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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


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


Greek inscription with an invocation of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), by the founder of a church or a fort, a military dux Fredoulf. Found at ar-Ruwayb in Djebel Ḥaṣṣ, near Chalkis, Beroia/Aleppo, and Anasartha (north Syria). Dated 551.

Evidence ID

E01690

Type of Evidence

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

Feissel's edition:

+ ἁγία ἔνδοξε Θ- εοτόκε ἀειπ-
άρθενε Μαρία φ- ύλαξον τὸν ἐν-
δοξότ{ι}α(τον) ἰλλούσ- τρ(ιον) καὶ δοῦκα Φρεδ-
ουλφ τὸν σὸν δοῦλο- ν τὸν ἐγίραντα
̣τὸν τ-
όπον τοῦτον εἰς δόξαν
̣σ- ου καὶ τοῦ ἐκ σ̣ο̣ῦ τεχθέντ-
ος Θεοῦ Λόγου ἐν μ(ηνὶ) Σ- επτεμβρίῳ ἰ
̣ν-
δ(ικτιῶνος) χρ(όνοις) ει΄ἄρξαντο<ς το>ῦ γξω΄ ἔτους

'+ Holy (and) glorious God-Bearer, forever virgin Mary, protect the most glorious
illustris dux Fredoulf, your servant, who erected this place to the glory of you and of God the Word, begotten from you. In the month of September, at the times of the 15th indiction, when the year 863 was beginning.'

Text: Feissel 2016.


Mouterde's edition

+ ἁγία, ἐνδοξε Θ- εοτόκε ἀειπ-
αρθένε Μαρία, φ- ύλαξον τὸν ἐν-
δοξότ(ατον) ἁλ{λ}οῦ ἐρ- γολά<β>ον ἀφρ(οῦ) Θεόδ-
ουλο(ν), τὸν σὸν δοῦλο- ν τὸν ἐγίραντα τὸν τ-
όπον τοῦτον εἰς δόξαν. θ(εο)ῦ καὶ τοῦ ἐξ οὗ τεχθέ[ντ]-
ος θεοῦ Λόγου, ἐν μ(ηνὶ) Σ- επτεμβρίῳ
α΄, χρ(όνοι)ς ἀρκαντος [το]ῦ εξω΄ ἔτους


'+ Holy (and) glorious God-Bearer, forever virgin Mary, protect Theodoulos, the most glorious foam salt jobber (?), your servant who erected this place to the glory of God, from whom also God the Word was begotten. On the first (day) of the month of September, at the time when year 865 was beginning.'

Text: Mouterde & Poidebard 1945, 190-191, no. 17. Translation: Trombley 2004, 77, lightly adapted.

Liturgical Activities

Ceremony of dedication

Festivals

Anniversary of church/altar dedication

Cult Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Places Named after Saint

Towns, villages, districts and fortresses

Non Liturgical Activity

Prayer/supplication/invocation
Construction of cult buildings
Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Merchants and artisans
Officials
Soldiers
Aristocrats

Source

A large basalt lintel. H. 0.54 m; W. 2.29 m; letter height 0.55 m. Decorated in the centre with a carving of a cross within a circle, with the letters Α and Ω below its horizontal arms.

Found among ruins of unidentified structures at ar-Ruwayb. Copied and photographed by René Mouterde before 1945. Revisited by Denis Feissel in 1982 (drawing and photographs).


Discussion

The inscription commemorates the construction of a building named τόπος/'place, location': normally a church, but here possibly a fort (as argued by Feissel, given the identity of the founder, see below). If the building is a church, it was probably dedicated to Mary, as the inscription says that the building 'was erected to her glory'. Mary is also invoked in the first part of the text and asked to protect the founder.

René Mouterde believed that the name and the profession of the founder were mentioned in lines 2-4: τὸν ἐνδοξότ(ατον) ἁλ{λ}οῦ ἐργολά<β>ον ἀφρ(οῦ) Θεόδουλο(ν) / 'Theodoulos, the most glorious foam salt jobber'. Such an identification seemed plausible as abundant salt marshes were situated in the nearby area, at Lake Gabboula, and between Djebel Ḥaṣṣ and the west bank of Euphrates, and played an important role in the local economy. The syntax of the phrase is, however, clumsy, which was noted already by Louis Robert in 1946, and one could suppose that the passage should be read otherwise. The reading of this passage also troubled other scholars: Pierre Louis Gatier, Luke Lavan, and Frank Trombley. In 2001 Gatier wrote that Denis Feissel was going to publish a new edition of this inscription, and this study was published in 2016 (see: Gatier 2001, 98, note 37; Trombley 2004, 77; Feissel 2016).

Having examined the stone himself and taken detailed photographs, Feissel offered significant improvements in readings of lines 3-7. First of all, he read the name of the founder of the church as the most glorious
illustris dux Fredoulf, an otherwise unattested figure. If this reading is correct (and Feissel's explanations are convincing), this man must have been a military commander of the eastern limes with the rank of gloriosissimus illustris (which is slightly above the normal dignity of duces, but not against 6th c. practice), probably of Germanic origin: possibly a Frank or a Goth (but as, Feissel says, a Goth would have been unlikely to accept the Chalcedonian creed, which is implied by the text, see below). For other Germanic duces, active on the eastern limes (e.g. Ildiger in 543; Eilifredas in 586), see: PLRE 3, 1511-1514.

Feissel concludes that in the mid-6th c. Syria was divided among several
duces, attached to specific cities, and commanding only a limited number of soldiers, in contrast to the situation of the mid-5th c., when one dux exercised authority over the whole Syria and Euphratesia. It is also likely that the construction of our church or fort followed the restoration of the city walls of Chalkis by Justinian, completed just several months earlier. Our dux was probably based in Anasartha, as he is not mentioned at Chalkis in inscriptions commemorating this restoration.

Dating: Mouterde read the date as 1st September of the year 865 of the Seleucid era, corresponding to 1st September AD 553, and noted that the inscription was carved just three months after the second ecumenical council of Constantinople (condemning the so-called
Three Chapters), and possibly reproduced the phrasing of its decisions, with respect to the titles of Mary and the divinity of the Word (Logos). Feissel reads the date as September of the year 863 of the same era (i.e. September 551), which means that the inscription predates the council and echoes rather the contents of the Edictum de recta fide, issued by Justinian probably in August of 551 and later confirmed by the council of 553. Feissel says that as the author of the inscription was a high-ranking military man, he could have had access to the text of the edict even within one or two months after its promulgation.

Bibliography

Edition:
Feissel, D., "Un nouveau duc syrien du VIe siècle aux environs d’Anasartha", Syria 93 (2016), forthcoming (we are grateful to the author for sharing the final version of the manuscript of the paper before its publication).

Mouterde, R., Poidebard, A.,
Le limes de Chalcis: organisation de la steppe en haute Syrie romaine: documents aériens et épigraphiques (Paris: P. Geuthner 1945), 190-191, no. 17.

Further reading:
Deschamps, P., "La colonisation romaine de la Haute-Syrie. Review: R. Mouterde et A. Poidebard. Le Limes de Chalcis: organisation de la steppe en Haute-Syrie romaine. Documents aériens et épigraphiques", Journal des savants (1945), 103.

Gatier, P.-L., "«Grande» ou «petite Syrie Seconde»? Pour une géographie historique de la Syrie intérieure protobyzantine",
Travaux de la Maison de l'Orient méditerranéen 36 (2001), 98, note 37.

Trombley F.R., "Epigraphic data on village culture and social institutions: an interregional comparison (Syria, Phoenice Libanensis and Arabia)", Bodwen, W., Lavan, L., Machado, C. (eds.),
Recent Research on the Late Antique Countryside (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2004), 77.

Reference works:
Bulletin épigraphique (1946-1947), 204.

Images



Mouterde's photograph. From Feissel 2016.


Mouterde's drawing. From Feissel 2016.


Feissel's photograph. From Feissel 2016.




















Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified

30/10/2017

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristΜαρίαCertain


Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Paweł Nowakowski, Cult of Saints, E01690 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E01690