The epitaph is composed in six elegiac couplets. The main body of the poem describes the fate of the girl and her premature death. In the last two lines (11-12) we find the following statement:
hic nunc circumdat tumulus sua membra parentum
ut reddat fructum corpus originibus
hinc nunc Syll. Tur. || tumuli Syll. Cent.
'Here the tomb now encloses the limbs of the parents,
so that (her) body would yield the fruit back to the begetters.
Text: ICVR, n.s., VII, no. 18944 = EDB29790. Translation:
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Funerary inscriptions
Literary - Poems
Evidence not before350
Evidence not after450
Activity not before350
Activity not after450
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
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - tomb/grave
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsBurial ad sanctos
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesWomen
Other lay individuals/ people
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
SourceThe inscription is now lost. The text is known only through the manuscript tradition, it features in the Sylloge Turonensis (codex Closterneoburgensis 723 f. 265v and Goettweihensis 64), and in the Sylloge Centulensis (codex Petropolitanus F. XIV 1 f. 131v). The Sylloges do not give the precise find-spot of the inscription, but the Sylloge Turonensis presents it between texts from the via Nomentana and the via Tiburtina, and the Sylloge Centulensis ascribes it to the collection of the ager Veranus (also on the via Tiburtina). Modern scholars follow the opinion of Giovanni Battista de Rossi who attributed the text to the cemetery of Cyriaca in the ager Veranus, via Tiburtina, although he initially also considered the basilica of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura on the via Nomentana.
The text first appeared in print in 1831, published by Luigi Gaetano Marini based on the codex Closterneoburgensis. Later de Rossi offered an edition based on all the available codices (actually two separate editions for each of the Sylloges). The present-day reference edition is that by Antonio Ferrua in the seventh volume of the new series of the Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae.
DiscussionAntonio Ferrua sees here a reference to a belief that the body of the deceased girl would help her deceased parents, buried in the same tomb, by physical closeness, in a way similar to that by which the closeness of relics of saints and martyrs was expected to ease the fate of ordinary people in the afterlife. This is because the burial is said to 'yield the fruit back to the begetters'. However, although the girl is named as a pure virgin, and thus could be perceived as a kind of holy person, such an interpretation is deeply problematic and we believe that the author simply means that the girl, herself a fruit of her parents' life, is now returned to them.
The epitaph apparently ended with a paragraph in prose, probably giving the details of the burial: the age of the deceased and the day of her deposition. As it was of no interest for the collectors of epigrams, it was not copied with the rest of the text.
Dating: Antonella Daniela Agostinelli (in EDB) dates the inscription to the late 4th or early 5th c.
Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB29790, see also http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/29790
De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.), Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 7: Coemeteria via Tiburtinae (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1980), no. 18944 (with further bibliography).
De Rossi, G. B., Inscriptiones christianae Urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores 2.1 (Rome: Ex Officina Libraria Pontificia, 1857-1888), 63, no. 7; 92, no. 61 (from all accessible codices).
Luigi Gaetano Marini through a copy by Giuseppe Garampi in: Angelo Mai, Scriptorum veterum nova collectio e Vaticanis codicibus edita, vol. 5 (Rome: Typis Vaticanis, 1831), 97, no. 3 (from the codex Closterneoburgensis 723).