Saint NameStephanus, bishop and martyr of Rome : S00205
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Literary - Poems
Evidence not before350
Evidence not after400
Activity not before350
Activity not after400
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 - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsBequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - Popes
SourceThe inscription is now lost. We know it through a single manuscript, the Sylloge Laureshamensis (cod. Vat. Pal. 833 f. 61). There is no description and the Sylloge does not state the location of the stone.
First published from the Sylloge Laureshamensis by Jan Gruter in 1602. The poem was wrongly attributed to Pope Damasus by Andreas Rivinus in his collection of Damasan works (1652), and since then it has been several times re-edited as a pseudo-Damasan text (Merenda 1754 first questioned the attribution to Damasus; Ihm 1895). Antonio Ferrua entirely dropped it from his Damasan corpus (ED). The reference edition is now that in the sixth volume of the Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae by Ferrua (1975).
DiscussionThe inscription presents a poem in two elegiac couplets, which apparently commemorates the restoration of a shrine for a martyr Nemesius (for sedes, cf. E01683 where sedes denotes a shrine, and De Santis 2010, 71 for a discussion of whether the term can denote a shrine built over the tomb, or just the tomb, favouring the latter). He is usually identified as a supporting character of the Martyrdom of Pope Stephen I (E02514 and Lapidge 2018, ch. XXVI). From the Martyrdom we learn that Nemesius was a military tribune under the emperor Valerian. His daughter recovered her sight after she had been baptised by Pope Stephen. Nemesius himself, also baptised, was ordained deacon. According to the Martyrdom he was arrested soon after and condemned to death by the sword. He was executed with his daughter on 25 July on the Via Latina, and subsequently Stephen buried his body in one of the cemeteries there, close to the Aurelian walls. Our inscription is usually attributed to the Via Latina, and even more specifically to the cemetery of Apronianus sited at the second mile (see Lapidge 2018, 479 with further bibliography), since the cult of Nemesius (companion of Pope Stephen) on the Via Latina is attested by the 7th c. Notitia Ecclesarum Urbis Romae (E00681 where his name is spelt Emisseus), and the 7th c. Itinerarium Salisburgense (EXXXX, and Lapidge 2018, 663).
Since the inscription praises a single martyr, his identification as the Nemesius from the Martyrdom of Pope Stephen is not entirely unjustified: another Roman martyr, Nemesius, son of Symphorosa, would have been commemorated together with his six brothers (S01165; cf. E04864 for their common feast on 27 June as recorded in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum). There is, however, an obscure martyr Nemesius, venerated in the cemetery of Comodilla on the Via Ostiensis, who could perhaps be the martyr mentioned here. See the Itinerarium Salisburgense (EXXXX) and Lapidge 2018, 662 note 12, for a short discussion of his identity.
Dating: It is difficult to estimate the date of our poem. Carlo Carletti in EDB places it in the late 4th c. As the text refers to the restoration of a pre-existing place of cult, late 4th or perhaps even 5th c. sounds plausible. Paola De Santis, based on the style of the poem, places it after the pontificate of Damasus.
Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB10773, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/10773
De Santis, P., Sanctorum Monumenta: "Aree sacre" del suburbio di Roma nella documentazione epigrafica (IV-VII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2010), no. 76.
De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.), Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 6: Coemeteria viis Latina, Labicana et Praenestina (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1975), no. 15763 (with further bibliography).
Ihm, M., Damasi Epigrammata: accedunt Pseudodamasiana aliaque ad Damasiana inlustranda idonea (Lipsiae: in aedibus B. G. Teubneri, 1895), no. 80.
De Rossi, G. B., Inscriptiones christianae Urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores 2.1 (Rome: Ex Officina Libraria Pontificia, 1888), 102, no. 29.
Merenda, A.M., Sancti Damasi papae opuscula et gesta cum notis M. M. Sarazanii iterum collecta, nunc vero primum aucta et illustrata diatribis duabus (Rome: Monaldini, 1754), 138.
Rivinus, A., Sancti Damasi carmina sacra, hymni, elogia, et epigrammata (Leipzig: Johannes Bauer, 1652), no. XXIX.
Gruter, J., Inscriptiones antiquae totius orbis Romani, in corpus absolutissimum redactae (Heidelberg: Ex officina Commeliniana, 1602), 1171, no. 15.
De Santis, P., Sanctorum Monumenta: "Aree sacre" del suburbio di Roma nella documentazione epigrafica (IV-VII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2010), 71.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs: Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford: OUP, 2018), chapter XXVI.
Nuzzo, D., "Nemesii sedes," in: Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae, vol. 4 (Roma: Quasar, 2006), 88-89.