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E05135: Latin epitaph invoking the company of the 'holy spirits'/spirita sancta for the deceased. Found in the Cemetery of Praetextatus, via Appia, Rome. Dated 291.

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posted on 2018-02-27, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
The inscription is composed in poor Latin with many unclear abbreviations. It was differently interpreted by its various editors. Below we give the reference text published by Antonio Ferrua. For other interpretations, see the apparatus and the bibliography.

ex virginio tuo ben+
e meco vixsisti lib eni c-
oniuga innocentissi-
ma Cervonia + Silvana
+ refrigera c+um spirita +
Sancta + dep(osita) kal(endas) apr(iles) Tiberi-
+ano II et Dioni co(n)ss(ulibus) +

1. ex virginio tuo = mecum ex virginio tuo: de Rossi, = ex virginitate tua: Diehl (rejected by Ferrua) || 1-2. ben|e meco: Carletti 2008, ben(emerenti) | e meco Carletti EDB || 2. libenter: de Rossi, Diehl, liben: Carletti 2008, libens: Carletti EDB || 2-3. coniuga = coniux: de Rossi, Diehl || 6. k. apr.: Giorgi || 7. Dione: Gori

'With me, your virginal husband (?), you lived well-deservedly and happily as the most pure wife, Cervonia Silvana. Be refreshed with the holy spirits; buried on the calends of April, under the consuls Tiberianus for the second time and Dio.'

Text: ICVR, n.s., V, no. 13886 = EDB7082.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Saints, unnamed : S00518 Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060

Saint Name in Source

spirita sancta spirita sancta

Type of Evidence

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


  • Latin

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 Other lay individuals/ people


Marble (?) plaque. Dimensions not recorded. The upper part of the face was decorated with the carving of a christogram, or a sign similar to it. The inscription is first mentioned in 1720 by Marco Antonio Boldetti, when it was complete, who says that he himself found it in the cemetery 'of Saint Urbanus', that is the Cemetery of Praetextatus, in 1719. Thereafter the inscription is frequently mentioned in manuscripts and letters of early modern scholars exploring and studying the antiquities of the city of Rome. Their attention was caught by the consular date at the end of the epitaph (with its remarkable mention of the consulship of the historian Cassius Dio). Alessandro Gregorio Capponi recovered most of the inscription from a vineyard (with parts of lines 2-3 and the complete lines 4-7). Later seen in his collection. Now probably lost. For a list of editions and mentions in manuscripts, see Antonio Ferrua's lemma in the ICVR series. In 2008 the inscription was republished by Carlo Carletti in his book on the early Christian epigraphy of the West.


The inscription is the epitaph for a certain Cervonia Silvana. Her husband who dedicated the stone, expresses his wish that she would find repose (refrigerium) with the holy spirits (spirita sancta). Ludovico Muratori assumed that this was an error for ‘with the Holy Spirit’/cum spirito sancto resulting from the poor education of the author of the text. References to spirita sancta, are, however, frequent in epitaphs from suburban cemeteries of Rome. They may refer to the souls of the deceased Christians, or, more specifically, to the souls of martyrs buried in nearby tombs. It is, however, not clear whether Silvana’s husband saw her burial as an intentional burial ad sanctos, treated saints’ tombs simply as an element of the landscape, or referred to the heavenly community of saints she was going to join after her death. The inscription is confirmed as Christian through the use of the term depositio. Dating: The consulate mentioned was in 291.


Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB7082, see Carletti, C., Epigrafia dei cristiani in Occidente dal III al VII secolo. Ideologia e prassi (Bari: Edipuglia, 2008), 156, no. 33. 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. 13886 (with further bibliography). Josi, E., "Note sul cimitero di Pretestato. III. La sistemazione del materiale epigrafico nel cimitero di Pretestato. IV. Le iscrizioni datate", Rivista di archeologia cristiana 12 (1935), 23, no. 2. Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 2305. de Rossi, G.B., Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores (Rome: Ex Officina Libraria Pontificia, Officina libraria Philippi Cuggiani, 1857) 23, no. 17 and Supplement no. 1391. Muratori, L.A., Novus Thesaurus Veterum Inscriptionum in Praecipuis Earumdem Collectionibus Hactenus Praetermissarum, vol. 1 (Milan, Ex Aedibus Palatinis, 1739), 369, no. 1. Boldetti, M.A., Osservazioni sopra i cimiteri de' santi martiri, ed antichi cristiani di Roma: aggiuntavi la serie di tutti quelli, che sino al presente si sono scoperti, e di altri simili, che in varie parti del mondo si trovano, con alcune riflessioni pratiche sopra il culto delle sagre reliquie (Rome: Presso Gio, Maria Salvioni Stampatore Vaticano, 1720), 87.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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