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E04661: Latin and Greek graffiti with invocations of *Balbina (virgin and martyr of Rome, S01849), naming one of the supplicants her alumnus, of *Xystus/Sixtus II (bishop and martyr of Rome, S00201), and of unnamed 'holy spirits' (presumably martyrs). On a wall at the entrance to the 'crypt of the popes,' Cemetery of Callistus, Via Appia, Rome. Probably second half of the 4th - first half of the 5th c.

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posted on 2018-01-23, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
domna Balbina pete pro Marcianum alumnu iim(?)
Successum Rufinum Agapitum e[t ---]

sancte Xuste
in mente habeas in ho[rationibus ---]
Succ[es]sum Ru- finu Agapitum
ut quot iter ausi facer[---]

Severum spirita
sancta in mente
havete et om-
nes fratres nos-

'Lady Balbina, intercede on behalf of Marcianus, your (?) alumnus, Successus, Rufinus, Agapitus, and [- - -].'

'O Saint Xystus, may you keep in mind, in prayers [- - -] Successus, Rufinus, Agapitus, may they depart with courage [- - -]!'

'O holy spirits, keep in mind Marcianus, Successus, Severus, and all our brothers!'

Lines 7-8 overlap a Greek graffito invoking Xystus, accompanied by the name of a certain Vitalis or Vitalicius. Ferrua gives the following text:

Ξύστε, ἐν [- - -] Βι[τ]άλις Β[ιτ]α[λ]ίχις

'O Xystos, in [- - -] Vitalis (or: Vitalichis = Vitalicius)'

Text: ICVR, n.s., IV, no. 9522 = Carletti 2008, 275, no. 174c (only line 1).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Xystus/Sixtus II, bishop and martyr of Rome : S00201 Balbina, virgin and martyr of Rome : S01849 Saints, unnamed : S00518

Saint Name in Source

Xustus, Ξύστος Balbina spirita sancta

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Graffiti Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Suburban catacombs and cemeteries

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Suburban catacombs and cemeteries Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


Three graffiti in cursive script. Scratched in the plaster, on a wall at the entrance to the 'crypt of the popes'. Letter height c. 0.04 m in lines 1-2 and 5; c. 0.0015 m in other lines. Mixed with graffiti published under ICVR, n.s., IV, no. 9524 (our E04663). Lines 5 and 6 are divided by a christogram. A christogram is also carved to the right of line 8. First published by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in 1867. Revisited by Antonio Ferrua. Further comments, and a drawing were offered by Carlo Carletti in 2002 and 2008.


The graffiti are authored by visitors to the 'crypt of the popes'. Notably, the second text, from lines 3-6, invokes a saint Xustus, whom Carlo Carletti plausibly identifies as pope Xystus/Sixtus II (257-258), martyr under the emperor Valerian, buried in the crypt. The first invocation (lines 1-2) addresses a saint Balbina, presumably the eponym of the nearby cemetery of Balbina (EXXXX), and of the Roman church of Santa Balbina on the Aventine Hill. The supplicant, Marcianus, is described as her alumnus. Carletti suggests that this may be a reference to his links with an institution named after Balbina. See also EXXXXX. The last invocation (lines 7-13), written in small script in an isolated block of text, addresses 'holy spirits'/spirita sancta, probably the souls of popes and martyrs buried in the cemetery. Interestingly, it is formulated by three men (probably brothers), who also pray on behalf of their absent siblings. Line 6 appears to contain a reference to a journey as an object of the request addressed to Xystus. It is, however, not clear whether the safe way back home is meant, or if it is a metaphor for life and spiritual edification. Dating: Carlo Carletti and Antonio Felle (EDB) place the inscription in the second half of the 4th or first half of the 5th c., presumably because our anonymous visitors must have venerated the popes buried in the crypt after its refurbishment by pope Damasus in the mid-4th c.


Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB15461, see Carletti, C., Epigrafia dei cristiani in Occidente dal III al VII secolo. Ideologia e prassi (Bari: Edipuglia, 2008), 275, no. 174c. De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.) Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 4: Coemeteria inter Vias Appiam et Ardeatinam (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1964), no. 9522. Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 2324g-l and q. Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 430-431. de Rossi, G.B., La Roma sotterranea cristiana, vol. 2 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1867), 383, and Tav. XXX. Further reading: Carletti, C., "'Scrivere i santi:' epigrafia del pellerinagio a Roma nei secoli VII-IX", in: Roma fra Oriente e Occidente: 19-24 aprile 2001 (Settimane di studio del Centro italiano di studi sull'alto medioevo 49, Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull'alto Medioevo, 2002), 332-333, Tav. I, fig. 1-2.

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