Saint NameNereus and Achilleus, eunuchs and martyrs of Rome, and Companions : S00403
Saint Name in SourceSulpicius, Servilianus
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 CustomsRenovation and embellishment of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Cult Related ObjectsInscription
SourceOn a marble plaque. The inscription was recorded in the garden of the church of the Archangel Michael in the Leonine City, near St Peter's in Rome, by Aldo Manuzio in the late 15th or early 16th c. Later revisited by Francesco Maria Turrigio (16th c.) and Antonio Bosio (late 16th or early 17th c.). The text is known only through their manuscripts. The stone itself is now lost, and as there is no precise description we do not know for certain if it was a monumental commemorative plaque or a plain, original epitaph; but it was probably the former, since Antonio Bosio who saw the inscription in the early 17th c. believed it was Damasan work. The original location of the inscription is also unknown. Antonio Ferrua ascribes it to burial complexes on the via Latina, based on the hagiographic tradition describing the burial of Sulpicius and Servilianus in one of the cemeteries there.
First published by Antonio Bosio in 1632. In the reference series Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae it is discussed twice, in vol. I on inscriptions of uncertain origin, and again in vol. VI on inscriptions of the via Latina. For a list of editions up to 1975, see the lemma in ICVR, n.s., VI, no. 15761.
DiscussionThe inscription seems to have been displayed on the tomb of the two martyrs, but possibly only from the mid 4th century, when, in common with other such burials, their tomb may have undergone a process of monumentalisation. Sadly, we know nothing about the quality, shape and size of the lettering, which would be very helpful in assessing the actual character of this text.
The martyrs Sulpicius and Servilianus are supporting characters in the Martyrdom of Nereus and Achilleus (E02033, see also Lapidge 2018, ch. VIII). They were young men of senatorial families, meant to marry the foster-sisters of Domitilla, but who eventually converted to Christianity and were condemned to death by the sword by the prefect of Rome Anianus (otherwise not attested), reportedly under the emperor Trajan. Their tomb is said by the Martyrdom (§ 24) to have been located at the second mile on the Via Latina, whereas an entry in the Liber pontificalis in the life of pope Hadrian (772-795) gives a more detailed location, saying that they lay in a cubiculum in the catacombs under the church of Saints Gordianus and Epimachus. Sadly, the church has not been located (see Lapidge 2018, 227, n. 91 with further references). Interestingly, the entry from the Liber pontificalis confuses the name of Sulpicius, presenting him as Simplicius. The location of the tomb under the church of Gordianus and Epimachus is confirmed by the 7th c. Itinerarium Salisburgense (see EXXXX and Lapidge 2018, 663), and the 12th c. Itinerarium Malmesburiense (Lapidge 2018, 666).
Ferrua notes that Cesare Baronio in his Roman Martyrology placed the feast of the two saints on 20 April. However, we cannot find it on this day in the manuscripts of the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (E04783).
Dating: We doubt that this is the original epitaph of the two martyrs, whose story allegedly goes back as early as the reign of the emperor Trajan. At best this may be a mid 3rd c. commemorative text, but it is more probably a 4th c. element of a monumental revetment of the tomb. Antonio Bosio who saw the inscription in the early 17th c. suggested that it was Damasan work. Carlo Carletti and Filippo Piazzolla, authors of the records on this inscription in EDB, suspend judgement on its presumed date.
Epigraphic Database Bari, nos. EDB35696, EDB10771, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/35696 http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/10771
De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.), Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 6: Coemeteria viis Latina, Labicana et Praenestina (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1975), no. 15761 (with further bibliography).
Silvagni, A. (ed.), Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 1: Inscriptiones incertae originis (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1922), no. 3261 (with further bibliography).
Josi, E., "Cimitero cristiano sulla via Latina," Rivista di archeologia cristiana 16 (1939), 30.
Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1: Religionsgeschichtle und epigraphische Untersuchungen (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 2001.
Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 179, no. 173.
Marucchi, O., "Studio archeologico sulla celebre iscrizione di Filumena scoperta nel cimitero di Priscilla," Nuovo bullettino di archeologia cristiana 12 (1906), 294.
de Rossi, G.B., "Le cripte storiche del cimitero: di Pretestato," Bullettino di archeologia cristiana 2 Ser. 3 (1872), 77.
AASS, April, II, 746.
Bosio, A., Roma sotteranea (Rome: Appresso Guglielmo Facciotti, 1632), 299.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2018), 202-203, 227 note 91, and the entire chapter VIII.