City of Rome | Peter and Paul on the via Appia: early Christians in their non-Christian surroundings

City of Rome | Peter and Paul on the via Appia: early Christians in their non-Christian surroundings

by Barbara Borg
by Barbara Borg

The third-century AD cult site of the apostle martyrs Peter and Paul underneath the present church of San Sebastiano at the third mile of the Via Appia has been discussed in literally hundreds of publications. Yet no consensus has been reached regarding the reasons for and character of the cult at this location, especially given that the apostles’ graves are commonly located in the Vatican and on Via Ostiense respectively. This paper will offer a different approach to the question which is based primarily on archaeological and contextual evidence. It will suggest that the apostles’ grave has been thought to be on the Via Appia at least since the earlier second century and trace the cult’s development within an area of strong imperial and military presence. It will thereby aim to contribute to a better understanding of the relationship between early Christians and their non-Christian surroundings.

Barbara E Borg is Professor of Classical Archaeology at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa. She has published widely on Greek and Roman art including on personifications and allegories in Greek art and on portraits in Roman Egypt. For the past 20 years, she has been focussing on funerary customs in and around the city of Rome with recent publications including her two monographs Crisis and ambition: tombs and burial customs in third-century CE Rome (OUP 2013), and Roman tombs and the art of commemoration: contextual approaches to funerary customs in the second century CE (CUP 2019). She is currently PI on the ERC AdG project IN-ROME – The INscribed city: urban structures and interaction in imperial ROME.

This lecture is part of the City of Rome programme, and it is held in English. It can be accessed both in person and online. To access online, you need to register through the link above.

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