Society and Christianity

The testimonies on Hadrumetin Christianity go back to the 3rd century. Tertullian reports that a Christian martyr was handed over in 212 to a panther in the amphitheater. But it was not until the end of the 3rd century that the Christian community developed[1]. Archaeological searches have uncovered several catacombs the largest of which are those of Hermes, the good shepherd and Severus. The first was called so because a certain Hermes built a mosaic on the grave of his wife and son that reads on both sides of a cruciform anchor surrounded by a dolphin,[2] Hermes coniugi et fil(io-iis) dulcissimis: Hermès (had it built) for his dearest wife and son (or sons) .

 

The epitaph of Iunia Optata

The epitaph of Iunia Optata

The catacomb of the Good Shepherd is identified as the name is found on a gray marble slab engraved with the image of the shepherd bringing the lost sheep.

Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd

The third is named after the epitaph of Severus, which is one of the most beautiful epitaphs of the museum by the quality of the engraving and by praise addressed to the deceased by her husband:

eloge-deusebia

Eloge d’Eusebia

Epitaphs of this kind reminiscent of the pagan world are actually very rare in the catacombs. The majority of texts are related to the Christian world. Their epitaphs often in mosaics are written in short terms and lacking in details. These include the epitaph of the young Renata who lived only one year, two months and 28 days.

The young Renat

The young Renat

Or the epitaph richly decorated of Pascasius (Photo 57), who died at the age of 65 years approximately.

The epitaph of Pascasius

The epitaph of Pascasius

The decoration is classic and also complies with the beliefs: Latin or Greek crosses with the sign of the chrism on a crown, ornamented with two Greek letters alpha and omega sometimes with a representation of abundance that often shows the crater from which emerge vine shoots.

The sign of the chrism

The sign of the chrism

The best illustration of this theme is found on the Theodule’s mosaic representing a vase from which escape the trunk of date palm tree and vine foliage with turns occupying the entire field On branches, we find partridges, peacocks, ducks and pheasants. At the top of the palm tree, in Greek font, the name of the owner or the mosaist, Theodule (Teodoulou).

Mosaic of Théodule

Mosaic of Théodule

One of the finest testimonies on Christianity in the region is illustrated by the famous baptismal font of Bekalta, ancient Thapsus.[3] Richly decorated with stone and glass tiles, it is adorned at the bottom with a jeweled cross and flanked by the alpha and the omega. Above, ran birds (many of which are raptors) between the shells at the bottom of the alveolus. On the top edge, we find the inscription reproducing the greeting of the angels to the shepherds (Luke 2:14): [Gloria in excelsis Deo] ET IN TERRA PAX (h) OMINIBVS BONE / BOLVM [tatis t] AVDAMVS T [e]: glory to God in the highest heavens and peace on earth to men of good will. We praise you (God).

 

Baptismal font

Baptismal font

[1] A.-F. Leynaud, Les catacombes africaines. Sousse-Hadrumète, 2e éd. Alger 1962. Voir aussi L. Foucher, Hadrumetum, 1964, p. 146-149, pl. IXa ; N. de Chaisemartin, Les sculptures romaines de Sousse et des sites environnants, École Française de Rome, 102, 1987, p. 347-363.

[2] The ancient perceived the dolphin as the savior and friend of Man.

[3] F. Barrate, F. Béjaoui, N. Duval, S. Berraho, I. Gui, H. Jacquet, Basiliques chrétiennes d’Afrique du Nord. II- Monuments de la Tunisie, éd. Ausonius, Bordeaux 2014, p. 227-228.

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