Richard Last

The Silence of a God-Fearer: Anonymous Dedication in CIL 6.390a = 30752

Jahrgang 6 () / Heft 1, S. 75-103 (29)
Publiziert 18.08.2020

This study examines a peculiar votive dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus by an anonymous domini metuens ('worshipper of god') in Rome (CIL 6.390a = 30752, second century CE). Curiously, the dedicant not only omitted their own name but also cloaked the identity of the dominus by excluding the god's personal name and distinctive epithets. Previous interpreters have cited this text as a sure case of a pagan godfearer (because the dedicant communicates with Jupiter). However, the present article will argue that the epithet dominus in this inscription most likely refers to Christ, and so the altar represents a votive dedicated to Jupiter by a practitioner of Christ worship. After exploring the divine epithet dominus in epigraphy up to the fifth century CE (fig. 2) and also instances of the phrase deum metuens and synonyms, some suggestions are advanced concerning the function of the dedicant's anonymity, with a focus on anonymity as a strategy for managing stigmatised identities. It is proposed that the dedicant's omission of their own personal name helped them negotiate pressure from other Christ-followers who idealised exclusive worship practices. Moreover, concealing the identity of the dominus with whom they felt so attached permitted the dedicant to publicly assert their loyalty to Christ even while communicating with Jupiter.

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