of Easterners, possibly recent immigrants, of modest wealth. But this community also included some very wealthy, local Christian lay donors, such as the couple Primenius and Leontia who paid for some 300 Roman feet (approx. 27 m2) of mosaic here, as well as for some 200 Roman feet (approx. 18 m2) of flooring for the nearby Christian basilica at Monastero in Aquileia. This couple were probably members of the municipal elite, for, although wealthy, neither Primenius nor Leontia is attested as having senatorial status or high office that would have conferred the rank of clarissimus. Nor were they alone in their patronage; Splendonius and Hilara, and Nonnosus and Severiana, both lay couples and, again, probably members of the municipal aristocracy, gave 200 Roman feet (approx. 18 m2) of mosaic each.38
Judging from the mosaic pavements, Christianity was deeply entrenched in Aquileia's local upper class by the early fifth century. The third extant Christian basilica at Aquileia, the Basilica del Monastero, just a little beyond the ancient city walls, has mosaic flooring dated to two phases, the early and second half of the fifth century respectively. Among the thirty-nine donors are some extremely wealthy patrons. In particular, Victor and Theosebes, presumably two heads of households and of Greek extraction, donated 2000 Roman feet (approx. 180 m2) of flooring, while one couple, Probus and Severa, donated 1000 Roman feet (approx. 90 m2).39 The amounts attested suggest that we are seeing some of the wealthiest members of the local municipal elite. In keeping with notions of status, the wealthiest donors wished to demonstrate their position within the community through their monetary contributions.
The willingness of the notables in Aquileia and the surrounding areas to support such acts of patronage beginning as early as 313 suggests not only an earlier but also a more widespread adoption of Christianity than was the case among Rome's senatorial class. The influx of Eastern and Jewish immigrants into Aquileia may have contributed to Aquileia's openness; it certainly lent a distinctive Greek and Eastern identity to Aquileia's Christian community. Indeed, some of Aquileia's Christian donors, Greek-speaking Easterners or Christianised Jews, judging from their names, may have been Christian prior to migrating.
Although Aquileia's Christian upper class could boast of many fine basilicas and mosaic floors, they did not have the resources or wealth that was available to Rome's senatorial elite. Interestingly, too, unlike in Rome or Milan, we do not find in Aquileia's patron list wealthy Christian women acting as sole donors.
Was this article helpful?