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E04663: Latin and Greek graffiti with invocations of Xystus/Sixtus II (bishop and martyr of Rome, S00201), and probably other deceased popes and martyrs. One of the texts mentions Jerusalem as the 'city of 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 - early 8th c.

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posted on 2018-01-24, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
line 4:

sanc[te Xuste in men]-
te abe in oratione

'O Saint [Xystus], keep [in mind], in prayer [- - -]'

line 7:

Ξύσ]τε εἰς μνί[αν ἔχεται - - -]

'O Xystus, [keep] in memory [- - -]'

lines 8-11:

Gerusale, civitas et
martyru(m) dei

'O Jerusalem, the city and adornment of the martyrs of God, whose'

line 12:

Suste san[cte, ad]-
iuta e libera

'O Xystus, saint, help and free [- - -]'

line 13:

Suste sa[ncte (?) me ad]-
iuta e libera

'O Xystus, [saint], help me and free me!'

line 17:

p[etite spirit]a sancta
ut Verecundus cum suis
bene naviget

'O holy [spirits, intercede], so that Verecundus and his family would sail well!'

Text: ICVR, n.s., IV, 9524 = Carletti 2008, 275, no. 174b (only line 17).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Xystus/Sixtus II, bishop and martyr of Rome : S00201 Saints, unnamed : S00518 Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

Saint Name in Source

Sustus, Ξύστος spirita sancta martyres dei

Type of Evidence

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


  • Greek

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

Women Children Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people


Graffiti in cursive script. Scratched in the plaster, on a wall in area A3, at the entrance to the 'crypt of the popes'. Mixed with graffiti published under ICVR, n.s., IV, no. 9522 (our E04661). Diversified letter height, c. 0.5-2.5 cm. First recorded and published by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in 1854, 1864, and 1867. Revisited and published again in 1964 by Antontio Ferrua. Further comments, and a drawing were offered by Carlo Carletti in 2002 and 2008.


Here we present a selection of graffiti from a piece of plaster in the passageway leading to the 'crypt of the popes' at the cemetery of Callistus. This part of the wall bears many more invocations in Greek, Latin, and Latin written with Greek letters, but they invoke God or just record the names of the supplicants. Among them we have names of both men and women: Felix, a presbyter, Probinianus, Eustathius, Anastasa, an unnamed mother, Talla, Verina, Gelasios, Dionysios, Armen, Sabatia, Stratonachis, Aschionas, Adrianos, Leontios, and Alchimos. In the present selection the supplicants invoke mainly pope Xystus/Sixtus II (257-258), martyr under the emperor Valerian. A peculiar invocation is that recorded in line 17. Is asks 'holy spirits'/spirita sancta, to intercede on behalf of a safe journey by sea of a certain Verecundus and his family or companions ('cum suis'). Requests for safe journey are very common among travellers' graffiti in both the West and East, see, for example E01232 (Syros, Aegean islands) discussing graffiti invoking the help of *Phokas, martyr of Sinope in Anatolia, for seafarers. The holy spirits invoked by Verecundus are probably the souls of popes and martyrs buried in the cemetery. Carletti suggests that these could be also the souls of ordinary deceased buried in proximity of the 'crypt of the popes.' Dating: Antonio Felle (EDB) places the inscriptions from lines 7, 12, 17 in the late 4th, early 5th c., but that from line 4 in the late 7th - early 8th c. Others he leaves undated.


Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, nos. EDB18719-18722, 20183-20188, 18407, 19507-19514, 17557-17561. Carletti, C., Epigrafia dei cristiani in Occidente dal III al VII secolo. Ideologia e prassi (Bari: Edipuglia, 2008), 275, no. 174b (only line 17). 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. 9524. Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 2324 and vol. 2 (Berlin: Aud Weidmannos, 1927), no. 3965a. Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 430, Tav. XXVIII. de Rossi, G.B., La Roma sotterranea cristiana, vol. 1 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1864), 253, and vol. 2 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1867), 96, 382, and Tav. XXX. Civiltà cattolica, vol. 3 (1854), 125. 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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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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