Crypt of Lucina
The traditional title of the most ancient section of the catacomb of St. Callistus.
According to the theory of De Rossi, St. Lucina (honoured at Rome on 30 June), after
whom this portion of the cemetery is called, was the original donor of the area, and
at the same time identical with the noble Roman matron, Pomponia Graecina, wife of
the conqueror of Britain, Aulus Plautius. Lucina is believed to have been the baptismal
name of Pomponia Graecina. De Rossi's hypothesis, which is generally accepted, rests
on a passage of the
Annals of Tacitus (XIII, xxxii), and on certain inscriptions
discovered in the Crypt of Lucina. According to Tacitus,
Pomponia Graecina, a
distinguished lady, wife of the Plautius who on his return from Britain received an
ovation, was accused of some foreign superstition, and handed over to her husband's
judicial decision. Following ancient precedent, he heard his wife's cause in the
presence of kinsfolk, involving, as it did, her legal status and character, and he
reported that she was innocent. This Pomponia lived a long life of unbroken melancholy.
After the murder of Julia, Drusus's daughter, by Messalina's treachery, for forty years
she wore only the attire of a mourner with her heart ever sorrowful. For this, during
the reign of Claudius, she escaped unpunished, and it was afterwards counted a glory
to her. The
foreign superstition of the Roman historian is now generally regarded
as probably identical with the Christian religion. When de Rossi first conjectured
that this might be the case, he announced his view merely as a more or less remote
probability, but subsequent discoveries in the cemetery of St. Callistus confirmed
his supposition in the happiest manner. The first of these discoveries was the tomb
of a Pomponius Grekeinos, evidently a member of the family of Pomponia, and possibly
her descendant; the inscription dates from about the beginning of the third century.
A short distance from this, the tomb of a Pomponius Bassus was also found — another
member of the family to which belonged the mysterious lady of the reign of Claudius.
Thus the conversion to Christianity of this noble lady is established with a degree
of probability that approaches certainty.
NORTHCOTE AND BROWNLOW, Roma Sotterranea, I (2nd ed., London, 1879), 82-3, 279-81; STOKES in SMITH AND WACE, Dict. Christ. Biog., IV (London, 1887), s.v. Pomponia Graecina.
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