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E05161: Latin monumental epitaph for one or two martyr(s) whose name(s) is/are lost. Often identified as *Felicissimus and *Agapitus (both deacons of Xystus II and martyrs of Rome, S00202), but once, probably wrongly, thought to have been *Urbanus (pope and confessor/martyr of Rome, S00538). The inscription is sometimes considered as Damasan. Found in the Cemetery of Praetextatus, via Appia, Rome. Probably 4th c.

online resource
posted on 2018-03-06, 00:00 authored by Bryan
[- - -]us martys

[Urban]us: de Rossi 1870, [Felicissimus martys] | [Agapit]us martys: de Rossi 1872, [Agapit]us martyrs: subsequent editions, also Carletti in EDB, Agapit]us: dropped by Ferrua.

'[- - -]us, martyr.'

Text: ICVR, n.s., V, no. 14809 = EDB10225.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Felicissimus and Agapitus, and four other deacons of Xystus II, all martyrs of Rome : S00202 Urbanus, bishop and confessor/martyr of Rome : S00538 Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060 Saints, name lost or very partially preserved : S01744

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) 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

Major author/Major anonymous work

Damasan and pseudo-Damasan poems

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - Popes

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



Four conjoining fragments of a large marble plaque. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.27 m; W. 0.49 m; Th. 0.014 m. Letter height 0.07 m. High quality lettering. The fragments were found in 1870, in a pit below arcosolium Ag' in the Cemetery of Praetextatus by Giovanni Battista de Rossi. Later republished and commented on by a number of scholars: see the bibliography. A photograph was published by Josef Wilpert in 1910, and by Antonio Ferrua in 1971. For a description of this region of the Cemetery of Praetextatus, see Borg 2013, 83, and De Santis 2010, 22 note 18, 35-36, 37 note 110.


The fragment seems to be from a monumental epitaph for at least one martyr, probably erected by a 4th century pope. This is to be concluded from the high quality of the execution of the plaque and the lettering (which, although, it is not strictly Philocalian, is sometimes described as 'Damasan', e.g. de Rossi, Armellini 1893, 403; cf. Josi 1927, 240 with a dose of scepticism). Rodolfo Kanzler, however, argued that this was the original, mid 3rd c., plaque placed on the very tomb of the martyr(s) soon after his/their martyrdom. Sadly, the name of the martyr is lost. Based on the literary evidence for martyrs buried in the Cemetery of Praetextatus, especially the Notitia ecclesiarium urbis Romae (E00683), Giovanni Battista de Rossi first completed the name as Urbanus (that is pope Urbanus, a confessor later venerated as a martyr). However he also hesitated whether the inscription should have been completed with the names of Felicissimus and Agapitus. The two saints were deacons of pope Xystus/Sixtus II martyred under the emperor Decius and reportedly buried in the cemetery of Praetextatus. Eventually, he rejected this option, as in such a case he would have expected the plural form martyres to have been used in the text. Later, however, de Rossi changed his mind and opted for a restoration with the name Felicissimus in the hypothetical first line, now entirely lost, and Agapitus in the second line. He also compared this layout with that of the epitaph for the martyrs Simplicius and Servilianus buried on the via Latina (E05171). According to the description of the find-spot (beneath arcosolium Ag', the presumed site of the tomb of *Ianuarius, see E05128) the inscription lay in front of a peculiar apsed niche (termed Ag), where a plaque covered by graffiti with invocations of Felicissimus and Agapitus may originally have been located (E05134). Ferrua observes that de Rossi's completion of their names was to some extent supported by the discovery of these graffiti, and thus the restoration was generally accepted by subsequent editors. He himself, however, drops the name Agapitus in the basic text of his edition. Carlo Carletti in EDB gives just the second line of de Rossi's restoration: [Agapit]us martys. For more comments on Felicissimus and Agapitus, see E05129. Dating: De Rossi dated the inscription to the 4th c., probably within the pontificate of Damasus. Kanzler argued for the mid 3rd c. Carlo Carletti in EDB dates it to the 4th c.


Editions: Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB10225, see 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. 14809. Josi, E., "Le iscrizioni damasiane in Pretestato," Rivista di archeologia cristiana 5 (1927), 240 and fig. 13. Wilpert, J., La Cripta dei Papi e la cappella di Sainta Cecilia ne cimetero di Callisto (Rome: Desclée & C., 1910), 37. Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), comments to no. 1988. Marucchi, O., Le catacombe romane (Rome: Desclée, Lefebvre E.C., 1905, 2nd ed.), 221. Kanzler, R., "Restituzione archittettonica della Cripta dei SS. Felicissimo ed Agapito nel cimitero di pretestato," Nuovo bullettino di archeologia cristiana 1 (1895), 176. Armellini, M., Gli antichi cimiteri cristiani di Roma e d'Italia (Rome: Tipografia poliglotta, 1893), 403. Armellini, M., Scoperta d'un graffito storico nel Cemeterio di Pretestato sulla Via Appia (Rome: Guerra e Mirri, 1874), 9. de Rossi, G.B., "Le cripte storiche del cimitero: di Pretestato," Bulletino di archeologia Cristiana 2 Ser. 3 (1872), 76-77. de Rossi, G.B., "Notizie," Bulletino di archeologia Cristiana 2 Ser. 1 (1870), 46-47. Further reading: Amore, A., I martiri di Roma (Ricerche di archeologia e antichità cristiane 4, Todi: Antonianum, 2013, 2nd ed. revised by A. Bonfiglio), 182-183. Borg, B., Crisis and Ambition: Tombs and Burial Customs in Third-Century CE Rome (Oxford: OUP, 2013), 83. De Santis, P., Sanctorum Monumenta: "Aree sacre" del suburbio di Roma nella documentazione epigrafica (IV-VII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2010), 22 note 18, 35-36, 37 note 110. Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2018), chapter XVI. Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry: Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 44, 12-122.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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