Saint NameXystus/Sixtus II, bishop and martyr of Rome : S00201
Saint Name in SourceSustus
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Graffiti
Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)
Evidence not before350
Evidence not after450
Activity not before350
Activity not after450
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
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesOther lay individuals/ people
SourceGraffito in cursive script. Scratched in the plaster, on a wall in area A3 at the entrance to the 'crypt of the popes'. Letter height c. 0.05 m.
First published by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in 1867. Revisited by Antonio Ferrua, who claims that both invocations are written by the same hand. Further comments, and a drawing were offered by Carlo Carletti in 2002 and 2008.
DiscussionThis is clearly a visitor's inscription. Saint 'Systus', whom the inscription invokes, was plausibly identified by Carletti as pope Xystus/Sixtus II (257-258), martyr under the emperor Valerian, together with four deacons. Xystus was buried in the crypt accessed through the passage where the graffito was found.
Dating: Carlo Carletti and Antonio Felle (EDB) place the inscription in the second half of the 4th or first half of the 5th c. This is plausible, because our anonymous visitor is likely to have venerated the popes buried in the crypt after its refurbishment by pope Damasus in the mid-4th c. We can add that an interesting feature of the inscription is the presence of the nomen Aurelius which, when given without praenomen, suggests that its bearer came from a family which received Roman citizenship in 212, as a result of the publication of the Edict of Caracalla (Constitutio Antoniniana). The use of the nomen Aurelius became less and less frequent in the course of the 4th and 5th c.
Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB15460, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/15460
Carletti, C., Epigrafia dei cristiani in Occidente dal III al VII secolo. Ideologia e prassi (Bari: Edipuglia, 2008), 275, no. 174a.
De Rossi, G.B., 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. 9521.
Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 2324d and i/k.
Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 430, and Tab. XXVIII.
de Rossi, G.B., La Roma cotterranea cristiana, vol. 2 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1867), 17, 382, and Tav. XXX.
Carletti, C., "'Scrivere i santi:' epigrafia del pellerinagio a Roma nei secoli VII-IX", in: Roma fra Oriente e Occidente: 19-24 aprile 2001 (Settimane di studio del Centro italiano di studi sull'alto medioevo 49, Spoleto: Centro italiano di studi sull'alto Medioevo, 2002), 332-333, Tav. I, fig. 1-2.