Saint NameXystus/Sixtus II, bishop and martyr of Rome : S00201
Saints, unnamed : S00518
Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060
Saint Name in SourceSustus, Ξύστος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Graffiti
Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)
Evidence not before350
Evidence not after750
Activity not before350
Activity not after750
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 NarrativesWomen
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Other lay individuals/ people
SourceGraffiti in cursive script. Scratched in the plaster, on a wall in area A3, at the entrance to the 'crypt of the popes'. Mixed with graffiti published under ICVR, n.s., IV, no. 9522 (our E04661). Diversified letter height, c. 0.5-2.5 cm.
First recorded and published by Giovanni Battista de Rossi in 1854, 1864, and 1867. Revisited and published again in 1964 by Antontio Ferrua. Further comments, and a drawing were offered by Carlo Carletti in 2002 and 2008.
DiscussionHere we present a selection of graffiti from a piece of plaster in the passageway leading to the 'crypt of the popes' at the cemetery of Callistus. This part of the wall bears many more invocations in Greek, Latin, and Latin written with Greek letters, but they invoke God or just record the names of the supplicants. Among them we have names of both men and women: Felix, a presbyter, Probinianus, Eustathius, Anastasa, an unnamed mother, Talla, Verina, Gelasios, Dionysios, Armen, Sabatia, Stratonachis, Aschionas, Adrianos, Leontios, and Alchimos.
In the present selection the supplicants invoke mainly pope Xystus/Sixtus II (257-258), martyr under the emperor Valerian. A peculiar invocation is that recorded in line 17. Is asks 'holy spirits'/spirita sancta, to intercede on behalf of a safe journey by sea of a certain Verecundus and his family or companions ('cum suis'). Requests for safe journey are very common among travellers' graffiti in both the West and East, see, for example E01232 (Syros, Aegean islands) discussing graffiti invoking the help of *Phokas, martyr of Sinope in Anatolia, for seafarers.
The holy spirits invoked by Verecundus are probably the souls of popes and martyrs buried in the cemetery. Carletti suggests that these could be also the souls of ordinary deceased buried in proximity of the 'crypt of the popes.'
Dating: Antonio Felle (EDB) places the inscriptions from lines 7, 12, 17 in the late 4th, early 5th c., but that from line 4 in the late 7th - early 8th c. Others he leaves undated.
Epigraphic Database Bari, nos. EDB18719-18722, 20183-20188, 18407, 19507-19514, 17557-17561.
Carletti, C., Epigrafia dei cristiani in Occidente dal III al VII secolo. Ideologia e prassi (Bari: Edipuglia, 2008), 275, no. 174b (only line 17).
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. 9524.
Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 2324 and vol. 2 (Berlin: Aud Weidmannos, 1927), no. 3965a.
Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 430, Tav. XXVIII.
de Rossi, G.B., La Roma sotterranea cristiana, vol. 1 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1864), 253, and vol. 2 (Rome: Cromo-litografia pontificia, 1867), 96, 382, and Tav. XXX.
Civiltà cattolica, vol. 3 (1854), 125.
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.