Thursday, 30 June 2011

David Eastman - Damasus of Rome and the Citizenship of Peter and Paul

In a hymn placed in the Catacombs in the late fourth century, Damasus of Rome laid claim to Peter and Paul as Rome’s “own citizens.” Interpretations of this inscription from the Appian Road have typically focused on the question of the apostolic relics and the possibility of a translation to the Catacombs in the third century. In this paper I will offer an alternative reading of these verses that more adequately takes into account the entirety of the poem. Damasus was not highlighting this particular site as a temporary relic repository; rather, he was seeking to elevate Rome as a whole within the context of a polemic of apostolic identity against the Greek East. This inscription places Rome above the cities of the East and reflects the ecclesiastical politics of Damasus’ time. The appeal to citizenship, therefore, functions as a claim for the full Roman identity of the apostles and, consequently, the full apostolic authority of Rome.

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