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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


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


Greek inscriptions commemorating the construction of an oratory (eukterion) of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033) by two men of importance (provincial tax-officers), of the rank of megaloprepestatoi. Found at Rasm al-Hagal, to the southeast of Chalkis and Beroia/Aleppo (north Syria). One of them is dated 553/554 or 555/556.

Evidence ID

E01790

Type of Evidence

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

Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)

Inscription 1:

Left-hand fragment of a basalt lintel. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.51 m; W. 0.87 m; letter height 0.09 m (letters in low-relief).

When recorded, the fragment was displayed over the doorway of a building, accessed by a gate in the extension of the south outer wall of a local fortified storage building. Copied by René Mouterde, photographed by A. Beaulieu. First published with a drawing by Mouterde and Louis Jalabert in 1939.

+ εὐκτήριον [τῆς Θεοτόκου καὶ]
ἀειπαρθέν[ου Μαρίας ἀνέστη]
πρεσβίαις [- - - - - - - - -].
ὁ θεὸς σωτ[ήριόν μου (?) - - -].

'+ The oratory [of the God-Bearer (
Theotokos) and] forever virgin [Mary was erected] through the intercessions [- - -]. God is [my salvation (?) - - -].'

Text:
IGLS 2, no. 319.

Though the inscription is very fragmentarily preserved, it is certain that it commemorated the construction of a shrine (
eukterion) dedicated to Mary, as the epithet ἀειπαρθένος/'forever virgin' occurs in line 2. It is probable that this shrine was the building where our lintel was found. It is possible that Mary (or another saint) was mentioned again in line 3, as the figure whose intercession eased the construction. The belief that patron saints of churches interceded for the successful completion of their sanctuaries was widely accepted in the East and sometimes mentioned in building inscriptions (see, for example: E00899; E00913; E00939; E01079; E01081; E01355; E01688).

Dating: The lost fragments of the inscription might have contained a dating formula. Without it we can only say that this inscription is probably contemporary to Inscription 2 (see below), dated 553/554 or 555/556.

Inscription 2:

Three conjoining fragments of a basalt lintel. Fragment A contains the left-hand end of the inscription. H. 0.44 m; W. 0.38 m. Fragment B contains the right-hand end. H. 0.44 m; W. 0.38 m. Letter height 0.09 m (letters in low-relief). Fragment C, the middle one, was only later examined by René Mouterde, and published without any description in 1939.

Found at the northeast sector of the area of the oratory of Mary attested by Inscription 1, close to a Syriac inscription, and the west outer wall of the church.

+ ἐκτίσ<θ>η διὰ τῶν μεγαλωπρ(επεστάτων)
κύρρων Λεοντίου (καὶ) Στεφάν(ου) εἰς <τ>ιμ<ὴν> τῆς ἁγ[ί]-
ας Θεοτό[κ]ου Μαρίας + τοῦ ξεωʹ, [ἰν]δ(ικτιῶνος) δʹ.

1. μεγαλωπρρ stone

'It was built by the lords Leontios and Stephanos, of the rank of
megaloprepestatoi, for the glory of the Holy God-Bearer (Theotokos) Maria. (The year) 685, 4th indiction.'

Text:
IGLS 2, no. 320 with addendum: p. 382.

The first edition of the inscription, including only Fragments A and B, contained a reconstruction of the middle section by Mouterde. Since, after the recovery of Fragment C, this reconstruction proved to be erroneous, we do not reproduce it here.

Given the find-spot of the inscription, we can safely assume that the shrine mentioned here, is the oratory from Inscription 1. Inscription 2 provides us with the date of the construction: the 685th year of the Seleucid era, which corresponds to AD 553/554. Interestingly, the fourth indiction year, also mentioned in the dating formula, does not fit this date, as the closest fourth indiction fell in AD 555/556. One of these dates must be erroneous.

The founders of the church are Leontios and Stephanos, people of the rank of
megaloprepestatoi. Other inscription from this same site present them as brothers, and trakteutai, provincial tax-officers. They also contributed to the construction of another church and a fortified storage building. In IGLS II 318 (revised in Mouterde & Poidebard 1945, 203-204, no. 31) Mouterde was unable to restore their title which appeared as ΟΥΡ in the drawing, and eventually understood it as an abbreviated name, nomen Aurelius: Αὐρ(ηλίων). This inscription proves that it should be taken as κύρ(ρων) = κύρ(ιων), or 'the lords'.

Cult Places

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

Non Liturgical Activity

Prayer/supplication/invocation
Construction of cult buildings

Miracles

Saint aiding or preventing the construction of a cult building

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Officials
Aristocrats

Bibliography

Edition:
Mouterde, R., Jalabert, L., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 2: Chalcidique et Antiochène: nos 257-698 (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1939), nos. 319-320 and p. 382 (addendum).

Further reading:
Mouterde, R., Poidebard, A., Le limes de Chalcis: organisation de la steppe en haute Syrie romaine: documents aériens et épigraphiques (Paris: P. Geuthner 1945), 203-204, no. 31.

Images



Drawing of Inscription 1. From: IGLS 2, 187.


Drawing of Fragments A and B of Inscription 2. From: IGLS 2, 188.






















Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified

26/12/2019

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, E01790 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E01790