Il «cippo ebraico» nelle catacombe di San Gennaro (Napoli)
Lacerenza, Giancarlo (1999) Il «cippo ebraico» nelle catacombe di San Gennaro (Napoli). Annali dell’Università degli studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”. Rivista del Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici e del Dipartimento di Studi e Ricerche su Africa e Paesi Arabi, 1997 (57/3-4). pp. 484-508. ISSN 0393-3180
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The marble cippus bearing a rather cryptic Hebrew inscription in the main Christian catacombs of Naples has been the object of a long debate regarding both its age and the actual authenticity of the epigraph. The monument was first studied by the Austrian orientalist Josef von Hammer-Purgstall in his Mémoire sur deux coffrets gnostiques du moyen âge (1832), where he expressed the view that the inscription had a ‘Gnostic’ meaning. Although his interpretation was followed by several scholars, other attempts were made to explain the text differently. It was considered a record of Christian refugees of Byzantine or early medieval age (Giuseppe Fusco, Gennaro Aspreno Galante), or a Jewish product of Roman age (Salomone DE Benedetti). Since 1839 it ha also been considered as a medieval or early modern forgery ( Christian Bellermann, Jean-Baptiste Frey, Albrebcht Alt, Giuseppe Morelli). However, no one has been able to determine a convincing setting for the monument, both culturally and chronologically. A re-examination of the existing literature, carried out with the support of some still unknown documents, definitely allows us to regard the inscription as a forgery, or a joke, originated in the milieu of foreign antiquari and orientalists of early nineteenth-century Naples. It appears to be a joke à clef against the theories of the local crudities of the previous century regarding the existence of ancient underground cities in South Italy. The latter were supposed to be of ‘Phonecian’ Or Cimmerian origins on the ground of the alleged Semitic etymologies of their ancient toponyms.
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