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The Catacombs of Rome - William Henry Withrow Summary
The present work, it is hoped, will supply a want long felt in the literature of the Catacombs. That literature, it is true, is very voluminous; but it is for the most part locked up in rare and costly folios in foreign languages, and inaccessible to the general reader. Recent discoveries have refuted some of the theories and corrected many of the statements of previous books in English on this subject; and the present volume is the only one in which the latest results of exploration are fully given, and interpreted from a Protestant point of view. The writer has endeavored to illustrate the subject by frequent pagan sepulchral inscriptions, and by citations from the writings of the Fathers, which often throw much light on the condition of early Christian society. The value of the work is greatly enhanced, it is thought, by the addition of many hundreds of early Christian inscriptions carefully translated, a very large proportion of which have never before appeared in English. Those only who have given some attention to epigraphical studies can conceive the difficulty of this part of the work. The defacements of time, and frequently the original imperfection of the inscriptions and the ignorance of their writers, demand the utmost carefulness to avoid errors of interpretation. The writer has been fortunate in being assisted by the veteran scholarship of the Rev. Dr. McCaul, well known in both Europe and America as one of the highest living authorities in epigraphical science, under whose critical revision most of the translations have passed. Through the enterprise of the publishers this work is more copiously illustrated, from original and other sources, than any other work on the subject in the language; thus giving more correct and vivid impressions of the unfamiliar scenes and objects delineated than is possible by any mere verbal description. References are given, in the foot-notes, to the principal authorities quoted, but specific acknowledgment should here be made of the author’s indebtedness to the Cavaliere De Rossi’s Roma Sotterranea and Inscriptiones Christianæ, by far the most important works on this fascinating but difficult subject. Believing that the testimony of the Catacombs exhibits, more strikingly than any other evidence, the immense contrast between primitive Christianity and modern Romanism, the author thinks no apology necessary for the somewhat polemical character of portions of this book which illustrate that fact. He trusts that it will be found a contribution of some value to the historical defense of the truth against the corruptions and innovations of Popish error..