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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world

Fragments of a Greek inscription with a letter, probably from a governor (proconsul) of the province of Asia, promulgating imperial resolutions for the episcopal church of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), and for the church of *John the Apostle and Evangelist (S00042). Found at the site of the church of *Mary in Ephesos (western Asia Minor), 530-539.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

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

Canonical and legal texts

The text, as presented in the now accessible edition in Die Inschriften von Ephesos:

                                ]ον ὁ πα[
4                         ἡμῶ]ν βασιλεὺ[ς
                               ε]ὐκοσμίας [
                                ]̣στάσεως [                ]υς
                                 ] καὶ τὴν [               ]ικης
8                                     νο]μοθεσί[α           ]ανα
συ[                                ψ]υχοφθο[ρ.....]ρ[..]ένην
μητρόπολ[ι                       ] τῇ τε κα[τὰ τ]ὴν Ἔφ[εσον]
λειτουργούσ[ῃ ἱερω]τάτῃ μεγάλῃ [ἐκ]κλ(ησίᾳ) καὶ τοῖς
12 προσκυνητ[αῖς ἐν] τῷ σεβασμίῳ [οἴκ]ῳ τοῦ ἁγίου
Ἰωάννου τοῦ [θεο]λόγου καὶ εὐ[αγγ]ελιστοῦ·
ἐξ ὧν ἀνάγκη(ν) [….]ων πάντω[ν ...]όησεν
ταῖς ἄλλαις δύ[αις κ]αὶ ζημίαις [...]τροις καὶ
16 τὴν θείαν λει[τουργίαν] καὶ πρ[....]τη περὶ
τούτοις ενα[                            ]ησει τοὺς
ἐπεὶ οὖν τῇ τ[                        ]πεσεῖν
τοίνυν τοῖς φ[                    ] χάριτι τὰ μέ-
20 χρι […..]ια ει[                  ]ουσιν φαινομέ-
νας κο[...]π[                 ] θεοφιλῆ καὶ πρό-
ξενον [                             ]βης συνήγαγε(ν)
νομοθ[εσι                           ]στον τὰ ἀνε-
24 γνωσ[μένα                          ]φως καὶ
καθὰ ̣τ̣[                                   ]οσ.[
καὶ μο[
28 καὶ γυ[

12-14. τῷ σεβασμίῳ [οἴκ]ῳ τοῦ ἁγίου | προσκυνητ[οῦ θεο]λόγου καὶ εὐ[αγγ]ελιστοῦ Ἰωάννου Feissel || 22. θεοσε]βὴς or εὐσε]βὴς
I. Ephesos || 23. νομοθ[εσία (?) I. Ephesos || 24. εἰλη]φώς (?) or φῶς (?) I. Ephesos || 25. καθα̣π[ (?) I. Ephesos

'[- - - ou]r emperor [- - -] of the good conduct [- - -] discord (?) [- - -] and [- - -] legislation [- - -] soul-destroying [- - -] metropolitan [- - -] to the most holy Great Church which performs liturgical service in Ephesos and to the worshippers (or: 'pilgrims') in the reverend house of Saint John the Theologian and Evangelist. For this reason the need [- - -] of all [- - -] and other sorrows and punishments [- - -] and the divine liturgy [- - -] about them [- - -] since [- - -] fell now for [- - -] the grace until [- - -] revealed [- - -] the God-loving and protector [- - -] gathered [- - -] legislation [- - -] these that were read [- - -] and [- - -] the
subsellia (= seats of the clergy) [- - -] and [- - -]'

I. Ephesos, no. 4134. Translation: P. Nowakowski, E. Rizos.

In a letter dated 17.05.2018 Denis Feissel kindly informed us that he has revisited and examined the stone. As a result he spotted that some fragments were apparently misplaced in the first edition, and the two fragments which we discuss in E00765 almost certainly come from the same text. A new edition and restoration of the entire letter will follow soon. For the moment, Feissel sent us an altered restoration of lines 10-14:

τῇ τε κα[τὰ τ]ὴν Ἐφ[εσίω(ν)]
μητρόπολι[ν ἁγι]ωτάτῃ μεγάλ[ῃ ἐκ]κλ(ησίᾳ) καὶ τοῖς
12 λειτουργοῦσ[ιν ἐν] τῷ σεβασμίῳ [οἴκ]ῳ τοῦ ἁγίου
προσκυνητ[οῦ θε]ολόγου καὶ εὐ[αγγ]ελιστοῦ

'... to the most holy Great Church in the metropolitan city of the Ephesians, and to those who perform liturgical service in the reverend house of the holy Worshipper, Theologian, and Evangelist John...'

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Non Liturgical Activity

Awarding privileges to cult centres
Visiting graves and shrines

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops
Monarchs and their family


A broken blue marble plaque. Fifteen fragments were found, scattered over the church of Mary in Ephesos. The original width of the plaque was c. 0.75 m.

The fragments were revisited and examined by Denis Feissel who is working on a new edition and restoration of this text. It is almost certain that two more fragments, published separately in
Die Inschriften von Ephesos, come from the same letter. See our E00765 and Feissel 1999, 127-128 and no. 27.


The inscription is the monumental publication of a letter. Josef Keil suggested that the letter had been written rather by a bishop than an emperor, because a reigning monarch is apparently mentioned in l. 3 as a person other than the speaker (ἡμῶ]ν βασιλεὺ[ς). Keil hypothesised that the author of the letter might be the influential Ephesian bishop Hypatios (see PCBE 3, Hypatios 4) as we know that he published at least one such a letter as an inscription (see E00780).

The poor state of preservation of the inscription makes it hard to draw conclusions regarding the substance of the text. In Keil's restoration remnants of the first lines include words that may refer to a 'soul-destroying' discord that had arisen between the Ephesian Christians and pilgrims. It seems that the author of the inscription gives an account of some imperial resolutions aimed at settling the quarrel and appeals for moderation. Then we have a reference to two (hostile?) groups of Christians, connected to the two most prominent Ephesian sanctuaries: perhaps the Ephesians attending the episcopal church of Mary (named μεγάλη ἐκκλησία) and pilgrims (προσκυνηταί) visiting the church of John the Evangelist. If this interpretation is correct, this would be interesting evidence of discord between an intramural episcopal church, with its associated episcopal authority, and the extramural shrine of a great saint, with its powerful charismatic authority. Also, the fact that the movement of pilgrims could cause troubles and needed specific regulations, even authorised by emperors, is discussed in a petition to the emperor Tiberius II (578-582), authored by a presbtyer from a village near Tyre (see: E01764).

However, after a new examination of the stone Denis Feissel points out that several fragments were misplaced by Keil, and he wrongly identified the author of the letter. As both the emperor and the bishop of Ephesos are mentioned in the text, it is unlikely that the letter is a bishop's work. The author must be, therefore, the governor (
proconsul) of the province of Asia, probably writing to the Ephesians on the occasion of the promulgation of an imperial rescript, very possibly carved on another plaque and put on display in the same church (cf. E00812). As for the lines suggesting a conflict between the pilgrims and the clergy of Ephesos, Feissel offers different completions with the damaged word προσκυνητ[ interpreted as an epithet of the Apostle John (προσκυνητής/'Worshipper') rather than a reference to pilgrims (προσκυνηταί). Although we should wait with final judgments for the forthcoming new edition of the entire text by Feissel, this interpretation sounds very plausibly and renders Keil's text obsolete.


Die Inschriften von Ephesos, no. 4134.

Keil, J., Reisch, E., Knoll, F. (eds.),
Forschungen in Ephesos, vol. 4/1: Die Marienkirche in Ephesos (Vienna: Selbstverlag des ÖAI Wien, 1932), no. 34.

Further reading:
Feissel, D., "Épigrahie administrative et topographie urbaine: l'emplacement des actes inscrits dans l'Éphèse protobyzantine (IVe – VIe s.)", in: R. Pillinger, O. Kersten, F. Krinzinger, O. Russo (eds.), Efeso paleocristiana e bizantina (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999), 121-132.

Feissel, D.,
Documents, droit, diplomatique de l'Empire romain tardif (Bilans de recherche 7, Paris, 2010), 37, 47, 64, 333.

Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie, IX, Asie Mineure",
Analecta Bollandiana 71 (1953), 78-79.

For the career of the bishop Hypatios see:
Alexander, P.J., "Hypatius of Ephesus: A note on image worship in the sixth century", The Harvard Theological Review 45 (1952), 177-184.

Destephen, S.,
Prosopographie du Diocese d'Asie (325-641) (Prosopographie chrétienne du Bas-Empire 3, Paris: Association des amis du centre d'histoire et civilisation de Byzance, 2008), Hypatios 4.


Drawing; from: FiE 4/1, 101.

Record Created By

Pawel Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristCertain
S00042John, the Apostle and EvangelistἸωάννηςCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Pawel Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E00778 -