University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E05252: Greek graffito invoking the intercession, on behalf of two monks, of *Helena (empress and mother of Constantine, ob. 328, S00185), and of unnamed martyrs, almost certainly those buried in the cemetery Ad Sanctos Marcellinum et Petrum /inter duas lauros, via Labicana, Rome, where the graffito was found. Probably late 7th - early 8th c.

online resource
posted on 2018-03-24, 00:00 authored by Bryan, pnowakowski
ὁ θεὼς τῇ πρεσβήᾳ
τῶν ἁγ<ί>ον μαρτύρον καὶ τῆς
ἁγήας Ἑλένης σόσων
τούς σου δούλους
᾿Ιωάννη (καὶ) Θ(ω)μᾶ
μον(αχοὺς) τῆς ἁγ<ί>ας
[- - -]

5. S = (καὶ), omitted Marucchi || 6. ΜΟΝS ΤΗC ΑΓΑC = μον(αχοὺς) τῆς ἁγ<ί>ας or μον(αχοὺς) <καὶ> τῆς ἁγ<ί>ας Ferrua, ΜΟΝΤΗΟΠΑC Marucchi

'O God, through the intercession of the holy martyrs, and of Saint Helena, save your servants, Ioannes and Thomas, monks of Saint [- - -]!'

Text: ICVR, n.s., VI, no. 15965 = EDB5452.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Peter and Marcellinus, martyrs of Rome : S00577 Helena, empress and mother of Constantine, ob. 328 : S00185 Tiburtius, son of the prefect Chromatius, martyr of Rome : S01404 Gorgonius, martyr of Rome, buried on the via Labicana : S00576 Forty mar

Saint Name in Source

οἱ ἅγιοι μάρτυρες ἡ ἁγία Ἑλένη οἱ ἅγιοι μάρτυρες οἱ ἅγιοι μάρτυρες οἱ ἅγιοι μάρτυρες οἱ ἅγιοι μάρτυρες οἱ ἅγιοι μάρτυρες οἱ ἅγιοι μάρτυρες

Type of Evidence

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


  • Greek

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 - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


The graffito was executed with a stylus on the plaster of the wall of an apsed crypt in region X of the cemetery Ad Marcellinum et Petrum /inter duas lauros. Letter height 3-4 cm. Only the first five lines, as the rest of the text is scarcely legible, were published by Pietro Crostarosa in 1897 from a transcription by Orazio Marucchi. Published in extenso, and with a photograph, by Orazio Marucchi in 1898. An improved reading of the last lines was offered by Antonio Ferrua in 1975.


Greek graffiti, although not scarce, form a minor part of the texts executed by visitors on the walls of this sector of the cemetery of Marcellinus and Peter. The present graffito is one of the most complex invocations we find among them. It also adopts a much more elaborate form than the Latin texts. The two supplicants, the monks Ioannes and Thomas, probably from a convent named after a female saint, invoked unnamed martyrs, and Saint Helena. The unnamed martyrs are almost certainly Marcellinus and Petrus who were probably venerated in this apsed crypt/chapel, and who were invoked by name by other visitors (see E05251). It is, however, possible, as already rightly observed by Orazio Marucchi, that all the martyrs buried in the cemetery may be invoked here. A description of saintly burials in this cemetery is given, for example, by the 7th c. Notitia ecclesiarum Urbis Romae (E00680), which enumerates the martyr Tiburtius (S01404), the martyr Gorgonius (S00576), the Four Crowned Martyrs (S00685), and the puzzling *Thirty Martyrs of Rome (S00586), and *Forty Martyrs of Rome (S00540). Gorgonius and Tiburtius also appear in a painting in one of the cubicula of the same cemetery (E05246), whilst at least one of the Four Crowned Martyrs, Clemens, was also invoked by visitors (E05236). The most interesting element of the invocation is, however, the invocation of Helena, certainly the mother of the emperor Constantine, addressed as a saint (hagia). Her impressive mausoleum was built by Constantine at ground-level, over the cemetery, and she is mentioned as a saint together with the martyrs, for example by the Notitia ecclesiarum (E00680), and other early medieval itineraries. Dating: Carlo Carletti (in EDB) dates the graffito to the late 7th or early 8th c.


Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB5452. 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. 15965. Marucchi, O., Le catacombe romane (Rome: Desclée, Lefebvre E.C., 1905, 2nd ed.), 266. Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 434, no. 463. Marucchi, O., "La cripta storica dei SS. Pietro e Marcellino recentemente scoperta sulla via labicana", Nuovo bullettino di archeologia cristiana 4 (1898), 163, Tav. XIV. Marucchi, O., in: P. Crostarosa, "Catacombe romane: Scavi dell' ultimo triennio", Nuovo bullettino di archeologia cristiana 3 (1897), 124.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager