The Vlasto Family In Rome, From c. 100 A.D.
This monument, dating from 100-120 AD, was created in honour of Claudius Vlasto on the initiative of his son and namesake, Claudius Vlasto. It also commemorates his wife, Claudia Charis, as a later addition to the inscription. Although the wording is in Latin and the names have been latinised, the name 'Charis' is Greek and means 'Grace', indicating that the Greek origin is proudly acknowledged. Costas Kerofilas says that the use of the letter B in place of V for 'Vlasto' establishes an early date for the monument and that it belongs to a branch of the 'great Greek family which was established early in Rome'.
In the first chapter of Les Vlasto - Une famille patricienne crétoise, (1936) Costas Kérofilas mentions this monument in the Vatican Museum collection. The Vatican describes its origins as:
"Altare Funerario di Clodius Blastus
Forse venne venduto ai Musei nel 1783 dalla Contessa Livia Buzj Moroni (che aveva molte opere provenienti dalla Vigna Moroni sull'Appia, presso il Sepolcro degli Scipioni). La dedica viene fatta agli Dei Mani ed al padre Clodio Blastus dall'ononimo figlio. Con lettere leggermente piu piccole (et in uno spazio di risulta in basso) la moglie Clodia Charis, benemerente (e forse risentita della iniziale dimenticanza!), si fa aggiungere come dedicante. Al di sopra e un coronamento con due volute, ornate di fiori, tra palmette acroteriali; sulle facce laterali sono l'urceus et la patera. E databile al 100-120 d.C."
"Funerary Monument to Clodius Blastus
Perhaps sold to the Museums of the Vatican in 1783 by Countess Livia Buzj Moroni (who had numerous works of art from the Vigne Moroni near the Scipion tomb). The Vigne Moroni, being a very important excavation site, produced numerous artefacts of which the Vatican Museum has beautiful examples. The monument's dedication is: "Into the hands of God, Claudius Vlasto, most excellent, from his son Claudius Vlasto."
The Vatican's catalogue entry then suggests that the mention of his wife, Claudia Charis, in slightly smaller lettering in a space below, may have been added as an after-thought. This seems unlikely. Almost certainly the space was left blank (as is quite common) so that her name could be added when she died later and the letters B.M.F. in both cases refer to the son ('filius') being the benefactor of the monument to his parents.
The Vatican's description also refers to a 'crowning' feature to the monument consisting of two ornamental floral volutes and crossed palms. The side panels of the monument display an 'urceus' and 'patera' a vase and a chalice (or cup).
The Greek priest and theologian Vlasto became prominent in Rome during the reign of Commodus (180 192 A.D.) the son of Marcus Aurelius who had persecuted the Christians in Rome. Vlasto was a contemporary of St Irenaeus to whom he dedicated an epistle. At a time of great schisms in the early Christian church in Rome, Vlasto caused added controversy. Unjustifiably he was accused of promoting Judaism when he was said to have proposed that the date of Easter should be 'fixed' and celebrated on the 14th day of the month. This would, incidentally, have accorded with the laws of Moses hence the accusation that he, though Greek, was promoting Judaistic beliefs. However, Greeks from the Levant did indeed present Rome with problems when they insisted on celebrating Easter Day according to their own local customs.
It's clear from the later writings of Theodoret (c.393 458 A.D.) and of Eusebius (264 340 A.D., Bishop of Caesarea, father of Church history and biographer of Constantine The Great) that Vlasto and Florinus were eminent figures in Rome who nevertheless caused immense controversy in the earliest days of Christianity by attempting and failing to establish a fixed date for the celebration of Easter. Their reasons for proposing this were undoubtedly practical since, even today, the calculation of Easter involves an extraordinarily complicated mathematical process and, paradoxically, has its origin in pre-biblical pagan fertility rites associated with phases of the moon. Even St Irenaeus, Vlasto's contemporary and friend, condemned his view in letters to him.
Many attempts have since been made to fix the date of Easter since its irrational timing makes other Church feasts equally difficult to calculate unlike Christmas.
At approximately the same time a prominent Christian leader in Rome was another Vlasto who headed the Marcionite Sect of Gnostics and whose views as a Gnostic were also criticised. He was out-voted at the first Church Council in Rome where Gnosticism was declared heretical.
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