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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity


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


Greek building inscription on a tower, invoking the help of the God born of *Mary (Mother of Christ S00033), and possibly referring to the intercession of *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023). Found at Fān eš-Shemāli near Apamea on the Orontes (central Syria). Dated 576/577.

Evidence ID

E01891

Type of Evidence

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

Dating formula:

ἔτους ηπω΄.

'In the year 888.'

Text 1:

+ ὁ θεὸς ὁ τεχθὴς ἐκ παρθέν(ου) Μαρίας, βοήθισον τὸ[ν] οἶκον τ(ού)τω[ν], ἀμ[ήν]

'+ O God born from the Virgin Mary, help this house! Amen.'

Text 2:

Μάρα Γεοργί(ου)

'Of Maras (?) son of Georgios (?).'

Text 3:

Φῶς, Ζωή, ΧΜΓ

'Light, Life, ΧΜΓ'

Text 4:

Σερ(γίου) εὐ[χῇ (?)]

'[Through the intercession (?)] of Sergios.'

Text:
IGLS 4, no. 1862.

Places Named after Saint

Towns, villages, districts and fortresses

Non Liturgical Activity

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people

Source

Stone lintel, broken into two adjoining fragments, from the doorway of a tower at Fān eš-Shemāli (also named el-Taḥtāni).

The inscription has a complex layout: see the enclosed images. The dating formula is written in the left-hand margin. The core of Text 1 is carved in two columns, to the left and right of a circle containing a cross. Text 2 is written around the circle, to its left. Text 3 and Text 4 are within the circle: each letter of Text 3 is placed on one arm of the cross, making it a monogram. Text 4 is carved on both sides of the lower arm of the cross. The letters are in low relief.

First published in 1905 by Hans Lucas, from a copy and a photograph by Max von Oppenheim. Republished by René Mouterde in 1955, based on the edition by Lucas.


Discussion

The inscription invokes the help of Jesus, as the God born of Mary, for the tower on which it was inscribed. The editors do not say whether this tower played any military role and was an element of fortifications, or if it belonged to a regular household. In either case, however, the invocation is meant to ensure the security and longevity of the building. The tower was apparently built by the man whose name appears in the genitive form in Text 2. Lucas read this name as Marageorgios; Mouterde as Maras, son of Georgios (pointing to several parallels in Greek inscriptions from Syria). In either case, this name seems to be coined from the Syriac title mār/'lord, master'.

Remarkably, it is not the only case when the name of Mary is associated with towers and fortifications (cf. E01885; E01886; E01887; E01895; E01898). This interesting practice probably derives from the metaphorical description of Mary as the Tower of David and the Ivory Tower. The expressions were originally used in the
Song of Solomon and were known in our region, as evidenced, for example, by an inscription from Nawa (see: IGLS 4, no. 1948).

The monogram Φῶς, Ζωή/'Light, Life', appearing in the middle of the stone, is frequent in eastern Greek Christian inscriptions.

The precise meaning of Text 4, placed next to the monogram, is less clear. Mouterde suggested that this could be a reference to the intercession of Sergios, the popular martyr of Rusafa: Σερ(γίου) εὐ[χῇ], and this interpretation was accepted by Ignacio Peña in his study of places of the saintly cult in Syria. It is, however, possible that we have here the name of another founder, followed by the word 'prayer' or 'vow', for example: Σερ(γίου) εὐ[χή]/'[The prayer (or: As a vow)] of Sergios.' The passage seemed ambiguous also to Lucas who did not even note the possible occurrence of the name Sergios.

Dating: the date, given in the margin as the year 888, is computed according to the Seleucid era, which corresponds to AD 576/577.


Bibliography

Edition:
Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Mondésert, Cl., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 4: Laodicée, Apamène (BAH 61, Paris: Librairie orientalise Paul Geuthner, 1955), no. 1862.

Lucas, H., "Griechische und lateinische Inschriften aus Syrien, Mesopotamien und Kleinasien",
Byzantinische Zeitschrift 14 (1905), 34, no. 36 (from a copy by von Oppenheim).

Further reading:
Peña, I., Lieux de pèlerinage en Syrie (Milan: Franciscan Printing Press, 2000), 14, 23.

Images



Drawing. From: Lucas 1905, 34.


Photograph. From: Lucas 1905, Abb. 8.






















Record Created By

Paweł Nowakowski

Date Last Modified

25/10/2017

Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00023Sergios, soldier and martyr of RusafaΣέργιοςUncertain
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, E01891 - http://csla.history.ox.ac.uk/record.php?recid=E01891