Saint NameEusebius, bishop of Rome, ob. c. 308 : S00545
Saint Name in SourceEusebius
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 - cemetery/catacomb
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsRenovation and embellishment of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - Popes
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. In the inscription, it has two lines of prose in larger letters above and below the poem, and two lines written vertically in smaller letters on either side, containing the 'signature' of the calligrapher Filocalus (for a reproduction of the layout, see the image for this entry). Dimensions of the original inscription: H. 0.94 m; W. 1.8 m. The height of the letters is 0.055 m. (lines 1 and 10), 0.035 m. (lines 2-9), and 0.016-0.02 m. (vertical lines).
Several small fragments of the original were found in the catacomb of Callixtus by de Rossi and by Joseph Wilpert between 1856 and 1908 (the italics in lines 1-2 represent a fragment which is lost but was seen by de Rossi). The original location of the inscription is believed to have been the cubiculum known as the Crypt of Eusebius (on the archaeology of the crypt, see Spera 2004, 39 and 42, and the further references given by Trout 2015, 119). In the 6th century the original was destroyed, perhaps during the Gothic Wars of the 530s and 540s, which are known to have damaged the catacombs (see e.g. E07580). A new copy of the inscription was subsequently carved on the back of a tablet bearing an inscription in honour of the 3rd century emperor Caracalla (CIL 6.1067). This copy was also eventually broken into many fragments, but almost all of these survive, and it has been pieced together (for photographs of both the 4th and 6th century inscriptions, see the EDB entry). The 6th century copy, which contains a number of errors, was the source of the version which survives in two syllogae (the Sylloge Turonensis and the Sylloge Laureshamensis). [Dimensions of 6th c. inscription]
Eusebius became bishop of Rome in 308, but seems to have held office only briefly before being exiled. Damasus defines him as a martyr because of his death in exile in Sicily, but modern historians generally agree that Maxentius, the emperor in control of Rome at the time, did not engage in persecution, and Eusebius is therefore likely to have been exiled for non-religious reasons, perhaps in an attempt to suppress disorder caused by the divisions within the church mentioned by Damasus. Nothing further is known about these, but better-recorded divisions in the church at Rome later in the 4th century (including those surrounding Damasus' own election as pope) are known to have led to considerable disorder and even bloodshed; for the suggestion that Damasus intended this epitaph and that of Pope Marcellus (E07191) to evoke the divisions of his own day, see Sághy 2000.
BibliographyEditions and translations:
Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry: Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), no. 18, 117-119.
Epigraphic Database Bari, EDB19478, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/19478
de Rossi, G.B., and Ferrua, A., Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 4: Coemeteria inter Vias Appiam et Ardeatinam (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1964), no. 9515.
Ferrua, A., Epigramata damasiana (Rome: Pontificio Istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1942), no. 18.
Ihm, M., Damasi epigrammata (Anthologiae Latinae Supplementa 1, Leipzig: Teubner, 1895), no. 18.
Sághy, M., "Scinditur in partes populus: Pope Damasus and the Martyrs of Rome," Early Medieval Europe 9:3 (2000), 273-287.
Spera, L., "Cal(l)isti Coemeterium (Via Appia)," in: Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae. Suburbium, vol. 2 (Rome: Quasar, 2004), 32-44.