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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Greek building inscription of a sanctuary of *George (probably the soldier and martyr, S00259) and unnamed martyrs, his companions. Found in Sakkaia/Maximianopolis near Bostra (province of Arabia). Almost certainly 6th c. (549/567), though once dated to the 4th c.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

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

+ οἶκος ἁγίων ἀθλοφόρων μαρτύρων Γεωργίου καὶ τῶν
σὺν αὐτῷ ἁγίων. ἐ[κ π]ρ[οσφ]ωρ(ᾶς) Τιβερίνου ἐπισκ(όπου), ἔκτισεν ἐκ θε-
μελίων τὼ ίε[ρ]ατῖον καὶ τὴν π[ρ]ο[σ]θή[κ]ην τοῦ ναοῦ,
ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ιε΄, ἔτους σξγ΄, σπουδῇ δὲ Γεωργίου καί Σεργίου μεγάλου

1. ἁγ[ί]ων Burckhardt Kirchhoff || [ἀ]θλοφόρων Burckhardt Kirchhoff || Γε[ω]ρ[γί]ου Burckhardt Kirchhoff || 2. [ἁ]γίων Burckhardt Kirchhoff || ἐκ προσφωρ(ᾶς) Burckhardt Kirchhoff || ἐκτίσθη [ἐκ] Burckhardt Kirchhoff, ἔκτισεν ἐκ Waddington, Meimaris et alii || 2-3. θε|[μ]ελίων Burckhardt Kirchhoff || τ[ὸ] Burckhardt Kirchhoff || 4. [- - -] ἔτους σξγ΄ Burckhardt Kirchhoff || [δ]ὲ Burckhardt Kirchhoff || Γεωργίο[υ] Burckhardt Kirchhoff || μεγαλο[- - -] Burckhardt Kirchhoff

'+ The house of the holy prize-winning martyrs: George and his holy companions. From the offerings of bishop Tiberinos. (He?) built the sanctuary and the aisles (
prostheke) of the church from the foundations. 15th indiction, year 263. By the efforts of the deacons Georgios and Sergios the Great.'

Text: Meimaris, Kritikaou, Bougia 1992, 326. Translation: P. Nowakowski.
Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church) | Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Non Liturgical Activity

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings | Construction of cult buildings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops | Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


Large stone block, broken into two parts, probably a lintel. Found by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1810 in Shaqqa (Sakkaia / Maximianopolis near Bostra, Arabia) in the ruins on the eastern side of the village, lying on the ground in front of a wall. Later it was revisited by William Waddington who took his own, more accurate copy, which we have followed. It has not been revisited since, and is probably lost.


Dating: 323 (Kazdhan – obsolete) or 354-357 (Devreesse, Halkin, Haubrichs – obsolete) or 367/368 (Kirchhoff, Lucius, Delehaye – obsolete) or 506 (Alt, Thomsen, Halkin) or 549/550 (Trombley, Meimaris, Kritiakou, Bougia) or 551/552 or 564/565 or 566/567 (Meimaris, Kritiakou, Bougia).

The inscription commemorates the foundation of a sanctuary of St. George and other martyrs by a certain bishop Tiberinos. It was popularised by Ernst Lucius who partially reprinted it in his handbook of the cult of saints (see Lucius 1904, 239, n. 1) and identified it as the earliest attestation to the cult of *George, the famous warrior saint and martyr of Diospolis / Lydda. Following the opinion of Adolf Kirchhoff, the editor of the fourth volume of
Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, Lucius claimed that the inscription dated to AD 367. These statements are, however, highly questionable. The first problem is, whether the famous George or a local martyr George is mentioned in the text, but as the contents of the inscription do not allow for any justified conclusions, we can leave this problem aside. More important, the early dating (AD 367) must be reconsidered. The inscription says only that the sanctuary was completed in the 263rd year of a local era, which is not specified. Kirchhoff (and so Lucius) supposed that the date was computed according to the era of the city of Bostra (i.e. the era of the province of Arabia) which he believed to have started in AD 104. Waddington, however, expressed his concern that the 263rd year of the era of Bostra (Arabia) did not fall in the 15th indiction year, and suggested that the inscription was rather dated according to a local era of Sakkaia. Later identification of Sakkaia with the ancient Maximianopolis allowed scholars to establish the first year of the era as 287 or 302 and, therefore, to redate the inscription to the mid 6th c. In addition, Frank Trombley says that the omicron-ypislon ligature used by the stone-cutter, makes the 4th c. dating particularly implausible (see Trombley 1994, p. 345). For the local era of Maximianopolis see: Koder & Restle 1992; Meimaris, Kritikakou, Bougia 1992, 321-323. The most probable beginning of the era would be connected to the settlement's elevation to city rank, which could have taken place under one of the Tetrarchs, the best candidate being Maximianus, the partner of Diocletian, and thus the starting point of the era must fall before his abdication in AD 305. Indiction dates given in inscriptions from Sakkaia indicate that only two years from the period of his reign are acceptable: 287 and 302.

But, even if we assume that the foundation's date is computed according to the era of Maximianopolis, we encounter further problems. The 263rd year of this era is not in concord with the given indiction. Meimaris, Kritikakou and Bougia suggest correcting either the era year (to 265th), or the indiction year (to 12th). Thus we reach four possible 6th c. dates: AD 549/550, 551/552, 564/565 or 566/567 (given two possible starting years of the era of Maximianopolis). While uncertainty remains over the precise year of this inscription. a dating to the sixth century seems almost certainly correct, while a fourth century date is highly implausible.


Meimaris, Y.E., Kritikakou, K., Bougia, P., Chronological Systems in Roman-Byzantine Palestine and Arabia. The Evidence of the Dated Greek Inscriptions (Meletēmata 17, Athens : Kentron Hellēnikēs kai Rōmaikēs Archaiotētos, Ethnikon Hydryma Ereunōn, 1992), 326.

Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2158 (from his own copy).

Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum
, no. 8609.

Burckhardt, J.L.,
Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1822), 75 (from his own copy).

Further reading:
Alt, A.," ", Palästinajahrbuch des deutschen evangelischen Instituts für Altertumswissenschaft des Heiligen Landes zu Jerusalem, 29 (1932), 90, n. 1.

Delehaye, H.,
Les légendes grecques des saint militaires (Paris: Librairie A. Picard, 1909), 48.

Devreesse, R.,
Le patriarcat d'Antioche depuis la paix de l'Église jusqu'à la conquête arabe (Paris: J. Gabalda et cie, 1945), 235.

Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie. III, La province d'Arabie",
Analecta Bollandiana 67 (1949), 105.

Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie. Supplément. Conclusion",
Analecta Bollandiana 71 (1953), 336.

Haubrichs, W.,
Georgslied und Georgslegende im frühen Mittelalter (Theorie, Kritik, Geschichte 13, Königstein: Ts Scriptor, 1977), 225.

Kazhdan, A., "George", in:
The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, vol. 2, (New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 834.

Koder, J., Restle, M., "Die Ära von Sakkaia (Maximianopolis) in Arabia",
Jahrbuch der österreichischen Byzantinistik 42 (1992), 79-82.

Lucius, E.,
Die Anfänge des Heiligenkult in der christlichen Kirche (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr (P. Siebeck), 1904), 239.

Thomsen, P., "Neue Beiträge und Funde zur Orts- und Landeskunde von Syrien und Palästina",
Zeitschrift des deutschen Palästina-Vereins 65/2 (1942), 128.

Trombley, F.R.,
Hellenic Religion and Christianization c. 370-529, vol. 2 (Leiden, New York, Cologne: Brill, 1994), 345.
Walter, Ch., "On the origins of the cult of St. George",
Revue des études byzantines 53 (1995), 316.


Majuscule edition. From: Burckhardt 1822, 75.

Majuscule edition. From: Burckhardt LBW, 507.

Record Created By

Pawel Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceCertainty
S00060Martyrs, unnamed or name lostοἱ σὺν αὐτῷ ἅγιοιCertain
S00259George, soldier and martyrΓεωργίοςUncertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Pawel Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E00839 -