Saint NameFelicissimus and Agapitus, and four other deacons of Xystus II, all martyrs of Rome : S00202
Saint Name in SourceFelicissimus, Agapitus
Image Caption 1Face A and Face B of the two fragments of the plaque. From: Armellini 1874, Tav. II.
Image Caption 2From: Armellini 1874, Tav. III.
Image Caption 3Plan of the site where the plaque was presumably displayed (Ag). From: De Santis 2010, 36 (after Tolotti 1977).
Image Caption 4Reconstruction of the site where the plaque was presumably displayed (Ag). From: De Santis 2010, 52 (after Spera 2004).
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Graffiti
Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)
Evidence not before490
Evidence not after850
Activity not before490
Activity not after850
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 NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
Other lay individuals/ people
SourceTwo conjoining fragments of a plaque of Phrygian marble. H. 0.53 m; W. 0.36 m; Th. 0.03 m. The letters are scratched. Their heights are respectively: 1.2 cm (lines 1-2), 0.5 cm (line 3), 1 cm (lines 4-5), 1.5 cm (line 6). The stone was apparently reused as its rear face bears part of a carving of an anchor.
The right-hand fragment was found in January 1874 by Mariano Armellini in what Antonio Ferrua calls the Spelunca Magna of the cemetery of Praetextatus (probably the environs of cubiculum Ax, but cf. E05128 and E05129 for a discussion on this burial site). The left-hand part was retrieved by Armellini elsewhere in the cemetery, in April the same year.
Armellini supposed that both fragments came from a table (mensa) located in front of cubiculum Ag', the site of the tomb of the martyr *Ianuarius (see E05128). They are now probably in the same location.
DiscussionThe graffiti were scratched by people venerating the tomb of the martyrs Felicissimus and Agapitus, two of four or six deacons martyred together with pope Sixtus/Xystus II. At least two of the visitors were presbyters, which is interesting, considering the overall number of invocations on this plaque is not high.
Another important observation is that Felicissimus and Agapitus are here invoked without a third deacon of Sixtus, Ianuarius (his name is reported by the Liber Pontificalis, EE0362). This lends support to the idea the 'Ianuarius' whose tomb in cubiculum Ag', was lavishly ornamented by Damasus, did not belong to their group, but was rather a homonymous martyr, son of Felicitas of Rome (S00525). This conclusion is also supported by the text of the 6th c. Notitia ecclesiarum Urbis Romae, which names Ianuarius separately from the deacons of Sixtus (E00683).
Line 5 contains an invocation on behalf of the presbyter Leo. Armellini notes that the names of a certain Leo and his mother Adeodata are also recorded in a graffito in proximity of the tomb of saint *Caecilia in the Cemetery of Callistus (now ICVR, n.s., IV, no. 9525). He also considered this Leo to be the future pope Leo IV (847-855). Ferrua advised caution, but did not entirely reject this identification. He also added that two visitors, Petrus and Leo, also occur together in the inscription ICVR, n.s., IV, no. 12240, and may be same men as our supplicants.
Dating: Carlo Carletti in the EDB dates the graffiti from lines 1-2 to the late 5th or early 6th c., and those from lines 3-5 to the late 7th - early 8th c. (which is too early for Armellini's identification of the presbyter in line 4 as pope Leo IV (born in 790)). That lines 1-2 and 3-5 are of different dates was also suggested by Armellini.
Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB6371-6375 and 6580, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/6371
De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.) Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 5: Coemeteria reliqua Viae Appiae (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1971), no. 13878 (with further bibliography).
Josi, E., "Le iscrizioni damasiane in Pretestato", Rivista di archeologia cristiana 5 (1927), 241 and fig. 14.
Styger, P., Römische Märtyrergrüfte (Berlin: Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, 1935), Tab. 58.
Styger, P., Die römischen Katakomben: Archäologische Forschungen über den Ursprung und die Bedeutung der altchristlichen Grabstätten (Berlin: Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, 1933), 162.
Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), comments to no. 1144.
Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 433, no. 460.
Armellini, M., Gli antichi cimeteri cristiani di Roma e d'Italia (Rome: Tipografia poliglotta, 1893), 405.
Armellini, M., Scoperta d'un graffito storico nel Cemeterio di Pretestato sulla Via Appia (Rome: Guerra e Mirri, 1874), 11-13 and Tav. II-III.
Amore, A., I martiri di Roma (Ricerche di archeologia e antichità cristiane 4, Todi: Antonianum, 2013, 2nd ed. revised by A. Bonfiglio), 182-183.
Borg, B., Crisis and Ambition: Tombs and Burial Customs in third-century CE Rome (Oxford: OUP, 2013), 83.
de Rossi, G.-B., "Notizie", Bulletino di archeologia Cristiana 2 Ser. 5 (1874), 36.
De Santis, P., Sanctorum Monumenta: "Aree sacre" del suburbio di Roma nella documentazione epigrafica (IV-VII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2010), 22 note 18, 35-36, 37 note 110.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs. Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2018), chapter XVI.
Trout, D., Damasus of Rome: The Epigraphic Poetry: Introduction, Texts, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 44, 12-122.