Saint NameFelicitas, martyr of Rome with her seven sons : S00525
Saint Name in Sourcefemina
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Literary - Poems
Evidence not before366
Evidence not after422
Activity not before366
Activity not after422
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 - crypt/ crypt with relics
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsBequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - Popes
SourceThe 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.
DiscussionIn 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.
Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB21516.
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.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford, 2018), 45-49.