Prof. Dr. Antonio E. Felle
September 2023 / March 2024
Research Project: Using Bible texts in inscriptions by Christian patronage in Late Roman, Vandal and Byzantine Africa: a possible point of view over privileged contexts and patrons (4th-7th cent. CE)
In 2006 I published in a volume a corpus of Christian inscriptions displaying direct Biblical quotations (cfr. Felle 2006 in my publications), a little more than 800 epigraphs, in large majority pertaining to the Greek-speaking part of the Late Roman Empire (but the corpus includes also inscriptions after the Arab Muslim conquest, by the end of the 8th century CE): exactly, 10% of the collected texts are from sites in the Diocletian XI Dioecesis Africa (Felle 2006, nn. 683-763). In the West this percentage reveals a relatively high level of the use of Bible texts in Christian epigraphy, comparable with the level registered for Italy - including also the city of Rome. So, using Bible texts (according to the old Latin Bible versions different from the Vulgata, too) in Roman and Byzantine Africa epigraphs is a phenomenon relatively relevant for the Occidens, even if not highly diffused. Indeed, the importance of these inscriptions is related not to their quantity, but rather to their quality and functions: actually, for the most part (about 70%: 60 out of 81 epigraphs), they – written on stone and in mosaics – are related to monumental contexts, that is, to ‘privileged’ contexts: first of all in cultic buildings (churches, martyria and so on), but also in private houses as like in military structures. In some – and interesting - cases, the low level (or total absence, too) of informations about the finding circumstances causes objective difficulty in the interpretation of the final destination of these epigraphs, published for the first time in very old editions, with very short notices in some not too diffused reviews and very often without their images (photos or drawings). In my opinion, according to the general theme of this year, also some tombs are to be considered as signs of ‘privileged’ status: not only by their positions, dimensions or decorations, but also by the use of ‘sacred texts’ in the epitaphs, that become an actual part of the local ‘epigraphic landscape’ of social privilege.
Prof. Dr. Antonio Enrico Felle is Full Professor of Christian and Medieval Epigraphy at the University of Bari as well as expert of archaeology and epigraphy of Late Antique and Early Medieval Rome. He leads the Epigraphic Database Bari. Inscriptions by Christians in Rome (3rd–8th cent. CE) (http://www.edb.uniba.it); he is also: Coordinator of ICI (Inscriptiones Christianae Italia eseptimo saeculo antiquiores), Co-Director of the IMAI (Inscriptiones Medii Aevi Italiae - saec. VI-XII), as well as scientific advisor of IDEA (International Digital Epigraphy Association: https://www.eagle-network.eu/about/who-we-are/). Member of the Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia and Mitglieder of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, he studies 'postclassical' epigraphs from Rome, Italy and the Eastern Empire. Among his research topics there are Digital Epigraphy, Christian devotional graffiti, the relationship of image and text, the connection between archaeology and epigraphy, as well as the use of Bible in Late Antique, Byzantine and Medieval inscriptions (cf. his corpus Biblia Epigraphica).
Felle, Antonio E. (2006), Biblia epigraphica. La Sacra Scrittura nella documentazione epigrafica dell’Orbis christianus antiquus (III-VIII secolo) [ICI- Subsidia, V], Bari: Edipuglia.
Felle, Antonio E. (2007), “Judaism and Christianity in the light of epigraphic evidence (3rd-7th cent. C.E.), Henoch 29, 354-377.
Felle, Antonio E. (2012), “Alle origini del fenomeno devozionale cristiano in Occidente: le inscriptiones parietariae ad memoriam apostolorum”, in: Martiri, santi, patroni: per una archeologia della devozione. Atti del X Congresso Nazionale di Archeologia Cristiana (Arcavacata di Rende (CS), 15-18 settembre 2010), Cosenza: Università della Calabria, 477-502.
Felle, Antonio E. (2014), “Expressions of hope quoted from Biblical texts in Christian funerary inscriptions (III-VII cent. CE), in: W. Kraus / S. Kreuzer / M. Meiser / M. Sigismund, eds., Die Septuaginta - Text, Wirkung, Rezeption (4. Internationale Fachtagung veranstaltet von Septuaginta Deutsch (LXX.D), Wuppertal 19.-22. Juli 2012), Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 775-824.
Felle, Antonio E. (2017), “Visual features of inscriptions. An issue for EDB (and EAGLE), in: Digital and Traditional Epigraphy in Context. Proceedings of the EAGLE 2016 International Conference, Roma: Sapienza Università di Roma, 131-144.
Felle, Antonio E. (2018), “The Use of Greek in the Early Christian Inscriptions from Rome and Italy (3rd-4th Cent.), in: C. Breytenbach / J.M. Ogereau, eds., Authority and Identity in Emerging Christianities in Asia Minor and Greece (Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, 103), Leiden Boston: Brill, 303-325.
Felle, Antonio E. (2020), “Non-exposed Funerary Inscriptions and the Cult of the Cross between Italy and Byzantium, 6th - 9th centuries, in: M.D. Lauxtermann / I. Toth, eds., Inscribing Texts in Byzantium. Continuities and Transformations, Abingdon-New York: Routledge, 122-143.
Felle, Antonio E. (2020), “Examples of “in-group” epigraphic language: the very first inscriptions by Christians”, Journal of Epigraphic Studies 3, pp. 131-147.
Felle, Antonio E. (2020-2021), “New Testament quotations in some painted plaster fragments in the Israel Museum – Addenda et corrigenda to Biblia Epigraphica (nos. 162-164 and 177)", Israel Museum Studies in Archaeology 10, pp. 74-84.
Felle, Antonio E. / Ward-Perkins, Bryan (2021), Cultic Graffiti in the Late Antique Mediterranean and Beyond (Contextualizing the Sacred, 11), Turnhout: Brepols.