Grey and damp and...

More than damp this morning but since midday it has been sunny with, however, a fringe of rain clouds around the horizon. 

Was reading Prudentius's Tituli Historiarum, 'lines to be inscribed under Scenes from History', before I dozed off. As I understand it, there would have been paintings of one sort or another in the temple building with one of Prudentius's little poems displayed above or below each one: there are 49 of them, describing historical events from Adam and Eve's catastrophe through Monumentum Sarrae and Somnium Pharaonis on to Magorum Munera, Ager Sanguinis, and the final Apocalypsis Iohannis. This is David; evidently we can't be sure who wrote the titles themselves.

David parvus erat, fratrum ultimus, et modo Iesse
cura gregis, citharam formans ad ovile paternum, 
inde ad delicias regis; mox horrida bella
conserit et funda sternit stridente Golian.

David was a child, the youngest of his brothers, and given the care of Jesse's flock: playing his cithara for his father's sheep which would after delight a king. Then dreadful wars he fought, and with a whistling sling slew Goliath. 

The editor of the Loeb edition, H.J. Thomson, points out that there is, in the baptistry of the famous church at Dura Europos, a series of frescoes i.e. that might have been accompanied by tituli similar to those of Prudentius. The point is that the poet, born in the year of Our Lord 348, could well have intended these stanzas for an actual church building (although to accomodate 49 of them, it would have to have been a large one, certainly) rather than simply using an artistic conceit: until the discovery of the relics at Dura Europos there wasn't archaeological evidence of Christian painting etc at such an early date.

... The building consists of a house conjoined to a separate hall-like room, which functioned as the meeting room for the church. The surviving frescoes of the baptistry room are probably the most ancient Christian paintings. We can see the "Good Shepherd" (this iconography had a very long history in the Classical world), the "Healing of the paralytic" and "Christ and Peter walking on the water". These are the earliest depictions of Jesus Christ ever found and date back to 235 AD.

A much larger fresco depicts two women (and a third, mostly lost) approaching a large sarcophagus, i.e. probably the three Marys visiting Christ's tomb. There were also frescoes of Adam and Eve as well as David and Goliath. The frescoes clearly followed the Hellenistic Jewish iconographic tradition but they are more crudely done than the paintings of the nearby synagogue.... 


Doze off I did because the telephone ringing woke me: it being the woman from the Social Security Administration. She had called this morning but I was too slow to realize that it was an 'Undisclosed Number' call of a sort that I should actually take.

Evidently, my application is fine and I ought to begin seeing that retirement income show up in my bank account at some point in the third week of June. (I had written that I was born in Oxford, Oregon, instead of Oxford, Ohio: she seemed glad to be able to correct that rather than inclined to scold me for making such a careless error.)

The Social Security fellow I spoke with on the 22nd of last month was eager to "get out of this closet" at his home and back to the office; today's lady said she'd be happy to continue working from her house "until I'm ready for retirement myself".