Pectorius, Epitaph of

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An inscription found (1830) in seven fragments in an ancient Christian cemetery near Autun, France, and published by Cardinal pitra. He and G. de Rossi ascribed it to the beginning of the 2d century; E. Le Blant and J. Wilpert attributed it to the end of the 3d century. Both dates are too early; the form and style of its letters indicate as the period of its origin sometime between 350 and 400. The phraseology, however, resembles the inscription of abercius (end of the 2d century) and clearly reflects the discipline of the secret. It is quite possible that the first part of the epitaph is a quotation from an older poem.

The inscription consists of three distichs and five hexameters; and the first five verses are bound together by the acrostic ΙΧΘϒΣ, a word that appears five times in the text. The content falls into two parts. The first (verses 1 to 7) is addressed to the reader and is of doctrinal character. Baptism is called "the immortal fountain of divine waters"; the Eucharist, "the honeysweet food of the Redeemer of the saints"; Christ, "the light of the dead." The second part (verses 8 to 11) is personal. Here Pectorius prays for his mother and asks his deceased parents and brothers to remember him "in the peace of the Fish." The words "holding the Fish in your hands" recall the ancient Communion rite in which the Eucharist was placed in the hands of the recipient.

Bibliography: j. quasten, ed. Monumenta eucharista et liturgica vetustissima (Bonn 193537) 2427, text, and Lat. tr. quasten, Patrology (Westminster MD 1950) 1:173175, with bibliog. f. j. dÖlger, ΙΧΘϒΣ?, v.1 (Rome 1910) 1215, 177183; ibid., v.2 (Münster 1922) 507515. m. guarducci, Rendiconti della Pontificia Accademia di Archeologia 2324 (194749) 243252.

[j. quasten]