Greek inscription with an invocation of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) as the God-Bearer. Found near the village of Agioi Deka, close to ancient Gortyna (southern Crete). Probably 5th-6th c.
Type of Evidence
Inscriptions - Funerary inscriptions
ου καὶ Στε-
'+ O God-Bearer (Theotokos), help Eulampios and Stephania! Amen. +'
Text and translation (modified): Bandy 1971, no. 9.
Non Liturgical Activity
Prayer/supplication/invocationProtagonists in Cult and Narratives
Other lay individuals/ people
SourceThe inscription is carved within a squarish frame with ansae on a greyish-white marble sarcophagus, decorated with depictions of fruits and heads of oxen, rams, and gorgons. Dimensions of the frame: H. 0.24 m; W. 0.27 m; letter height 0.023-0.035 m. For a photograph of the whole sarcophagus, see: Di Vita 1984, 257.
Recorded by Federico Halbherr near the village of Agioi Deka, at the site of the church τοῦ Μαυρόπαπα. Moved to the fountain Xerovrisi. Currently kept in the Museum of Agioi Deka. First published by Stephanos Xanthoudides in 1903.
DiscussionThe inscription contains an invocation of Mary as the God-Bearer. As it was placed on a tomb, we can suppose that the saint was asked to intercede for the souls of the people buried there, probably Eulampios and Stephania, mentioned in lines 1-3 (their actual relationship escapes us). However, Xanthoudides, the first editor, implausibly suggested that the tomb was offered by the couple to a church. Margherita Guarducci convincingly argued against such an interpretation. She also pointed out that the sarcophagus was apparently made in the Roman period, and was only later reused by Christians. Anastasios Bandy notes that the style of decorations is not a decisive argument for dating, as such sarcophagi were still being produced in Late Antiquity.
Bandy perceives this sepulchral invocation of the God-Bearer as a sign of beliefs that Mary was an especially efficient intercessor for the repose of the deceased.
Dating: The inscription, used to be dated to the period after the restoration of Byzantine rule on Crete in 961 (see: Gerola 1932, 553). However, Guarducci and Bandy rightly state that a 5th or 6th c. date is more probable, because of the letter forms, phrasing and the character of the inscription, resembling 6th c. texts, written on sarcophagi from Korykos/Corycus (E01061; E01061; E01063; E01064; E01065; E01068; E01069; E01070; E01072) and Diokaisareia/Diocaesarea (E01038; E01039; E01045) in southern Asia Minor.
Bandy, A.C., (ed.), The Greek Christian Inscriptions of Crete (Athens: Christian Archaeological Society, 1971), no. 9.
Guarducci, M., Inscriptiones Creticae, vol. 4: Tituli Gortynii (Rome: Libreria dello Stato, 1950), no. 470.
Gerola, G., Monumenti veneti nell'isola di Creta, vol. 4 (Venice 1932), 553, no. 31.
Xanthoudides, S., “Χριστιανικαί επιγραφαί Κρήτης”, Ἀθηνᾶ 15 (1903), 127.
Di Vita, A., “Atti della Scuola”, Annuario della Scuola Archeologica di Atene e delle Missioni Italiane in Oriente 62 (1984), 257.
Kiourtzian, G., "Pietas insulariorum", [in:] Eupsychia: mélanges offerts à Hélène Ahrweiler, vol. 2 (Série Byzantina Sorbonensia 16, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1998), 375.
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 38, 910.
Related Saint Records
Record Created By
Date Last Modified
|ID||Name||Name in Source||Identity||S00033||Mary, Mother of Christ||Θεοτόκος||Certain|
Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01366 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E01366