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E07503: Latin verse inscription praising *Felicitas and her seven sons (martyrs of Rome, S00525). Once ascribed to pope Damasus, but the attribution was later questioned. Now lost, but probably displayed in the Cemetery of Felicitas/Cemetery of Maximus on the Via Salaria, Rome; possibly directly at the tomb of Felicitas. Probably 4th c. or later, e.g. 418-422 if it was composed to celebrate the restoration of the basilica and tomb of Felicitas by Pope Boniface I [provisional entry]

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posted on 2019-03-30, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Discite quid meriti prestet pro rege feriri:
  femina non timuit gladium cum natus obivit;
confessa χρm meruit per saecula nomen.

1. praestet Vird. et Laur. f. 60v, Ferrua chose prestet as it also appears in Damasan poems || pro recta Vird. || 2. gladio Cent. || cum natis codices, de Rossi, Ihm, cum natus Gruter, Ferrua, natus = natibus?

'Learn what merit it brings to be struck for the Lord: this woman did not fear the sword, perished with her offspring. Having confessed Christ, she merited perennial glory.'

Text: ICVR, n.s., VIII, no. 23393 = EDB21516. Transl. P. Nowakowski.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Felicitas, martyr of Rome with her seven sons : S00525

Saint Name in Source


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 - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - Popes


The poem is composed in three hexameters. The text survived through the codex Petropolitanus F. XIV 1 f. 128 of the Sylloge Centulensis, the codex Virdunensis 45 f. 213 col. 1 of the Sylloge Virdunensis, and the codex Vaticanus Palatinus 833 f. 60v and 79 of the Sylloge Laureshamensis. First published by Jan Gruter in 1602 from the codex Vatic. Palat. The first edition based on all the codices was offered by Giovanni Battista de Rossi. In the Sylloge Virdunensis, the poem is prefaced by the following lemma: Epitaphium sanctae Felicitatis ('Epitaph of Saint Felicitas'). See also E07503 for a possible continuation.


In his comments in the Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Antonio Ferrua notes that the poem was considered as a genuine piece of Damasan poetry by de Rossi. This attribution was, however, questioned by Maximilian Ihm in 1895. Ferrua suspended judgement, saying that the copyist may have omitted further verses which could indeed give the name of Damasus as the benefactor, and could refer to the seven sons of Felicitas (whose presence is here conspicuously reduced to a brief mention). The poem is believed to have been set at the tomb of Felicitas in the surface basilica (see also E00637). The sons of Felicitas were said to have been martyred separately in different locations, and according to an entry in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (10 July: E04877) only one of them, Sil(v)anus was venerated with Felicitas in the Cemetery of Maximus (but cf. the opposite claim of the Notitia ecclesiarum urbis Romae, E00637, and a painting originally showing all the brothers in the basilica, E07502). The first verse bears resemblance to a poem in honour of Saint Martin of Tours by Venantius Fortunatus (E05585). The editors of the Epigraphic Database Bari dated the inscription to the 4th c., probably based on its possible Damasan attribution. One may wonder, however, whether it dates from the pontificate of pope Boniface I (418-422) who restored the cemetery's basilica and the tombs of Felicitas, and was apparently responsible for inscribing a second, much longer poem in honour of this saint, to celebrate his generous donation (E07505); see Lapidge 2018, 35.


Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB21516. see De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.), Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 8: Coemeteria viarum Nomentanae et Salariae (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1983), no. 23393 (with further bibliography). Ferrua, A. (ed.), Epigrammata Damasiana (Sussidi allo studio delle antichità cristiane 2, Rome: , 1942), no. 72. Ihm, M., Damasi Epigrammata: accedunt Pseudodamasiana aliaque ad Damasiana inlustranda idonea (Lipsiae: in aedibus B. G. Teubneri, 1895), no. 41. De Rossi, G. B., Inscriptiones christianae Urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores 2.1 (Rome: Ex Officina Libraria Pontificia, 1857-1888), 88, no. 35; 102, no. 24; 116, no. 93; 136, no. 12. Further reading: Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 45-49.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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