In the year 1857, a piece of graffiti, now known as the Alexamenos Graffito, was discovered on the Palatine Hill in the centre of Rome when a building called the Domus Gelotiana was excavated. Believed to date from the early third century A.D., the picture, etched or scratched in plaster, it depicts a human-like figure with a donkey looking head, attached to a cross. To the left is Alexamenos, with one hand raised in prayer. Below are scrawled the Greek words “ΑΛE XAMENOΣ ΣEBETE ΘEON,” which translates to “Alexamenos worships [his] God.”
Adjacent to this image is another inscription in a different hand which reads in Latin Alexamenos fidelis, meaning “Alexamenos is faithful” or “Alexamenos the faithful.” It is argued that this second graffiti is a response by an unknown party to the mockery of Alexamenos in the image shown here.
This is the earliest image of a Christian associated cross yet uncovered. Without doubt, this image was intended to mock both Alexamenos and his God, and also all Christians, as the artist accuses Christians of practicing ‘onalatry,’ or ‘donkey-worship’, apparently a common taunt against Christians, at that time. Historians have since uncovered many roots to this depiction leading back to Satanic Egyptian images.