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E07150: Fragments of a Latin inscription, probably written by Pope Damasus, that may refer to *Abdos and Semnes (Persian martyrs in Rome, buried on the via Portuensis, S00573), found in the cemetery of Pontianus, on the via Portuensis outside Rome. Written in Rome, 366/384.

online resource
posted on 2018-12-09, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Damasus of Rome, Epigrammata 5 (ICVR II, 4529-4530)

Three fragmments (a, b and c) of an inscription that cannot be reconstructed, but may refer to the martyrs Abdon and Sennes:

a) [pres]BYTER HOS


c) R HONOR[i/em]

Text: Trout 2015, 90.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Abdos and Semnes, Persian martyrs in Rome, buried on the via Portuensis : S00573

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements Literary - Poems


  • 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

Major author/Major anonymous work

Damasan and pseudo-Damasan poems

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - cemetery/catacomb

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - Popes

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



The poems of Damasus The surviving corpus of poetry by Damasus, pope from 366 to 384, comprises about sixty poems. Almost all are in honour of saints and martyrs, and were originally displayed at the tombs of martyrs in the cemeteries and catacombs that surrounded the city of Rome. They were inscribed on large marble plaques with distinctive lettering ('Philocalian script') by the calligrapher Furius Dionysius Filocalus (see Trout 2015, 47-52). The inscriptions were an important part of the programme of monumentalisation of the sites of saintly cult initiated by Damasus (see Trout 2015, 42-47). The poems of Damasus are the first substantial corpus of texts devoted specifically to the cult of saints. They are of great importance for the history of saints' cult at Rome because, aside from what their content tells us, they can be dated so securely. If a martyr is the subject of a poem in the Damasan collection, this shows that their cult was established and formally recognised at Rome no later than the early 380s; the only comparable, but much briefer, material is that in the Chronography of 354 (E01052). By contrast, the surviving Roman saints' lives are of very uncertain date and almost certainly all later than Damasus' poems (which they sometimes used as a source: Lapidge 2018, 637-8). Survival of the poems Only a handful of Damasus' inscriptions survive intact; others partially survive in fragments, but the majority survive only through manuscript transmission, primarily via syllogae – collections of inscriptions from the martyr shrines and churches of Rome which were transcribed by pilgrims and then circulated in manuscript. The earliest of these seem to have been compiled in the 7th century, at the same time as the earliest pilgrim itineraries, and they were organised on the same basis, according to the location of inscriptions on the routes followed by pilgrims around the city. Unlike the itineraries, no sylloge survives in its original form: the extant syllogae were all compiled from earlier manuscript collections (whose traces are sometimes evident in the structure of the syllogae). The syllogae were edited by De Rossi in vol. 2.1 of the first edition of ICUR (1888), which remains the only modern edition of the syllogae as such (as opposed to the individual poems). On the syllogae containing Damasus’ poems, see Trout 2015, 63-65; Lapidge 2018, 638. The most important syllogae for the transmission of Damasus' poems are the following:    The Sylloge Laureshamensis. A manuscript produced at the monastery of Lorsch in the 9th/10th century (Vatican, Pal. Lat. 833; digitised: De Rossi (1888) believed that it contained material from four earlier collections, of which the one that he denoted Laureshamensis IV, dating from the 7th century, contained most of the Damasan material.    The Sylloge Centulensis. Produced in the monastery of St. Riquier in the 9th/10th century, held for most of its existence in Corbie, and now in the Russian National Library at St. Petersburg (Codex Petropolitanus F XIV 1).    The Sylloge Turonensis. Produced at Tours in the 7th century, but surviving only in two manuscripts from the 11th/12th century (Klosterneuburg Stiftsbibliothek Cod. 723; Göttweig Stiftsbibliothek Cod. 64 (78), digitised:    The Sylloge Virdunensis. Produced at Verdun in the 10th century (Bibliothèque de Verdun, ms. 45, digitised: 45).    The Sylloge Einsidelnensis. Produced at the monastery of Einsiedeln in the 9th century (Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek 326, digitised: It is certain that most poems in the corpus are by Damasus, either because they survive, wholly or partly, in their inscribed form or because Damasus refers to himself in the text (which he does frequently). In other cases his authorship has been assigned to poems on stylistic grounds. Since Damasus' style is quite distinctive (see Trout 2015, 16-26), this can usually be done reasonably securely, but there are instances where there is disagreement among editors as to whether poems are genuinely by Damasus.


Fragments of an inscription found in 1917 in the Cemetery of Pontianus (via Portuensis). The letters are in Philocalian script, which strongly suggests they form part of a text written by Damasus. The fragments seem to come from a marble balustrade (Trout 2015, 90). For photographs, see the inscription's EDB entries. According to their martyrdom account (BHL 6, E02504), Abdon and Sennes were Persians who were martyred at Rome under the emperor Decius. Having been secretly buried in a house at the time of their martyrdom, they were reburied during the reign of Constantine in the Cemetery of Pontianus, where their burial is recorded in the Depositio martirum included in the Chronography of 354 (E01052). It was because of the location that Ferrua (following a suggestion originally in Marucchi 1933, 79-86) identified these fragments as possibly coming from an inscription to them, but the fragments are too short for any certain identification to be possible. For the Cemetery of Pontianus, see Ricciardi 2006, and the further references given by Trout 2015, 90.


Editions and translations: Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry: Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), no. 5, 90. Epigraphic Database Bari, EDB20922, EDB20923: Ferrua, A., Epigramata damasiana (Rome: Pontificio Istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1942), no. 5. de Rossi, G.B., and Ferrua, A., Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 2: Coemeteria in viis Cornelia Aurelia Portuensi et Ostiensi et tabulae Nr. 1-34 (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1935), nos. 4529-30. Further reading: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2018). Marruchi, O., Le catacombe romane (Rome, 1933). Ricciardi, M., "Pontiani coemeterium," in: Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae. Suburbium, vol. 4 (Rome, 2006), 213-219.

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