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More Anglo-Saxon Runic Graffiti in Roman Catacombs

Ute Schwab, Università di Catania (Emerita)

Old English Newsletter, 2003

In these pages in 1987 Professor René Derolez presented some results of Professor Carlo Carletti’s revision of ICVR n. s., on the names of English pilgrims scratched on the fresco of St. Luke “medicus” in the Cimitero di Commodilla at Via Ostiense, of which the runic e͡a db a l d was the main attraction. [1] In 1991, at the Erice-Conference “Epigrafia medievale greca e latína,” Carletti read a paper entitled “Viatores ad martyres. Testimonianze Scritte altomedievali nelle catacombe romane” including a survey on the presumable dating of the ‘REMEMBER-ME’-graffiti found in fourteen Roman Catacombæ (± s. vii med. to ± s. viii/ix). [2] Out of 370 inscriptions Carletti recognized some twenty of “Germanic” origin; he distinguishes (p. 209) an Anglo-Saxon group of names from Langobard and “Franco-Langobard” ones. [3] The twelve Anglo-Saxon names, marked by their number in ICVR, are ‘identified’ (tentatively and not always exactly) by quoting the relevant pages in W. G. Searle’s 1897 Onomasticon Anglo-Saxonicum. It is a pity that neither Anglo-Saxonists nor runologists were consulted. Most of these graffiti are found in Cimitero di Commodilla and had already been published in Carletti’s 1986 work, though not without errors; [4] the ‘Catacomba di Marcellino e Pietro’ (Via Labicana) has yielded the names Sassula (still to be examined) and Ceolbert (ICVR VI, 15975; 15966 [cf. Commodilla No 33]); in the ‘Catacomba di Ponziano’ (Via Portuense) we find one Healfred (ICVR II, 4533e; for “graphic and anthroponomic” reasons [p. 203] Carletti suggests a period not later than the beginning of s. viii). The initial h-, in my view, may be indebted to the owner of the name or to a carver wishing to create a ‘distinguished’ (hypercorrect) spelling, if the name is a perverted form of AlhfrithEalhfrith, etc.

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