Saint NameFelicitas, martyr of Rome with her seven sons : S00525
Ianuarius, eldest son of Felicitas and martyr of Rome, buried on the via Appia : S02863
Saint Name in SourceIanuarius
Image Caption 1Fragments known to de Rossi. From: de Rossi 1872, Tav. V.
Image Caption 2Plan of the site of the tomb of Ianuarius (Ag'). From: De Santis 2010, 36 (after Tolotti 1977).
Image Caption 3Reconstruction of the site of the tomb of Ianuarius (Ag'). From: De Santis 2010, 52 (after Spera 2004).
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Funerary inscriptions
Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)
Evidence not before366
Evidence not after384
Activity not before366
Activity not after384
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
Major author/Major anonymous workDamasan and pseudo-Damasan poems
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsBequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - Popes
SourceLarge marble plaque broken into many conjoining fragments. H. 0.895 m; W. 1.90 m. Letter height 0.105-0.125 m. Fine Philocalian script.
Several fragments, mainly of the left-hand part of the plaque were found by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in February 1863 in the so-called cubiculum quadratum (cubiculum Ax) in the cemetery of Praetextatus, identified by de Rossi and later Tolotti as the Spelunca Magna. The name Spelunca Magna comes from the 7th c. Notitia ecclesiarum Urbis Romae which provides a detailed description of burials in this location (E00683). Spelunca magna is also traditionally considered as the place of the tombs of *Urbanus (bishop of Rome and confessor, S00538), and of the martyrs *Felicissimus (S00202), *Agapitus (S00203), and *Quirinus (S01225, cf. E04794). More recent researchers, based on some inconsistencies in Tolotti's reconstruction of the crypt Ax, question, however, its identification as the site of burial of Urbanus, and Felicissimus and Agapitus, and suppose that Felicissimus, and Agapitus may have been buried in another sector of the cemetery (A6). It is also possible that Urbanus was actually buried in cubiculum Ak (see De Santis 2010, 37; Borg 2013, 83). The inscription of Ianuarius is now displayed over cubiculum Ag', to the east of cubiculum Ax, which could have been the tomb of Ianuarius. Cubiculum Ax must remain an anonymous burial site, probably restored by a wealthy owner in the 4th c.
De Rossi published the fragments immediately after their discovery in the Bulletino di archeologia cristiana with a hypothetical restoration. Other fragments, found by de Rossi in the following years confirmed that his restoration was entirely correct. The last two fragments were published by Enrico Josi in 1927. These were found in a pit at cubiculum Ac.
Although composed in prose, the inscription was included in both main editions of the Damasan epigrams (Ihm 1895 and Ferrua 1943), and in Dennis Trout's book (2015) on the works of Damasus (with an English translation). It has also been many times reprinted in studies on Damasus and the Cemetery of Praetextatus (see the bibliography). It has been suggested that our short text was accompanied by a poem in honour of Ianuarius, also displayed there.
A digital photograph of good quality is offered in the Epigraphic Database Bari.
DiscussionIanuarius, commemorated by this inscription is one of the seven sons of Felicitas, and a martyr of Rome. The Martyrdom of Felicitas (E02494), which is a late text of disputed credibility, says that the brothers were tortured by different executioners, and hence their bodies lay in different cemeteries. Although Felicitas herself is not mentioned in the Chronography of 354, her sons are (E01052). Among them Ianuarius is ascribed to the cemetery of Praetextatus, and his deposition is dated to 10 July. Dennis Trout notes that in the late 7th c. De locis sanctis (E06992) he is also ascribed to the Cemetery of Praetextatus, and named the eldest son of Felicitas. He is similarly described in late versions of the Felicitas Martyrdom. A feast of Feliciitas with her unnamed seven sons is recorded on 9 January (E04604) by the Martyrologium Hieronymianum. Some sons are named by the MH on 9 July (E04876) but Ianuarius is not among them. On 10 July (E04877), in accordance with the date from the Chronography of 354, the MH mentions him by name and associates him with the Cemetery of Praetextatus on the Via Appia.
Based on the clear links of Ianuarius' tomb with the cemetery of Praetextatus, and the find-spot of our inscription, de Rossi identified the site of the tomb of Ianuarius. Subsequent archaeologists studying the site sustained this identification. It is indeed plausible that the tomb, in the monumental form which it owes to Damasus, was located precisely in cubiculum Ag' housing fine porphyry columns. It is cut in the north wall, in front of a large apsed niche (Ag). Trout 2015, 126, stresses that the tomb closely resembles that of *Marcellinus and Petrus buried inter duas lauros, and is very likely an original Damasan foundation.
It has been suggested that our short text was accompanied by a poem in honour of Ianuarius, also displayed there.
Dating: The inscription, as it is an original work commissioned by Damasus, dates to his pontificate, 366-384. The archaeological exploration of the tomb of Ianuarius suggests, however, that the tomb itself predates that pope's building programme.
Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB4847, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/4847
Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry: Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 125-126, no. 24.
de Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.) Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 5: Coemeteria reliqua Viae Appiae (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1971), no. 13871.
Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 1990.
Silvagni, A., Monumenta epigraphica christiana saeculo XIII antiquiora quae in Italiae finibus adhuc exstant (In Civitate Vaticana: Pontificium institutum archaeologiae christianae, 1943), Tab. VI 3.
Ferrua, A. (ed.), Epigrammata Damasiana (Sussidi allo studio delle antichità cristiane 2, Rome: , 1942), no. 24.
Josi, E., "Le iscrizioni damasiane in Pretestato", Rivista di archeologia cristiana 5 (1927), 218 and fig. 2.
Ihm, M., Damasi Epigrammata: accedunt Pseudodamasiana aliaque ad Damasiana inlustranda idonea (Lipsiae: in aedibus B. G. Teubneri, 1895), no. 22.
de Rossi, G.B., "Le cripte storiche del cimitero: di Pretestato", Bulletino di Archeologia Cristiana 2 Ser. 2 (1872), 71-75 and Tav. V.
de Rossi, G.B., "Iscrizione damasiana scoperta dinnanzi la cripta quadrata nel cemetero di Pretestato", Bulletino di Archeologia Cristiana 1 (1863), 17.
Borg, B., Crisis and Ambition: Tombs and Burial Customs in Third-Century CE Rome (Oxford: OUP, 2013), 80-96.
de Rossi, G.B., "Notizie: Scavi ne cemetero di Pretestato", Bulletino di Archeologia Cristiana 4 (1866), 16.
de Santis, P., Sanctorum Monumenta: "Aree sacre" del suburbio di Roma nella documentazione epigrafica (IV-VII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2010), 36 note 107, 37 note 113, 52.
Ferrua, A., Carletti, C., Damaso e i martiri di Roma (Città del Vaticano: Pontificia commissione di archeologia sacra, 1985), 35-36.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2018), 46 note 7.
Reutter, U., Damasus, Bischof von Rom (366-384): Leben und Werk (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009), 98, no. 24.
Spera, L., Il complesso di Pretestato sulla Via Appia : storia topografica e monumentale di un insediamento funerario paleocristiano nel Suburbio di Roma (Città del Vaticano: Pontificio istituto di archeologia cristiana, 2004), 66, 192-199.
Tolotti, F., "Ricerca dei luoghi venerati nella Spelunca Magna di Pretestato," Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana 53 (1977), 58-71.
Tolotti, F., "Il problema dell'altare e della tomb del martire in alcune opere di papa Damaso," in: O. Feld, U. Peschlow (eds.), Studien zur spätantiken und byzantinischen Kunst: Friedrich Wilhelm Deichmann gewidmet (Bonn: Habelt, 1986), 55-57.
Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry: Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 44.