Damasus, Epigrammata 39 (Trout 39; Ferrua 39; Ihm 91 and 47; ICVR 9, no. 24829)
Qui natum passumq(ue) deum repetisse paternas
sedes adq(ue) iterum venturum ex aethere credit,
iudicet ut vivos rediens pariterq(ue) sepultos,
martyribus sanctis pateat quod regia caeli
respicit interior, sequitur si praemia Christi. 5
cultores domini Felix pariterq(ue) Philippus
hinc virtute pares contempto principe mundi,
aeternam petiere domum regnaque piorum,
sanguine quod proprio christi meruere coronas.
his Damasus supplex voluit sua reddere vota. 10
‘He who believes that a god, who was born and suffered, regained
his paternal home and will come again from heaven,
returning to judge both the living and the buried,
understands that the inner reaches of the palace of heaven
lie open to the holy martyrs, if he seeks to obtain Christ’s rewards.
Worshippers of the Lord, Felix and Philippus equally so,
well matched in courageous disdain for the prince of the world,
secured an everlasting home and the realms of the righteous,
because with their own blood they earned the crowns of Christ.
To these Damasus, a suppliant, desired to repay his vows.’
Text and translation: Trout 2015, 155-156, no. 39 (modified).
Saint NameFelicitas, martyr of Rome with her seven sons : S00525
Saint Name in SourceFelix, Phillipus
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 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 churches, cemeteries, and catacombs that surrounded the city of Rome. They were inscribed on large marble plaques with distinctive lettering 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 immense importance in establishing 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 (E01051, E01052). By contrast, the surviving Roman saints' lives are 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 existing manuscript collections (whose traces are sometimes evident in their structure), not from autopsy. 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)).
The Sylloge Virdunensis. Produced at Verdun in the 10th century (Bibliothèque de Verdun, ms. 45).
The Sylloge Einsidelnensis. Produced at the monastery of Einsiedeln in the 9th century (Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek 326).
There is no doubt that most poems in the corpus are by Damasus, either because they survive 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. It is preserved by the Sylloge Virdunensis and the Sylloge Turonensis: there are no physical remains. The tomb of Felix and Philippus was in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Via Salaria Nova, as is already attested in the Depositio martyrum from the Chronography of 354 (E01052). By the time of the compilation of the early medieval pilgrim itineraries (E00637, E06998, E07887), and probably already in the time of Damasus, the tomb was in the basilica of S. Silvester on the Via Salaria, but this may have been a reburial from the catacombs (Löx 2013, 82-83).
It was suggested by De Rossi that lines 1-5 and 6-10 were actually two different poems. He argued that only lines 6-10 were by Damasus and from the tomb of Felix and Philippus, while lines 1-5 came from a painting or mosaic depicting the scene evoked in lines 4-5: the martyrs receiving Christ's rewards (praemia Christi) in the palace of heaven (regia caeli). He suggested that this was commissioned by Pope Celestine I (422-432) who was buried in the church of S. Silvester. Ihm followed De Rossi and printed the transmitted text as two separate poems, nos. 47 (ll. 6-10) and 91 (ll. 1-5) – the latter in his section of 'Pseudodamasiana'. Ferrua, however, argued that the ten lines were a single poem composed by Damasus, on the grounds of thematic unity, and the fact that the Sylloge Virdunensis heads all ten lines with Epitaphium sanctorum Felicis et Philippi martyrum. Subsequent scholars have generally, though not universally, followed Ferrua; for further discussion and references, see Trout 2015, 156-7.
For the light that the poem sheds on the emerging cult of Felicitas and her sons, which was probably the result of the merging of at least two independent cults, see Lapidge 2018, 45-47 and 646, who notes that Damasus' poem does not specify that Felix and Philippus were brothers (but cf. E07192), and does not mention Felicitas. The poem (or at least the indisputably Damasan lines 6-10) predates the extant Martyrdom of Felicitas and Her Seven Sons, which is believed to date from the early 5th century (see E02494).
BibliographyEditions and translation :
Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry: Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), no. 39, 155-156 (text and translation), 156-7 (commentary).
de Rossi, G.B., and Ferrua, A., Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 9: Viae Salariae coemeteria reliqua (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1983), no. 24829.
Ferrua, A., Epigramata damasiana (Rome: Pontificio Istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1942), no. 39.
Ihm, M., Damasi epigrammata (Anthologiae Latinae Supplementa 1, Leipzig: Teubner, 1895), no. 91 and 47.
de Rossi, G.B., Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, vol. 2.1 (Rome, 1888).
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018).
Löx, M., Monumenta sanctorum. Rom und Mailand als Zentren des frühen Christentums: Märtyrerkult und Kirchenbau unter den Bischöfen Damasus und Ambrosius (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2013).