On the Holy Places of the Martyrs which are outside the City of Rome (De locis sanctis martyrum quae sunt foris civitatis Romae), via Portuensis
Iuxta uiam uero Portuensem quae et ipsa in occidentali parte ciuitatis est, sanctus Abdon et sanctus Sennis sanctusque Milex et sanctus Vincentius, sanctus Polion, sanctus Iulius, sanctus Pymeon, sanctus Felix, sanctus Simplicius, sanctus Faustinus, sancta Beatricis dormiunt.
'But next to the via Portuensis, which is also in the western part of the city, sleep saint Abdon and saint Sennis, and saint Milex and saint Vincentius, saint Polion, saint Iulius, saint Pymeon, saint Felix, saint Simplicius, saint Faustinus, saint Beatrix.'
Text: Valentini and Zucchetti 1942, 107-108. Translation: P. Polcar.
[*Abdos and Semnes, Persian martyrs in Rome, buried on the via Portuensis, S00573
; *Milex/Milix, martyr of Rome, buried on the via Portuensis, S00570
; *Polion, martyr of Rome, buried on the via Portuensis, S00572
; *Iulius, martyr of Rome, buried on the via Portuensis, S02569
; *Pumenius/Pimenius, martyr of Rome, buried on the via Portuensis, S00569
; *Felix, martyr of Rome, buried on the via Portuensis, S02672
; *Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix, martyrs of Rome, S00886
Saint NameAbdos and Semnes, Persian martyrs in Rome, buried on the via Portuensis : S00573
Milix, martyr of Rome, buried on the via Portuensis : S00570
Polion, martyr of Rome, buried on the via Portuensis : S00572
Pumenius, martyr of Rome, buried on the via
Saint Name in SourceAbdon et Sennis
Simplicius, Faustinus, Beatrix
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Pilgrim accounts and itineraries
Evidence not before642
Evidence not after683
Activity not before642
Activity not after683
Place of Evidence - RegionRome and region
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcRome
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Rome
Major author/Major anonymous workLists of Shrines in Rome
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - tomb/grave
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPilgrimage
Cult Activities - RelicsBodily relic - entire body
SourceThe graves of the martyrs of Rome are quite exceptional in two respects: for the overwhelming number of saints whose names are recorded; and for the level of detail we have on where their bodies were venerated - in the many Martyrdoms surviving from Rome (incomparably more than from any other city), in uniquely rich epigraphic evidence, and in a narrative history, the Liber Pontificalis, that records in loving detail papal improvements to the saintly graves and churches of the city. From the century between circa 590 and 690, we even have four long lists of venerated graves, which were compiled entirely independently of each other: one (the Monza papyrus, E06788) is a catalogue of holy oil collected at these graves, but the other three, the Notitia Ecclesiarum (E07900), the De Locis Sanctis (E07901) and the Itinerarium Malmesburiense (E07883), are 'itineraries' - in other words texts that introduce their readers to the graves by taking them on a journey through the burial churches and cemeteries that ringed the city. They are often described as pilgrim-guides, which was certainly one of their functions, though they could also serve to introduced the saints of Rome to distant readers.
The De locis sanctis martyrum quae sunt foris civitatis Romae ('On the holy places of the martyrs which are outside the city of Rome'), is exactly what its title claims: it is a guide to the suburban cemeteries of the city, listing the various saints who could be visited there (the vast majority of whom were martyrs). Like all the itineraries, it proceeds road by road, beginning with the via Cornelia and St Peter's, continuing anticlockwise round the city, and closing with the via Flaminia. Unlike the Notitia Ecclesiarum, which directly addresses the reader in the second person singular ('Then you go ...' etc.), the De Locis (in common with the Itinerarium), uses the impersonal 'By this road is ...' etc.
In all the manuscripts of the De Locis, the journey around the city is immediately followed by a short text (E07001) entitled Istae vero ecclesiae intus Romae habentur ('These churches, however, are within Rome'), which lists 21 churches within the Aurelianic walls. This text may or may not have been by the same author as the De Locis.
In terms of its dating, the De Locis must have been written before 683, because it lists the graves of Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix on the via Portuensis (E06988), and these martyrs were removed from there and translated into the city by Pope Leo II in 682/683 (E01678). The date after which it must have been written is slightly less certain: unquestionably it was after Honorius I (625-638) built his church of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura, since this must be the church 'of wondrous beauty' that is described on the via Nomentana (E06997); and it is very likely that it also post-dates the rebuilding by Pope Theodore I (642-649) of the church of Saint Valentinus on the via Flaminia (E01629), described in our text as 'wondrously decorated' (E07000).
The earliest manuscript of this text (Vienna National Library Ms 795), datable to the last years of the eighth century, includes some brief interpolated passages (some of which derive from the Notitia Ecclesiarum). These are included, but clearly marked as interpolations, in all the editions of the De Locis, and in the text which we offer.
DiscussionThis entry lists the saints buried in the cemetery of Pontianus on the via Portuensis. Abdos and Semnes, and Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix are well known saints, and all unequivocally associated with this cemetery. The other martyrs listed are, however, much more shadowy:
Milex is mentioned also in the Notitia Ecclesiarum (E00688), and he and Vincentius appear in a fresco within the cemetery of Pontianus (EXXXXXX), flanking Abdos and Semnes; Vincentius is otherwise only documented here in the De Locis.
Iulius, here on the Portuensis, is otherwise unknown; it is possible, but by no means certain, that he is the same saint as a Iulius commemorated on 24 August in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (E04929).
'Pymeon' is presumably the same saint as 'Pumenius', also recorded as buried on the via Portuensis in the Notitia Ecclesiarum (E00688); he may also be the saint Piminus or Pimenius, commemorated on 2 December in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum (E05039).
'Felix' is problematic. Our text definitely suggests he was buried within the cemetery of Pontianus; but there is no other record of a Felix here; whereas the Notitia Ecclesiarum (E00688) mentions an independent church of a certain Felix, built on the via Portuensis, who was important enough to have a separate cemetery named after him (E06912, no. 16). Are these the same martyr, or two, now equally obscure, figures?
The fact that Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix are listed as buried on the via Portuensis is important evidence for dating the De Locis Sanctis, since their bodies were translated into the city by Pope Leo II (682-683) - see E01678. Our text must predate that translation.
Glorie, F. (ed.), De locis sanctis martyrum quae sunt foris civitatis Romae, in Itineraria et alia geographica (Corpus Christianorum, series Latina 175; Turnhout: Brepols, 1965), 315-321. [Reproduces Valentini and Zucchetti's text.]
Valentini, R. and Zucchetti, G. (ed.), Codice topografico della città di Roma (Istituto storico italiano - Fonti per la storia d'Italia; Roma 1942), vol. 2, 106-118.
Lapidge, M., The Roman Martyrs. Introduction, Translations, and Commentary (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford: Oxford University Press 2018), 662-664. [Translates most of the text, but omits parts that are not relevant to the martyrdom accounts that he includes in his collection.]