« Avenging of the Savior Avercius, (Avircius, Abercius), of Hieropolis Aves, Henry Damerel »

Avercius, (Avircius, Abercius), of Hieropolis

AVERCIUS, a-ver´shiUs (AVIRCIUS, ABERCIUS), OF HIEROPOLIS (in the Glaucus valley, not Hierapolis on the Lycus): A Phrygian, the inscription on whose gravestone is preserved in a legendary life, written probably about 400, and was found, in part, on a portion of the actual stone by W. M. Ramsay in 1883 at the warm baths near Hieropolis. The inscription, with restorations, may be rendered as follows:

I, the citizen of a noble city, have made this (monument) in my lifetime that I might have here a resting-place in the eyes of men for my body, Avercius by name, the servant of a holy shepherd who pastures flocks of sheep upon the hills and meadows; whose eyes are large and all-seeing; for he taught me . . . writings worthy of faith. To Rome he sent me that I might see the king and the queen in golden apparel with sandals of gold. But I saw a people there bearing a shining seal. I saw likewise the plains of Syria and all its cities (as well as) Nisibis, after I had crossed the Euphrates. But everywhere I had a companion, for Paul sat in the chariot with me. And Faith led the way (as guide) and in all places set before me as food a fish from the spring, gigantic, pure, which a holy virgin had caught. And this (fish) he (Faith) gave at all times as food to friends,—(Faith) who has good wine, giving mixed drink and bread. This have I, Avercius, while I stood by, ordered to be written down; seventy-two years old was I when it was done. You who understand the meaning of this, pray for Avercius, every one that is of the same mind. In my grave let no one lay another. But if any one do so, he shall pay to the treasury of the Romans 2,000, and to the loved native city Hieropolis 1,000, pieces of gold.

From this wording G. Ficker concludes that Avercius was a priest of Cybele, while Harnack would make him out the member of a sect partially Gnostic, partially heathen, wherein pagan mysteries were combined with one of the mysteries of the Christian faith, namely, the Lord’s Supper. The weight of authority, however, is in favor of the Christian character of the inscription. It must be dated somewhere about 200,—a time when it was not safe to make too open profession of Christian faith; hence Avercius phrases his confession in mysterious language which has a double meaning, yet is easily intelligible to one ” who understands.” The life already referred to supports this view, being based apparently on a well-established local legend corroborative in many details of the writing 387on the tombstone. Possibly the author may have been the Avercius Marcellus, a native of Phrygia, to whom a work against the Montanists was dedicated about the year 193 (Eusebius, Hist. eccl., v, 16). As internal evidence, are cited the unmistakable allusion to the Lord’s Supper, to baptism (the ” shining seal” ), and the reference to Paul, which may be taken to mean either that Avercius had the works of the apostle with him on his travels or compared his own journey to that of Paul from Damascus to the west. The inscription is now in the Lateran museum at Rome.

(T. Zahn.)

Bibliography: The life is in MPG, cxv. Consult J. B. Pitra, Spicilegium Solesmense, iii, 532-533, Paris, 1855; idem, Analecta sacra, ii (1884), 180-187; W. M. Ramsay, in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, iv (1883), 424-427; idem, in The Expositor, ix (1889), 156-180, 253-272; idem, The Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, vol. i, part 2, 709-715, 722-729, Oxford, 1897; G. B. de Rossi, Inscriptiones Christianæ, ii, pp. xii-xxv, Rome, 1888; J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, ii. part 1, 493-501, London, 1889; T. Zahn, Forschungen, v, 57-99, Leipsic, 1892; G. Ficker, in Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie, 1895, 87-112; A. Harnack, TU, xii, 4, Leipsic, 1895.

« Avenging of the Savior Avercius, (Avircius, Abercius), of Hieropolis Aves, Henry Damerel »
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