Saint NameFelicissimus 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 EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Inscriptions - Funerary inscriptions
Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)
Evidence not before350
Evidence not after400
Activity not before350
Activity not after400
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
Cult Activities - Cult Related ObjectsInscription
SourceFour 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.
DiscussionThe 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.
Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB10225, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/10225
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.
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.