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SOPIANAE REVISITED: PAGAN OR CHRISTIAN BURIALS?1 Olivér Gábor and Zsuzsa Katona Győr The Roman cemetery of Sopianae2 (Pécs in Southern Hungary) is one of the few extant Late Antique burial sites in Europe.3 Its intricate layout and the exquisite decoration of its burial chambers have intrigued scholars ever since its discovery in the late eighteenth century. Because of its fresco paintings—representing Christograms, the Virgin Mary, and the Apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul—nineteenth-and twentieth -century scholarship identified the cemetery as ‘Christian.’4 Ongoing archaeological excavation and revisionist scholarship, however, triggered the reassessment of the site. Recent archaeological research estimates only a handful of the burial chambers Christian.5 On the basis of research conducted on five hundred two Roman inhumation graves excavated in five groups in the northern cemetery of Sopianae and in the cemetery on Czindery Street,6 this paper presents novel interpretations of the Roman graveyard along with new archaeological finds, focusing on the thorny problem of how 1 The authors would like to express their gratitude to Marianne Sághy for her critical remarks and helpful suggestions during the successive stages of edition of this paper. 2  Sopianae developed from several small Celtic settlements into a Roman town by the second century. At the beginning of the third century, it became an autonomous Roman municipium in Pannonia Province. At the end of the fourth century, when Pannonia was divided into four smaller provinces, Sopianae became the administrative capital of Valeria Province in the Northeastern part of Pannonia. 3 Ferenc Fülep, Sopianae. The History of Pécs during the Roman Era, and the Problem of the Continuity of the Late Roman Population. Translated by Mrs. István Telegdy. (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó,1984); idem, „A pécsi későrómai ókeresztény mausoleum feltárásáról.” [On the Excavation of the Late Roman Early Christian Mausoleum of Pécs.] Janus Pannonius Múzeum Évkönyvei 32. 1987 31–44., Krisztina Hudák and Levente Nagy, A Fine and Private Place. Translated by Marianne Sághy. (Pécs: Örökség Ház, 2008), 7–8; Zsolt Visy (ed.), Pécs története [The History of Pécs], Pécs: Pécs Története Alapítvány–Kronosz Kiadó, 2013. 4 Josephus Koller, Prolegomena, Historiam Episcopatus Quinqueecclesiarum. Posonii, 1804. 5  Wolfgang Schmidt, “Spätantike Gräberfelder in den Nordprovinzen des Römischen Reiches und das aufkommen christlichen Bestattungsbrauchtums.” Saalburg Jahrbuch (50) 2000, 213–440. 6 These groups are not ‘natural’ groups: the excavations were limited by the size of the area available for digging. i6 p&c 00 book.indb 295 2017.09.20. 16:22 OLIVÉR GÁBOR AND ZSUZSA KATONA GYŐR 296 to distinguish pagan and Christian burials at a site where inscriptions and written evidence are notoriously lacking. Criteria of Research To begin our research, we identified a number of criteria that archaeologists usually associate with religious belief. These criteria are as follows: TOPOGRAPHY AND CHRONOLOGY The Late Antique cemetery of Sopianae, once laying outside the Roman town, is now situated under and around the cathedral and the surrounding area that was once the site of the medieval town of Quinque Basilicae / Quinque Ecclesiae. Today, the cemetery area is delimited by Dóm Square– Szent István Square—Apáca Street— Széchenyi Square—Káptalan Street.7 In the third and fourth century, the cemetery of Sopianae expanded from the southeast to the northeast (today’s Széchenyi Square).8 In 2002, archeologists discovered graves dated to the third century in the courtyard of the Nagy Lajos High School, where cremation and inhumation were both practiced. In the northern part of the cemetery (Székesfehérvár Street and Káptalan Street), however, only inhumations were found, thus this section was dated to the third-fourth centuries .9 By the fourth century, the cemetery reached the southwest part of what is today Szent István’s Square: the graves excavated near the cathedral date from the second half to the third quarter of the fourth century.10 In addition to simple graves, gableroofed brick burial structures—symbols of the domus aeterna, the eternal repose of the dead—stone sarcophagi and painted burial chambers were found here. The third-century southeastern cemetery must have been pagan, while the fourth-century northeastern cemetery was used by pagans and Christians alike. Christians might have sought to separate their graves from pagan ones, yet pagan...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9789633862568
Related ISBN
9789633862551
MARC Record
OCLC
1019979655
Pages
382
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-21
Language
English
Open Access
No
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