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E07474: Latin verse inscription in two elegiac couplets deploring sacrilegious damage by barbarians to unnamed 'well-deserved ones (meriti)'. Now lost, but probably from the cemetery of Saint Alexander on the via Nomentana, Rome. Probably mid- or second half of the 6th c., possibly 537-555. [provisional entry]

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posted on 23.03.2019, 00:00 by pnowakowski
cernite consurgens cultu meliore sepulchrum
quod gens infelix vertere non timuit
nec nocuit quicquam meritis nec damna paravit
sed sibi prava gerens contulit exitium

1. sepulcrum Gruter || 3. docet Sylloge Centulensis || 4. exilium sylloge Centulensis, exitum cod. Harleianus

'Behold this tomb rising anew through greater zeal, which an ill-fated people did not fear to ravage. Yet, they did not manage to do any harm, whatsoever, to the well-deserved ones, nor any damage did they do to them, but they brought ruin upon themselves by committing these wicked acts!'

Text: ICVR, n.s., VIII, no. 22965 = EDB41558. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

History

Evidence ID

E07474

Saint Name

Martyrs, unnamed or name lost : S00060 Saints, unnamed : S00518 Alexander, Eventius and Theodolus, bishop, priest and deacon, martyrs of Rome : S00127

Saint Name in Source

meriti meriti meriti

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Literary - Poems

Language

Latin

Evidence not before

550

Evidence not after

600

Activity not before

537

Activity not after

600

Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Suburban catacombs and cemeteries

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Suburban catacombs and cemeteries Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - crypt/ crypt with relics

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Cult activities - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Destruction/desecration of saint's shrine

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Foreigners (including Barbarians) Ecclesiastics - Popes

Source

The text of this inscription is preserved only in the manuscripts of the Sylloge Centulensis (codex Petropolitanus F. XIV 1 f. 129) and Sylloge Laurenshamensis (codex Vaticanus Palatinus 833 f. 63 v and codex Londinus Harleianus 3685 f. 4). It first appeared in print in 1602, published by Jan Gruter from the Sylloge Laureshamensis. The first edition based on all the accessible manuscripts was offered by Giovanni Battista de Rossi. The codices do not specify the location of this inscription, but it is commonly presumed to have been in the cemetery of Saint Alexander on the via Nomentana, as it appears between the inscriptions copied in the cemetery of Sant'Agnese and those from the via Appia.

Discussion

The poem does not use the terms 'martyres' or 'sancti'; but the well-deserved ones ('meriti') of verse 3, whose tomb is rebuilt through even greater zeal, or cultic reverence ('meliore cultu'), are commonly considered to have been martyrs by the editors of this text. According to Ferrua, the point of the poem is that any damage done to, or any attempted desecration of, a martyr's tomb only adds to his or her glory as a sort of a continuation of the martyrdom. And of course this sacrilege brought divine punishment down on the heads of those responsible for it. The gens infelix responsible for the desecration of this tomb is taken to have been the Goths, who besieged Rome in 537/538 under Vitigis, and in 545/546 under Totila. Both sieges were disastrous for the civilian population of the city, and the suburban cemeteries also suffered during military operations (although there is no evidence of intentional damage). The poem must postdate the expulsion of the Goths from Rome, so it was probably composed in the 550s or later. It is possible that our inscription dates from the pontificate of Pope Vigilius (537-555), credited with very similar work in the nearby Cemetery of the Jordani (see E07193). For Vigilius's work in the Cemetery of Hippolytus, see E07580.

Bibliography

Edition: Epigraphic Database Bari, no. EDB41558. see http://www.edb.uniba.it/epigraph/41558 De Rossi, G.B., Ferrua, A. (eds.) Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae Septimo Saeculo Antiquiores, n.s., vol. 8: Coemeteria viarum Nomentanae et Salariae (Vatican: Pont. Institutum Archaeologiae Christianae, 1983), no. 22965 (with further bibliography). De Rossi, G. B., Inscriptiones christianae Urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores 2.1 (Rome: Ex Officina Libraria Pontificia, 1857-1888), 89, no. 44; 115, no. 88; 121, no. 4.

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