Inscription of Abercius
c.182. In 1883 Sir William Ramsay discovered an incomplete epitaph of Avircius of Hieropolis in Phrygia. Without mentioning Christ or the Church, Avircius speaks of the all-seeing Shepherd who taught faithful Scriptures, and of Paul, of faith, of the fish from the spring, of the Virgin, of the wine and loaf, which guided him through the plains of Syria, across the Euphrates to Nisibis and to Rome. At each place he met “brethren.” He invites prayers for himself, warning against using his tomb for others, on pain of paying gold into the treasuries of Rome and Hieropolis. Interpretations vary, but the symbolism suggests a Christian context. The mutilated word basil may refer to the Roman emperor or to the sovereign church at Rome, the latter suggesting growing imperialism. If Avircius Marcellus, addressed favorably in an anti-Marcionite tract in Eusebius, wrote the inscription, his warning was possibly against Montanist activity. The legendary fourth-century Vita Abercii identifies Avircius as bishop of Hieropolis.