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E05235: Latin epitaph with the pagan formula dis manibus sacrum, but generally considered Christian, invoking the holy spirits /spirita sancta on behalf of a deceased boy. Found in the cemetery of Castulus, via Labicana, Rome. Probably 4th c.

online resource
posted on 2018-03-19, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
d(is) ma(nibus) sacrum XL
Leopardum in pacem
cum spirita sancta accep-
tum eumte(m) abeatis innocintem
posuer(unt) par(entes) q(ui) v(ixit) ann(is) VII men(ses) VII

1. d(eo) ma(gno): Fabretti, d(ivis) ma(rtyribus) XL Rochette, d(is) ma(nibus) Ferrua || XL = l(erium) Ferrua || 4. eum te Diehl || eumte(m) a beatis (= ad beatos) de Rossi || 2-4. read: Leopardum in pacem cum spirita sancta; (vos spirita sancta) acceptum eumde(m) (h)abetais innocintem: Ferrua || 5. ann(is) VII men(ses) VII: Ferrua, an(nis) n(umero) VII me(nses) n(umero) VII: other editors

'Sacred to the gods of the underworld. Valerius (?) Leopardus, (buried) in peace, with the holy spirits. May you, (O holy spirits?), receive him (?) and find him as the innocent one. Parents erected this to him, who lived 7 years, 7 months.'

Text: ICVR, n.s., VI, no. 15913 = EDB8932.


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

Children Women Other lay individuals/ people


Marble plaque. H. 0.29 m; W. 0.82 m; Th. 0.025 m. Letter height c. 0.035 m. Decorated with carvings of ivy leaves flanking the text. First published by Jean Mabillon in 1687, who writes that he had been shown the stone by Rafaelle Fabretti in 1685, when visiting the Fabretti family's collection of antiquities in Urbino. He, however, did not specify the find-spot of the plaque. This was described as the cemetery of Castulus on the via Labicana, Rome, by Fabretti himself, who published the inscription in 1699. Later seen in the lapidarium of the Museum of cardinal Albano. In 1775 Francesco Eugenio Guasco reported that the stone was in the Musei Capitolini, Rome, where it is still housed. A copy in stone is in the Museum of Urbino (the Palazzo Ducale), and a gypsum impression in the Lateran Museum. The text has been reedited or reprinted by many scholars, and a transcription appears in handwritten copies in the archives of several Roman scholars, for example, Luigi Gaetano Marini and Giovanni Battista de Rossi. We give just a very selective bibliography. For a list of editions up to 1975, see the lemma in the sixth volume of the new series of the Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae by Antonio Ferrua. A photograph is now offered in the Epigraphic Database Bari.


The inscription is written in very poor Latin, and has been differently interpreted by various editors. Already the first line is problematic. It seems that it begins with the abbreviated pagan funerary invocation of di manes, although the deceased was certainly a Christian. Ferrua notes, however, that some Christian epitaphs do contain this invocation, probably as a result of careless copying of habitual funerary formulae. Other editors attempted to expand the abbreviation in a way more reconcilable with the Christian faith of the deceased. Fabretti suggested that line 1 read d(eo) m(agno)/'to the great God', and Désiré Raoul Rochette saw here a reference to the 'divine Forty Martyrs'/d(ivis) ma(rtyribus) XL, and presumed that the deceased boy was placed under the protection of the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia by his parents. Yet another explanation was considered by Mabillon in his editio princes, who interpreted the number XL as the number of the tomb in the cemetery. This speculations may, however, be pointless as Ferrua convincingly argues that the alleged number XL was actually a corrupted form of the gentile name of the deceased boy: Cl(audius) or Val(erius). The following part of the epitaph contains a clumsy reference to the holy spirits/spirita sancta. Earlier editors believed that the words cum spirita sancta acceptum should be taken together and understood as a reference to confirmation or baptism administered to the boy before his death, i.e. post Spiritum sanctum acceptum (probably because of this wrong supposition the epitaph has been reedited so many times). In fact, it is much more plausible that we have here a corrupted form of the habitual expression (depositus) cum spiritibus sanctis/'(buried) with the holy spirits'. The expression may refer to an intentional burial ad sanctos, or just record that the burial took place in proximity of the tombs of martyrs or simply other Christians. In our case, however, there follows a request, apparently directed to these holy spirits, to remember the deceased boy, which makes a burial ad sanctos very probable. Dating: The inscription is difficult to date. Carlo Carletti in EDB placed it in the 4th c.


Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, nos. EDB8932, see 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. 15913 (with further bibliography). Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 2378. Raoul-Rochette, D., "Deuxième mémoire sur les antiquités chrétiennes des catacombes : Pierres sépulcrales envisagées sous le double rapport des formules et des symboles funéraire", Mémoires de l'Institut national de France 13/1 (1837), 181. Fabretti, R., Inscriptionum antiquarum quae in aedibus paternis asseruantur explicatio et additamentum (Rome: Ex officina Dominici Antonii Herculis, 1699), 574, no. LXI. Mabillon, J., Eusebii Romani ad Theophilum Gallum Epistola de cultu sanctorum ignotorum. Nova editio recognita, emendata & aucta (Parisiis: apud Carolum Robustel, 1705), 22 (section V). Mabillon, J., Museum Italicum; seu, Collectio veterum scriptorum ex bibliothecis Italicis, vol. 1 (Lutetiae Parisiorum: apud Montalant, 1687), 71. Further reading: Luni, M., Gori, G., Il Museo Archeologico di Urbino, 1756-1986 (Urbino: , 1986), 70-71, Tav. IV-16.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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