Saint NameFelix and Adauctus, martyrs of Rome : S00421
Saint Name in SourceFelix; Adauctus
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Literary - Poems
Evidence not before366
Evidence not after384
Activity not before366
Activity not after384
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 - tomb/grave
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsConstruction of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - Popes
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Cult Activities - Cult Related ObjectsInscription
SourceThe 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: digi.vatlib.it/view/bav_pal_lat_833). 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: manuscripta.at/diglit/AT2000-64).
The Sylloge Virdunensis. Produced at Verdun in the 10th century (Bibliothèque de Verdun, ms. 45, digitised: www1.arkhenum.fr/bm_verdun_ms/_app/index.php?type_recherche=cote&choix_secondaire=Ms. 45).
The Sylloge Einsidelnensis. Produced at the monastery of Einsiedeln in the 9th century (Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek 326, digitised: www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/list/one/sbe/0326).
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.
DiscussionThe poem is in hexameters. The full text is preserved by a number of syllogae: Laureshamensis, Einsidlensis,Turonensis and Centulensis. In the 18th century a fragment of the original inscription, containing parts of lines 3-6, was discovered in the catacomb of Commodilla; for a photograph see the inscription's EDB entry.
The catacomb of Commodilla was originally a quarry. According to Trout 2015, 95, 'funerary use apparently began only with the deposition of Felix and Adauctus in gallery A/B, the future basilichetta' (in the early 4th century). The shrine was significantly enlarged and renovated by Damasus, which must be the event commemorated by this poem. Damasus had a hypogean (underground) basilica constructed (the basilichetta mentioned above), decorated with frescoes and with a staircase to enhance access (for references in the itineraries, see E00687, E06989, E07894). A painting there of two saints acclaiming a Christogram, presumably Felix and Adauctus, has been dated to Damasus' time (for the painting, see Deckers et al. 1994, Textband p. 75, with illustrations, Farbtafel 15a and Umzeichnung 3g(1)). For the archaeology of the Catacomb of Commodilla, see Carletti 2004 and the various references given by Trout 2015, 94-96
Damasus’ poem provides the earliest written evidence for Felix and Adauctus, who do not appear in the Depositio martirum (E01052), and also the only surviving account until their Martyrdom (E02496) was composed at a much later date, possibly the early 7th century (Lapidge 2018, 595). Because of the poem's brevity it is difficult to discern much about what Damasus believed the circumstances of their martyrdom to have been, but in at one important respect it seems to have differed from the subsequent tradition represented by the Martyrdom. Damasus evidently regarded Adauctus as the brother of Felix. By the time the Martyrdom was written, a story had developed that Adauctus was an anonymous passer-by who shouted out a confession of faith when Felix was being led to execution and was then martyred alongside him. (The idea that the name Adauctus is based on his being 'added' to Felix in martyrdom, from the Latin verb adaugeo, 'to add to', may have originated only with the 9th century compiler Ado of Vienne: see the discussion in E02496).
BibliographyEditions and translations:
Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry: Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), no. 7, 94-96.
Epigraphic Database Bari, EDB16166, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/16166
de Rossi, G.B., and Ferrua, A. (eds.) 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), no. 6016.
Ferrua, A., Epigramata damasiana (Rome: Pontificio Istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1942), no. 7.
Ihm, M., Damasi epigrammata (Anthologiae Latinae Supplementa 1, Leipzig: Teubner, 1895), no. 7.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translation and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 639 (English translation).
Carletti, C., "Coemeterium Commodillae, in: A. La Regina (ed.), Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae. Suburbium, vol. 2 (Rome: Quasar, 2004), 134-140.
Deckers, J.G., Mietke, G., and Weiland, A., Die Katacombe "Commodilla": Repertorium der Malereien mit einem Beitrag zu Geschichte und Topographie von Carlo Carletti, 3 vols. (Roma sotterranea cristiana 10; Rome: Pontificio Istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1994).
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translation and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), 593-597, 639.