Saint NameStephen, the First Martyr : S00030
Saint Name in SourceStephanus
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)
Literary - Poems
Evidence not before440
Evidence not after461
Activity not before440
Activity not after461
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 - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsBequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesWomen
Ecclesiastics - bishops
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - Popes
SourceLarge marble plaque, broken into multiple fragments, many of them now lost. Presumed original dimensions: H. 1.05 m; W. 2.00 m. Fine regular letters, 0.063 m high.
Ninety-one fragments were found by Lorenzo Fortunati during his exploration of the church of S. Stefano on the via Latina between 1857 and 1858. In 1975 Antonio Ferrua noted that the fragments were then displayed assembled in the Tomb of the Pancratii on the via Latina.
First mentions of the inscription were published in 1858 in the Giornale di Roma, the then official paper of the Papal State, and by Lorenzo Fortunati in his report of the archaeological works on the via Latina in 1859. The fragments were, however, assembled and restored only by Raffaele Garucci in 1881. Lines 1-6, and 8 of his restoration were accepted without changes by Antonio Ferrua in the now reference edition for the inscription in the sixth volume of the Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae. He suggested minor alterations in lines 7, and 9-10. For a complete list of editions, and the apparatus, see ICVR, n.s., VI, no. 15764.
DiscussionThe inscription, composed in five elegiac couplets, commemorates the construction of a church dedicated to Stephen the First Martyr by Amnia Demetrias, daughter of the Roman aristocrat Olybrius (consul in 395) and Anicia Iuliana. As one of the Anicii, she was, therefore, a member of the highest elite of the Later Roman Empire, and a relative of Anicia Iuliana responsible for the foundation of the splendid church of *Polyeuktos in Constantinople in the early 6th c. (E00553).
Under the influence of strong religious feelings, Demetrias decided to pursue the life of a consecrated virgin in Carthage in 413, as she, with her family, had left the city of Rome plundered by the Visigoths in 410. Notably, she was guided by Augustine of Hippo. Demetrias, however, later returned to Rome, got in touch with pope Leo I, and exchanged letters with other prominent religious figures. At the end of her life, probably in the 430s, she vowed to build a church dedicated to Stephen on the via Latina. She chose this saint probably as a result of his cult spreading rapidly after the discovery of his relics in Palestine in 415 (E00675, EXXXX). The relics also made it to North Africa in 416, and feature prominently in Augustine's works (e.g. E01111; E01116), so her decision may echo a personal experience of Stephen's cult during her stay in Carthage. It is, thus, an example of the important role of private initiative in the spread of the cults of specific saints in Rome. Demetrias' foundation is mentioned by the Liber Pontificalis in the 6th c. (E01305).
The inscription says the building was commissioned (presumably as a legacy) by Demetrias on her deathbed, and that the work was carried out by Pope Leo I under the supervision of his presbyter Tigrinus (PCBE 2, Tigrinus). This man is known from another inscription, as a supervisor of several other ecclesiastical building programmes: diversis reparo tecta sacrata locis/'I restore holy structures in many places' (ICVR, n.s., VI, no. 15842). He was possibly the author of the poem praising Demetrias' foundation.
The church of S. Stefano features a crypt, which is a prominent element of its plan, so it is possible that relics of Stephen were venerated there.
Dating: The inscription says that the work was completed during the pontificate of Pope Leo I and after the death of Demetrias, i.e. between 440 and 461.
Epigraphic Database Bari, nos. EDB10774, see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/10774
De Santis, P., Sanctorum Monumenta: "Aree sacre" del suburbio di Roma nella documentazione epigrafica (IV-VII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2010), no. 78.
Carletti, C., Epigrafia dei cristiani in Occidente dal III al VII secolo. Ideologia e prassi (Bari: Edipuglia, 2008), no. 158.
Lassère, J.M., Manuel d'épigraphie romaine (Paris: Picard, 2005), no. 313.
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. 15764 (with further bibliography).
Diehl, E., Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, vol. 1 (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, 1925), no. 1765.
Dessau, H., Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae, vol. ___ (Berlin: Apud Weidmannos, ____), no. 8988.
Marucchi, O., Epigrafia cristiana. Trattato elementare con una silloge di antiche iscrizioni cristiane principalmente di Roma (Milan: U. Hoepli, 1910), 415, no. 450.
Bücheler, F., Anthologia Latina sive poesis Latinae supplementum, pars posterior: Carmina epigraphica, vol. ___ (Leipzig: In aedibus B.G. Tebneri, _____), no. 2040.
Duchesne, L., Le Liber pontificalis, vol. 1 (Paris: E. Thorin, 1886), 531.
Garucci, R., Storia della arte cristiana nei primi otto secoli della chiesa: corredata della Collezione di tutti i monumenti di pittura e scultura, vol. 1 (Prato: Gaetano Guasti, 1881), 512-513 (assembled the fragments and restored the text).
Fortunati, L., Relazione generale degli scavi e scoperte fatte lungo la via Latina (Rome: Tipografia tiberina, 1859), 26.
Profili, Giornale di Roma 1858, 22 June.
Behrwald, R., Die Stadt als Museum?: Die Wahrnehmung der Monumente Roms in der Spätantike (Berlin: Akademie Verlag), 145, note 72.
De Francesco, D., La proprietà fondiaria nel Lazio. Secoli IV-VIII. Storia e topografia (Rome: Quasar, 2005), ??79-115.
De Santis, P., "'Aree e luoghi sacri' nelle iscrizioni cristiane di Roma", in: Las provincias del imperio romano a través de su epigrafía, Atti XII Congressus Internationalis Epigraphiae graecae et latinae (Barcellona: , 2007), 377.
Janssens, J., Vita e morte del cristiano negli epitaffi di Roma anteriori al sec. VII (Rome: Università Gregoriana), 220 note 177.
Kurdock, A., "Demetrias ancilla dei: Anicia Demetrias and the problem of the missing patron", in: K. Cooper, J. Hillner (eds.) Religion, Dynasty, and Patronage in Early Christian Rome, 300-900 (Cambridge: CUP, 2007), 190-224 (English translation based on ILCV, no. 1765).
Machado, C., "Roman aristocrats and the Christianisation of Rome", in: P. Brown, R. Lizzi Testa, Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire: The Breaking of a Dialogue, (IVth-VIth Century A.D.): Proceedings of the International Conference at the Monastery of Bose (October 2008) (Berlin: Lit, 2011), 503-504 (English translation based on ICVR, n.s., VI, no. 15764).
Pietri, Ch., Pietri, L., Desmulliez, J., Prosopographie de l'Italie chrétienne (313-604) (Rome: École française de Rome, Paris: diff. de Boccard, 1999), 544-547.
Villegas Marin, R., "Providencia divina, desigualdad social y patronazgo aristocrático de la Iglesia en la Roma de León Magno", in: Povertà e ricchezza nel cristianesimo antico (I-V sec.). 42° Incontro di studiosi dell'antichità cristiana (Roma, 8-10 maggio 2014) (Rome: Ist. Patristico Augustinianum, 2016), 289-290.
L'Année épigraphique (2005) , comments to no. 82.