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Historical and Religious Memory in the Ancient World$
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Beate Dignas and R. R. R. Smith

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572069

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572069.001.0001

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Sappho Underground

Sappho Underground

(p.37) 3 Sappho Underground
Historical and Religious Memory in the Ancient World

J.A. North

Oxford University Press

The decorative scheme of the Underground Basilica near the Porta Maggiore in Rome includes a wide variety of representations of everyday life, strange rituals, mythical scenes, and scenes from tragedy. This chapter argues that the choice of figures represented and the myths adopted and adapted in the scheme strongly suggest that those responsible were re-appropriating and employing myths and images from the pagan tradition to create and express their own evolving religious ideas. Sappho's leap evidently played a central role in their conception and, even if the use made of the basilica itself cannot now be established, its religious language seems to represent an important development in the history of pagan religion.

Keywords:   basilica, myths, pagan tradition, Porta Maggiore, religious language, Sappho's leap, Rome

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