Saint NameAll Saints : S01151
Saints, name lost or very partially preserved : S01744
Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060
Pontianus, bishop and martyr of Rome : S00169
Saint Name in Sourceπάντες οἱ ἅγιοι
πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι
πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Graffiti
Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)
Evidence not before300
Evidence not after350
Activity not before300
Activity not after350
Place of Evidence - RegionRome and region
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcSuburban catacombs and cemeteries
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Suburban catacombs and cemeteries
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesOther lay individuals/ people
SourceThe graffito is scratched in the plaster, on a wall at the entrace to cubiculum Aa in the area of the 'Crypt of the popes', Cemetery of Callistus. Letter height c. 0.02 m. Line 3 is scarcely legible, but probably written by the same hand. According to de Rossi the text was written on fresh, wet plaster, well before other graffiti from the same wall.
First recorded and published by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in 1867. Revisited, and repubslished by Josef Wilpert and Antonio Ferrua, respectively in 1910 and 1964.
DiscussionAntonio Ferrua briefly wondered if the Pontianios mentioned in the graffito was pope Pontianus, an exile from Rome in 235 and martyr in Sardinia, greeted by an unnamed visitor. De Rossi was firmly convinced that here pope Pontianus was invoked. Ferrua points out, however, that as the inscription asks for a happy sojourn with God on behalf of this Pontianos, he is very unlikely to be the martyr. Martyrs were usually believed to have safely attained salvation through their martyrdom.
In fact the inscription looks like a classic visitor invocation, not even an epitaph, where references to life 'in God' or 'with saints' or 'among saints' are also frequent. This is just a request formulated by a visitor to the crypt on behalf of his or her relative.
The words τῶν ἁγίων are restored. Ferrua wondered whether the lacuna could accommodate a different expression τῶν σῶν/'your family' ('O Pontanios, may you live in God, with all [your family]!'). Such a request could appear in a visitor invocation, but the first phrase, ἐν θεῷ/'in God', suggests that the request refers to the afterlife, and the completion τῶν ἁγίων is therefore much more plausible. (De Rossi suggested that the missing word was ἐπισκόπων, as he believed that this was a prayer on behalf of the martyred pope: 'O Pontianios, may you live in God, with all [the bishops]!)
Dating: Antonio Felle (in EDB) dates the inscription to the first half of the 4th c. (De Rossi dated it to the 3rd c., during the pontificate of pope Candidus who brought the body of Pontanius to Rome.)
For the epitaph of pope Pontanius, see E04740.
Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB17514, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/17514
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. 9520.
Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 430, and Tav. XXIII.
Wilpert, J., La Cripta dei Papi e la cappella di Sainta Cecilia ne cimetero di Callisto (Rome: Desclée & C., 1910), 19, no. 2.
de Rossi, G.B., La Roma sotterranea cristiana, vol. 2 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1867), 80, 382, and Tav. XXX 4-5.