upper class to convert. The municipal people of high status in Aquileia have a markedly different trajectory.

The municipal elite of Aquileia

The city of Aquileia, in the northeastern region of Italy, Venetia, was one of the great cities of Italy; Ausonius praised its walls and harbours, ranking the city fourth in Italy and ninth in the empire when he wrote his Ordo urbium (c. 388). Aquileia had grown, benefiting from being a transit point in trade between the transalpine regions and the Mediterranean; goods produced in the northern regions passed through Aquileia on to the Eastern empire and on to Rome, Africa or Illyria.31 Aquileia, like its surrounding cities, attracted a good number of immigrants, especially Jews and Greek-speaking Easterners, among whom Syrians are most widely attested. Some 10-20 per cent of the population of Aquileia and of this region is estimated to have been Greek-speaking Easterners and Diaspora Jews in the early fourth century.32 This influx of immigrants, attested by inscriptions with Greek, Syrian and Jewish names, helps to explain the religious fabric of the region. In addition to Jews and Christians, a wide variety of mystery cult devotees appear here in the third and fourth centuries.33 The Christian community in the late third century and continuing into the fourth century included a number of these Eastern immigrants. Some of these were fairly wealthy, or at least that is what the late third-century Bishop Victorinus of nearby Poetovium (modern-day Ptuj) indicates.34 With wealth comes respectability, and some of these Christians were likely members of the local elite. However, wealthy Christian notables, whoever and how many, are not recorded for Aquileia, and as in Rome there are no major public places of worship or titular churches attested for the Christian community there until the time of Constantine. Only with the Edict of Milan did the Christian community in Aquileia and its bishop set about building large-scale public places of worship. The growing numbers of Christians and rising basilicas contributed to Aquileia's reputation, in our ancient sources, as the first centre of westward expansion for Italian Christianity.35 By the second decade of the fourth century, we can identify wealthy Christian laypeople acting as patrons; some of these were presumably members of the municipal elite since they are not attested as holders of senatorial status.

31 Lellia Cracco Ruggini, 'Religiosita e chiese nelle Venezie', 31.

32 R. Bratoz, II cristianesimo Aquileiese, 471-6.

33 M. C. Budischovsky, 'Dieux et cultes d'origine egyptienne'.

34 See Victorinus of Poetovium, On the apocalypse 3.3 (SC 423: 62.1-7).

35 R. Lizzi, Ambrose's contemporaries', 164.

0 0

Post a comment