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E07164: Three fragments of a Latin inscription probably written by Pope Damasus, possibly commemorating *Marcus and Marcellianus (twin brothers, deacons and martyrs of Rome, S01401), found in and around the church of SS. Cosma e Damiano in Rome, but almost certainly originally from a suburban cemetery, possibly that of Marcus and Marcellianus, on the via Ardeatina outside Rome. Written in Rome, 366/384.

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posted on 2018-12-13, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Damasus of Rome, Epigrammata 13 (ICVR I, 272-3; IV, 12521)

Fragment a (ICVR I, 273):

[con]posuit lau[des]
[ple]bs sancta

Fragment b (ICVR I, 272):

[...]us gener[...]

Fragment c (ICVR IV, 12521):

[an]imam casto semper
[...]is regni regi ae[...]
[...]s tenuit fratres do[...]
[...]m accipiet iungit

The underlined text in fragment (c) survives only in a copy made by Aldus Manutius (1449-1515).

Text: Trout 2015, 107 (modified).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Marcus and Marcellianus, twin brothers, deacons and martyrs of Rome : S01401

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) 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 Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

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.


The fragments measure: XXXX. The letters (XX high) are in Philocalian script, which suggests they were written in the time of Damasus. All three fragments were found by de Rossi: fragment (a) in the pavement of the church of SS. Cosma e Damiano on the Forum in Rome, (b) and the surviving part of (c) in the Forum, in front of the same church (for photographs, see the EDB entry). Fragment (c) was copied by Aldus Manutius (Aldo Manuzio, 1449-1515) when more of the text survived (his manuscript transcription is in Vatican Lat. 5241, fol. 126v). Manutius saw the inscription in the floor of SS. Cosma e Damiano. The inscription cannot originally have been in SS. Cosma e Damiano, which did not become a church until the 6th century (see E01361). It was most likely brought there when the original martyrial shrine in a suburban cemetery was abandoned and the remains of the saints commemorated by the inscription were translated to an intramural church, something which occurred at most suburban shrines around Rome during the 8th and 9th centuries. The presence of the word fratres in the inscription suggests that the commemorated saints were brothers, which limits the number of possible candidates. Scholars first identified them as *Iohannes and Paulus (Giovanni e Paolo, S00384), but in 1899 Orazio Marucchi put forward a plausible case (Marucchi 1899, 16-19) that the inscription commemorated Marcus and Marcellianus (S01401), twin brothers whose martyrdom is described in the Martyrdom of Sebastianus (E02512). Their shrine was originally located in the cemetery named after them (also known as the Cemetery of Basileus), located on the via Ardeatina, just north of the cemetery of Callixtus (Trout 2015, 102), but their bodies are known to have been in the church of Cosmas and Damian in later centuries (Marucchi 1899, 16). A fragment of Damasus' epitaph for his sister Irene (Epigrammata 11, Trout 2015, 103), who was originally buried in the same cemetery, was also found at SS. Cosma e Damiano, in the same archaeological context.


Edition and translations: Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry: Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), no. 13, 107. Epigraphic Database Bari, EDB35325, see de Rossi, G.B., and Ferrua, A. (eds.) Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 4: Coemeteria inter Vias Appiam et Ardeatinam (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1964), no. 12521. Ferrua, A., Epigramata damasiana (Rome: Pontificio Istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1942), no. 13. Ihm, M., Damasi epigrammata (Anthologiae Latinae Supplementa 1, Leipzig: Teubner, 1895), no. 59. Further reading: Marucchi, O., "La Memoria dei santi Marco e Marcelliano nel cimitero di Domitilla e probabile attribuzione a questi martiri di un carme del Papa Damaso," Nuovo Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana 5 (1899), 5-19.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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