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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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

Greek, Syriac, and Arabic graffiti from so-called Basilica A/the 'Great Basilica' in Rusafa/Sergioupolis (northeast Syria/Euphratesia), a major place of the cult of *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023), with invocations of Sergios, and of other saints and Old Testament figures. From the 6th c. onwards.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Graffiti

The room to the north of the apse of the basilica, which is believed to have housed the relics of Sergios (see: E01460), was connected with the courtyard by a small passage. Its walls are covered with plaster and inscribed with pilgrim graffiti, containing mostly the names of supplicants, the Trisagion prayer, and the name of the saint. The graffiti are in Greek, Syriac, and Arabic. The Greek ones were published by Cornelia Römer, and the Arabic by Raif Georges Khoury in 1986, in Ulbert's study on the basilica.

Among more than six dozen published Greek texts, the following deserve attention as possibly referring to Sergios and other saints (in many cases, however, it is uncertain whether the name mentioned is that of a saint, or that of a supplicant):

a) Ulbert 1986, 173, no. 12 (ed. Römer): καὶ α.λασμη | Σερ

b) Ulbert 1986, 173, no. 14 (ed. Römer):

κύριε ὁ θεὸς τῶν δυνάμεων μνήσθε[τι
Σεργίου καὶ τῶν πα[τ]έρων αὐτοῦ καὶ θυγ[ατρὸς
καὶ τῆς ἀδελφῆς αὐτοῦ Α . . . . . α καὶ .[
καὶ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς αὐτῆς πρεσβίαις τοῦ μ[άρτυρος

'Lord, the God of the Powers, remember [- - -] Sergios, and his ancestors, and (his) dau[ghter] and his sister A . . . . . a and [- - -] and her husband, by the intercessions of the [martyr]'

c) Ulbert 1986, 173 no. 17 (ed. Römer): Σέργιο[ς], 'Sergios'.

d) Ulbert 1986, p. 174 no. 25 (ed. Römer):

Σέργιε (
monogram) Σέργιε
. [ ] . . . σ . τι τοῦ δούλ[ου] σου
. δ . . . ἀμήν

'O Sergios! (monogram) O Sergios! [- - -] your servant [- - -] amen'

e) Ulbert 1986, 175, no. 41 (ed. Römer): Σέργι[ς], 'Sergios'

f) Ulbert 1986, 175, no. 42 (ed. Römer): Δανίηλος, 'Daniel'

g) Ulbert 1986, 175 no. 47 (ed. Römer): . . . . λι [. .] Μαριάμ, 'Mary'

h) Ulbert 1986, 175 no. 50 (ed. Römer):

[- - -] Συμεώνης
κύριε σου Σέρ[γιε - - -]

'[- - -] Symeonis. Your lord! Sergios! [- - -]'

i) Ulbert 1986, p. 175 no. 51 (ed. Römer):

+ Ἰωάννης Θέκλα, 'John Thekla'

Cornelia Römer supposes that the mentioned John was neither the Apostle nor the Baptist, but an ascetic (S00371) attested by Theodoret,
Historia Monachorum 23, which is, however, very doubtful. *Thekla is probably the famous female martyr, venerated in Seleukeia/Seleucia, south Asia Minor (S00092).

j) Ulbert 1986, p. 176 no. 60 (ed. Römer):

] Ἰωάννη[ς, 'John'

Cornelia Römer again supposes that the figure mentioned is John, the ascetic attested by Theodoret,
Historia Monachorum 23, which is, however, very doubtful.

k) Ulbert 1986, p. 176 no. 62 (ed. Römer): [- - -]. . . Συμ[εών] . . . , 'Symeon'

l) Ulbert 1986, p. 176 no. 65 (ed. Römer): [- - -]. Μαρι[άμ, 'Mary'

m) Ulbert 1986, p. 176 no. 66 (ed. Römer): [- - -]. ις Βάρλ[ααμ, 'Baarlam'

n) Ulbert 1986, p. 176 no. 73 (ed. Römer):

βωη ηωκωβος ιλιας = βοήθει, Ἰάκωβος Ἠλίας

'Jacob, Elijah, help!'

o) Ulbert 1986, p. 176 no. 74 (ed. Römer):

ἠω[κ]ωβος ἰλίας = Ἰάκωβος Ἠλίας 'Jacob, Elijah'

p) Ulbert 1986, p. 176 no 78 (ed. Römer):

] . . λος Συμεὼ ο δουλ . . . ιλ .

'[- - -] the servant (?) of (?) Symeon; the servant of . . . [- - -]'

Non Liturgical Activity

Saint as patron - of an individual
Visiting graves and shrines

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people
Foreigners (including Barbarians)


Römer, C., "Die griechischen Graffiti", [in:] Ulbert, T., Resafa II: Die Basilika des Heiligen Kreuzes in Resafa-Sergiupolis (Mainz: P. von Zabern, 1986), 171-177.

Khoury, R.G., "Die arabischen Inschriften", [in:] Ulbert, T.,
Resafa II: Die Basilika des Heiligen Kreuzes in Resafa-Sergiupolis (Mainz: P. von Zabern, 1986), 179-180.

Further reading:
Key Fowden, E., The Barbarian Plain: St. Sergius between Rome and Iran (Berkeley, Calif.; London: University of California Press, 1999), 84-86.

Loosley, E.,
The Architecture and Liturgy of the Bema in Fourth-to-Sxth-century Syrian Churches (Boston: Brill, 2012), 28-29; 129-131; 267-272.

Yasin, A.M., "Prayers on site: the materiality of devotional graffiti and the production of early Christian sacred space", in: A. Eastmond (ed.),
Viewing inscriptions in the Late Antique and Medieval World (Cambridge: 2015), 36-60.

Reference works:
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 37, 1460.


From: Resafa 2, plate 52.

From: Resafa 2, plate 53.

From: Resafa 2, plate 54.

From: Resafa 2, plate 54.

Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00023Sergios, soldier and martyr of RusafaΣέργιοςCertain
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΜαριάμUncertain
S00092Thekla, follower of the Apostle PaulΘέκλαUncertain
S00217Elijah, Old Testament prophetἸλίαςCertain
S00280Jacob, Old Testament patriarchἨώ[κ]ωβοςCertain
S00371Ioannes/John, monk of Syria, ob. mid-5th c.ἸωάννηςUncertain
S00727Daniel, Old Testament prophetΔανίηλοςUncertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01461 -