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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Fragmentary Greek inscription referring to unnamed Holy Fathers and *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), as the God-Bearer. Found in Prines Mylopotamou near Eleutherna, central-west Crete. Perhaps late antique.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

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

[- - -] I [- - -]
[- - -]Γ[- - -]
[- - -] οἱ ἅγιοι πατ[έρες κ(αὶ) (?)]
[- - -] οἰκηγήτης [- - -]
[- - -] ὃς τῇ δ[ε]σπ[οίνῃ (?)]
[- - -]ΝΑ πᾶσιν [Θεο]-
τόκου κ(αὶ) παρ[θένου Μα]-
[ρία]ς ΟΙ [- - -]

6. [- - -]ΝΑ πᾶσιν Bandy, [- - -]Α ἅπασιν Guarducci Paribeni

'[- - - ] the holy fathers [and (?) - - -] head of the household [- - - ] who for the Lady (?) [- - -] for all, the God-Bearer and Virgin Mary [- - - ]'

Text: Bandy 1971, no. 86.

Cult Places

Cult building - monastic

Places Named after Saint


Non Liturgical Activity

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - abbots
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


Two conjoining fragments of a stone slab. Broken and lost on all sides. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.15 m; W. 0.12 m; letter height 0.014 m. The first editor, Roberto Paribeni, noted that the stonecutter used guidelines (though they are not marked in Paribeni's drawing).

Found by a local man and kept in his house in Prines Mylopotamou near Eleutherna, central-west Crete. First examined and copied by Roberto Paribeni in the spring of 1903, during an epigraphic survey of villages in western Crete, undertaken when excavations were interrupted by Holy Week. Republished by Margherita Guarducci and Anastasios Bandy, based on Paribeni's drawing.


The inscription contains a piece of text of unknown character, but certainly referencing 'holy fathers' in line 3 and Mary as the God-Bearer in lines 5-8.

The first editor, Roberto Paribeni, noted that the inscription was not an epitaph, and considered it as an interesting find, as it could refer to a saint or a holy man, named in line 4 οἰκηγήτης/'head of the household': "A lin. 2 οἰκηγήτης in cambio di οἰκηγέτης potrebbe essere l'epiteto di un qualche santo". Margherita Guarducci did not significantly expand this commentary in her corpus of the inscriptions of Crete. She accepted Paribeni's idea that line 4 mentioned a holy person. This interpretation is, however, questioned by Anastasios Bandy, who points out that our οἰκηγήτης is rather the head of a monastery, which seems the more plausible interpretation, as some 'holy fathers' appear in the preceding line (the term was frequently used for former generations of monks).

While accepting that Bandy's interpretation is the most probable, in inscriptions and literary sources 'holy fathers' are usually called ὅσιοι (πατέρες) instead of ἅγιοι. As we have no photograph of the inscription, and must rely on Paribeni's copy, we cannot verify his reading of the word οἰκηγήτης. It is, however, possible that another term, οἰκητής/'dweller, inhabitant, household servant' was used here, as it appears, for example in a dedicatory inscription for Mary, from Laodicea Combusta, central Asia Minor: Ἀν]νίου βέστου τοῦ σου πιστοῦ οἰκετοῦ / '[of An]nios,
vestos, your faithful household servant' (see: Rhoby, A., Byzantinische Epigramme in inschriftlicher Überlieferung, vol. 3/1 (Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2014), no. TR102; probably 11/12 th c.). We think that it is also possible that we are dealing with an inscription recording regulations for a monastery (typikon), examples of which are found in the middle Byzantine East (for a similar text from Crete, see: Bandy 1971, no. 59).

Dating: The editors date the inscription broadly to the late antique period, possibly 5th-6th. It might, however, be of a later date.


Bandy, A.C., (ed.), The Greek Christian Inscriptions of Crete (Athens: Christian Archaeological Society, 1971), no. 86.

Guarducci, M.,
Inscriptiones Creticae, vol. 2: Tituli Cretae occidentalis (Rome: Libreria dello Stato, 1939), no. 42.

Savignoni, L., De Sanctis, G., Paribeni, R., "Nuovi studii e scoperte in Gortyna",
Monumenti antichi 18 (1907), 376-377, no. 30 (ed. R. Paribeni).

Further reading:
Kiourtzian, G., "Pietas insulariorum", [in:] Eupsychia: mélanges offerts à Hélène Ahrweiler, vol. 2 (Série Byzantina Sorbonensia 16, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1998), 375.

Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of Christ[Θεο]τόκος, [Μαρία]Certain
S00117Ascetics, unnamed or name lostCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01382 -