« Asia Minor in the Apostolic Time Asinarii Asmodeus »


ASINARII, as-i-nê´rî-ai: Originally a nickname of the Jews, because they were said to worship an ass (see Ass); afterward applied also to the Christians, of whom the same story was told. It is not impossible that the Jews were the first to shift the reproach from themselves to the Christians. Tertullian (Ad nationes, i, 14; Apologia, xvi) tells how an apostate Jew, bitterly hostile to the Christians, exhibited in Carthage a picture representing a god with ass’s ears and a hoof on one foot, clad in a toga and holding a book, with the inscription DEUS CHRISTIANORUM ΟΝΟΚΟΙΗΤΗΣ [” Onokoietes, the God of the Christians;” the meaning of ” Onokoietes” is not very clear; it has been explained as ” ass-priest” or ” ass-worshiper” ; another reading is ΟΝΟΚΟΙΤΗΣ, ” lying in an ass’s manger” (?); perhaps there is a ribald implication]. More offensive to the Christians was the ” travesty crucifixion” which the Jesuit Garrucci discovered in 1856 in the ruins of a building on the southern declivity of the Palatine, which was possibly a school for the imperial pages. In that case it was probably sketched in an idle moment by one of these lads, in mockery of the religion of his Christian comrades. It represents a man’s body with an ass’s head, not strictly hanging on a cross, since the feet are supported by a platform, but with the arms outstretched and fastened to the transverse piece of a T-shaped cross. To the left is a smaller figure, raising one hand in an attitude of adoration, and under it is the inscription ΑΛΕΞΑΜΕΝΟΣ ΣΕΒΕΤΕ [i.e., σέβεται] ΘΕΟΝ (” Alexamenos worships his god” ). It is now in the Museo Kircheriano in Rome.

In 1870 Visconti discovered another inscription in the same building, with the words ΑΛΕΞΑΜΕΝΟΣ FIDELIS. Both of these probably belong to the beginning of the third century. That there is nothing improbable in a Christian having been among the imperial pages at that time is shown by Tertullian (Apologia, xxxvii) and by an inscription of the year 217, given by Rossi.

(A. Hauck.)

Bibliography: Older treatments of the subject, still useful, are Morinus, De capita asinino deo Christiano, Dort, 1620; H. Heinsius, De laude asini, p. 186, Leyden. 1629; T. Hasæus, De calumnia olim Judæis et Christianis impacta, Erfurt, 1716. Later discussions are. P. Garrucci, in Civilta cattolica, series 3, vol. iv (1856), 529; DCA, i, 149. For the ” travesty crucifixion,” cf. F. Becker, Das Spottcrucifix der römischen Kaiserpaläste, Breslau, 1866; P Garrucci, Storia della arte Christiana, plate 483, vi, 135, Prato, 1880; F. X. Kraus, Das Spottcrucifix vom Palatin und neuentdecktes Graffito, Freiburg, 1872; DCA, i, 516.

« Asia Minor in the Apostolic Time Asinarii Asmodeus »
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