Switzerland is so very proud of this: the earliest archaeological proof, they believe, for a Christian in their nation. This claim rests on one piece of evidence, that the Chi-Rho (roughly circled) is actually a 'Christogram'.
As there is no reason whatsoever to make that bold assumption, what may we learn from this archaeology?
Devotione Vigens / augusta Pontius Aedis (Chi-Rho with alpha and omega) / restituit praetor / longe praestantius illis / quae priscae steterant / talis re publica qu (a) ere / d (omino) n (ostro) Gratiano Aug (usto) IIII et Mer (obaudo) / co (n) s (ulibus) / Pontius Asclepiodotus v (ir) p (erfectissimus) praeses d (e) d (icavit)Persons:
person 1 name: Gratiano
status emperor / imperial household
person 2 name: Mer.
status senatorial order
person 3 name: Pontius Asclepiodotus
status equestrian order
Pontius Asclepiodotus was the Roman provincial governor in Sion. A French newspaper report, via Google translate:
The double Consulate of Gratian and Merobaudes determines that date. In 377, we are under the reign of Gratian, a young man of 18, effective master of the Western world. Without particular merits, he was well served by his generals, at least at the beginning of his reign. Merobaudes was one of them, an expert in wars on the Rhine. He was of Frankish origin, became head of the militia, that is to say, general of the armies of the West.
How is this block of marble fail come to Zion? We do not know anything. No more than we know the origin of the mileage that is in the same hall and which originally stood on Vaud soil, on the road of Avenches. What we know is that Zion was playing any political or administrative role. It just, this village was not even the chief place of Séduniens, for the simple reason that the tribe of Séduniens no longer existed as a political district, so to say. This marble comes from Octodure.
The great administrative and fiscal reorganization of the empire operated by Diocletian at the beginning of the century brought changes to our township. The Pennine valley is so detached from that of the Isere, with which it had been - probably between Marcus Aurelius and Diocletian - a municipal community of life.
Pontius Asclepiodotus, like all provincial governors, big or small, was primarily an administrator and a judge. It was to be foreign to Octodure. Probably of the order of knights, certainly still young, and who was hand in the capital of a very small country. The title of senator that gives it the inscription, one should not conclude that / he was a Roman senator. That- is totally excluded. Perhaps a member of the senate Octodure. Most prefectures had a body like this, with provincial assemblies.
What there is of course, is that municipal life still Octodure, which retains its decurions or tax collectors, magistrates, employees. Octodure has its schoolmaster. Especially, it is required, the old city, to ensure freedom of communication by the collar of Mont Joux. She is best as a tax collection body for the whole Pennine valley and is responsible for all the tax base. * In other words it must deliver annually to the state, that is to say the imperial offices, in gold or in kind, the product of the land tax 'set the country as a whole and unchanged for a fixed term. Tax Inquisition was very thorough, and the governor saw to that. Virtually nothing has been invented. In all provinces periodically proceeded to meticulous censuses, land surveying, determining crop survey of vines, counting animals. Every fifteen years had held a revision of taxation units, ie, it Dait procedure for the revision of cadastral taxes.
We can, without much effort imagnination, represent the Imperial Commissioner in the exercise of its Octodure functions or making frequent roadside inspections of Summus Penninus. Because everything is conditioned on the merits by this great way of 600 km, in excellent condition, covered by a continuous cartage and Octodure which earned special privileges. The governor also had to be some kind of engineer of Roads and Bridges. He was monitoring the imperial post, reserved only for purposes of administration, as well as relay established on the road.
(Pontius Asclepiodotus, Confédéré, 11 December 1953)
The archaeological record tells us without any doubt how Constantine I the Great adopted the Chi-Rho. Later in that century, the alpha-to-omega appears with the Chi-Rho and is added to the Book of Revelation.
What is lacking is any evidence for Constantine's conversion to Christianity, or even for Christianity itself, or the 313 Edict of Milan. The Chi-Rho tells instead of conversion to Chrestianity. With that in mind, the career of Pontius Asclepiodotus and his religious affiliation make a different sense.
The emperor, Gratian:
In 382, Gratian appropriated the income of the Pagan priests and Vestal Virgins, forbade legacies of real property to them and abolished other privileges belonging to the Vestals and to the pontiffs. He confiscated the personal possessions of the colleges of Pagan priests, which also lost all their privileges and immunities. Gratian declared that all of the Pagan temples and shrines were to be confiscated by the government and that their revenues were to be joined to the property of the royal treasury.He ordered another removal of the Altar of Victory from the Senate House at Rome, despite protests of the pagan members of the Senate, and confiscated its revenues. Pagan Senators responded by sending an appeal to Gratian, reminding him that he was still the Pontifex Maximus and that it was his duty to see that the Pagan rites were properly performed. They appealed to Gratian to restore the Altar of Victory and the rights and privileges of the Vestal Virgins and priestly colleges. Gratian, at the urging of Ambrose, did not grant an audience to the Pagan Senators. In response to being reminded by the Pagans that he was still the head of the ancestral religion, Gratian refused to wear the insignia of the Pontifex Maximus as unbefitting a Christian, renouncing the title and office of Pontifex Maximus under the influence of Ambrose, declaring that it was unsuitable for a Christian to hold this office. Gratian was quickly faced with a revolt from Magnus Maximus to the throne because he was more sympathetic to the Pagan cause.
Notwithstanding his actions, Gratian was still deified after his death.
Once the late sources are placed in their proper context - the period in which they appear, rather than earlier - and one treats his reign with textual and other artefacts belonging to it, this history becomes clarified.
Gratian, as with emperors earlier that century, is Chrestian. His interest is centralisation of power, including monies, into his hands. Regardless of all the chatter here regarding the pagan title Pontifex Maximus, it has been used and is used to this day by the Church of Rome:
The word "pontifex" later became a term used for Christian bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, and the title of "Pontifex Maximus" was applied within the Roman Catholic Church to the Pope as its chief bishop. It is not included in the Pope's official titles, but appears on buildings, monuments and coins of popes of Renaissance and modern times.
The declaration by Pontius Asclepiodotus is therefore a sign of loyalty to the imperial cause, expected of an official entirely dependent on this cause.
Archaeologists need to re-evaluate all artefacts bearing the Chi-Rho.
Archaeologists need to re-evaluate all artefacts bearing the Chi-Rho.