1907

About a kilometer from the Bir Ftouha complex, for example, just outside Carthage at the fourth-century Basilica Maiorum (Mcidfa), an early sixth-century marble plaque (85 x 113 cm), apparently erected as part of a restoration of the church by the Arian Vandal kings and almost surely replacing earlier texts, celebrated the early third-century martyrs Perpetua, Felicitas and their comrades (Duval 1982: 682-3, no. 6; Ennabli 1982: 7-8, no. 1; 1992:132-5)

It is tempting to look for history in such assemblies. At the Basilica Maiorum, for example, the recommemoration of Perpetua and Felicitas by the early sixth-century inscription just mentioned has been tied to the end of official persecution by the Vandals in AD 523 and the reopening of the church. Likewise, the later texts may be associated with a new phase of Byzantine rebuilding (Ennabli 1982:23-25; 1997: 134-5)
A Companion to Late Antiquity. Philip Rousseau (ed) ref

Cisterns at Basilica Maiorum Image: CAST

A second interesting area was identified to the extreme NE of Rue Roosevelt and covers the entire eastern part as well as a portion of the northern part: the pottery shards are fewer here but two Christian cult buildings (identifiable with the Basilica Maiorum and the Basilica Bir Ftouha) were found, partially excavated in past decades but not exploited at all.

Location of the Basilica Maiorum
The Basilica is about one and half km North-East from the Amphitheatre where St. Perpetua, St. Felicity and their friends met their death.

Locations of Basilica Maiorum and Amphitheatre
Carthage in 5th Century. Anna Leone

Google Map

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