The catacombs perhaps take their name from the local landowner of the time and were known as far back as the 16th century, although excavated between 1847 and 1872. In 1931 a vast burial ground was also discovered above ground, featuring the presence of tombs of people of senatorial rank and of members of the imperial family. This area had previously been occupied by the huge residence of Herod Atticus (the so-called Triopius) and on his death became imperial property and occupied by high level tombs. Amongst other things, the sarcophagus of Emperor Balbinus (238 AD) was found here and is evidence of the elitist nature of the burial site. One part of the catacombs also reuses a long tunnel, probably an abandoned cistern, called the Spelunca Magna. The catacombs date back to the early 3rd century AD and consisted of three main complexes on various levels. In the 4th century these three complexes were enlarged by creating a vast network of tunnels and cubicles. In the same period, places of worship were also built in the areaabove ground along with the burials, such as the basilica of Zeno and Tiburtius, and the basilica of Valerian and Maximus, of which there is no longer trace. The paintings in the cubicles are very interesting, particularly a scene dating back to the 3rd century, depicting the crowning of Christ, considered one of the oldest examples of representation of the Passion. Other frescoes, of the 4th century, depict the apostles Peter and Paul, and popes Sixtus II and Liberius.
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