[iussu venerabili d. n. Constantini]
[m]aximi vic[to]̣r[is ac triumphatoris]
[s]emper aụg(usti) et beạt[issimorum caesarum]
[T.] ̣Fab. Titianus [v. c.] procons(ul) [Asiae memoriam apostolo]
[Io]̣hanni a fu[nda]mentis [aedificandam curavit]
'[By venerable order of our lord Constantine,] the greatest conqueror [and triumphator], forever Augustus and of the most ble[ssed Caesars. Titus] Fabius Titianius, [of clarissimus rank] proconsul [of Asia supervised the construction of the memorial of the Apostle] John from the foundations.'
Text: Feissel 2014 + I. Ephesos III, no. 666d with a hypothetical restoration of line 1 from Feissel 2016, 1228. Trans. P. Nowakowski.
Saint NameJohn the Evangelist : S00042
Saint Name in SourceIohannes
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before324
Evidence not after337
Activity not before324
Activity not after337
Place of Evidence - RegionAsia Minor
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcEphesus
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Ephesus
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsConstruction of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesMonarchs and their family
SourceThe first fragment (A) was copied by Dieter Knibbe in 1961 in the Johanneskirche Depot (then moved to the Domitian Temple Depot), and published in the third volume of Die Inschriften von Ephesos (Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien) in 1980. It had been found at the site of the church of St. John the Evangelist at Ayasoluk.
The second fragment (B) was copied by Denis Feissel in 1998 in the Domitian Temple Depot. Its find-spot is uncertain (perhaps the site of the agora).
Fragment A: H. 0.31 m; W. max. 0.34 m; Th. 0.08 m; letter height 0.06 m
Fragment B: H. 0.345 m; W. max. 0.27 m; Th. 0.085 m; letter height 0.06 m
DiscussionThe inscription certainly commemorates the construction of a building from the foundations by Titus Fabius Titianus while proconsul of Asia. He is a well attested historical figure documented as a senator from Sicily, proconsul of Asia, consul in 337, urban prefect 339-341, praetorian prefect of Gaul 341-349 (PLRE 1, Titianus 6). The inscription must predate his consulship in 337, since this was an office senior to the proconsulship of Asia; this dates our inscription to the reign of Constantine (emperor in the East 324-337).
The reading of line 5 is crucial for understanding this text. Feissel very reasonably reads the surviving partially-damaged first five letters as '̣HANNI', which if correctly read must be the end of the name IOHANNI, the dative form of the name Iohannes. If so, and we find this convincing, the building was apparently constructed to, or for, a John who at this date (when the name of John was not in common circulation) must be the Evangelist John. Feissel entirely hypothetically suggests that a memorial (memoria) was what was constructed. If so, since Titianus was a well known pagan, it is likely that this was an imperial commission rather than an act by the proconsul himself.
The early date and apparent involvement of Constantine are the most important features of this text, apparently testifying to a Constantinian memorial or church to John at Ephesus, poorly documented before Feissel's reading of this inscription (a single coin find under the so-called 'Johannesgrab' on the Ayasoluk hill, see: Thiel 2005, p. 100). This building is likely to have been at Ayasoluk, the site of Justinian's later church as suggested by the well documented provenance of fragment A. The archaeological research at the site (see: Karydis 2015; Thiel 2005, 99-108; Castelfranchi 1999) revealed remnants of possibly a 4th c. squarish building, later extended with four perpendicular halls. For a discussion, whether this was the original martyr shrine of John, and whether it was built over an earlier tomb, see: Karydis 2015 (who argues that it had a cruciform shape from the very beginning) and Thiel 2005, 99-100. It is sometimes disputed if the remnants of a Roman brickwork, found under the 4th c. layers, belonged to a mausoleum, but whether the 4th c. shrine was constructed over an earlier place of cult associated with John (a 2nd c. tomb?), is not clear.
The existence of a martyr shrine to John (martyrium sancti et beati apostolis Iohannis) somewhere at Ephesos is well attested in the 380s when the pilgrim Egeria planned to visit it (Itinerarium 23: see EXXXXXX). An Ephesian apostoleion, almost certainly dedicated to John, is also mentioned in the acts of the council of Ephesus 431. The account says that the shrine was distinguished by visitors from other martyr shrines and that it was controlled by Ephesian bishops (see EXXXXXXX). Procopius also specifically mentions an earlier church at Ayasoluk demolished by Justinian when he built his great church to John the Evangelist, but was uncertain of its date and attributed its building to the Ephesians (De aedif. V 1: see EXXXXXX). Based on the results of excavations and a significant difference between the nave of the 6th c. church (decorated with capitals marked with the names of Justinian and Theodora) and an apparently earlier but also 6th c. transept, Karydis argues that Justinian probably extended the church twice, respectively in the 520s and c. 30 years later. Procopius seemingly describes the first refurbishment (the so-called 'second church'), while the capitals should be ascribed to the second extension (the so-called 'third church').
Feissel, D., “Fabius Titianus, proconsul d’Asie sous Constantin, et les origines du culte de l’Apôtre Jean à Éphèse”, in: M.L. Caldelli, G.L. Gregori (eds.), Epigrafia e ordine senatorio 30 anni dopo, (Tituli 10; Roma: Edizioni Quasar, 2014), 159-166.
I. Ephesos III 666d.
Castelfranchi, F., "Il complesso di San Giovanni ad Efeso nel quadro dell' architettura giustinianea dell' Asia Minore", in: Pillinger et alii 1999, Pillinger, R., Kersten, O., Krinzinger, F., Russo, O. (eds.), Efeso paleocristiana e bizantina = Frühchristliches und byzantinisches Ephesos: Referate des vom 22. bis 24. Februar 1996 im Historischen Institut beim Österreichischen Kulturinstitut in Rom durchgeführten internationalen Kongresses aus Anlass des 100-jährigen Jubiläums der österreichischen Ausgrabungen in Ephesos (Denkschriften: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse 282, Archäologische Forschungen 3, Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999), 89-99.
Feissel, D., "L’épigraphie d’Orient, témoin des mutations de l’empire constantinien", in: O. Brandt, G. Castiglia (eds.), Acta XVI Congressus Internationalis Archaeologiae Christianae (Romae 22-28.9.2013): Costantino e i Costantinidi. L'innovazione Costantiniana, le sue radici e i suoi sviluppi, vol. 2 (Città del Vaticano: Pontifico Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana, 2016), 1228.
Karydis, N., "The evolution of the Church of St. John at Ephesos during the early Byzantine period", Jahreshefte des österreichischen archäologischen Institutes in Wien 84 (2015), 97-128.
Ladstätter, S., "Ephesus", in: Ph. Niewöhner, The Archaeology of Byzantine Anatolia: From the End of Late Antiquity until the Coming of the Turks, New York 2017, 239–248.
Thiel, A., Die Johanneskirche in Ephesos (Spätantike, frühes Christentum, Byzanz. Reihe B, Studien und Perspektiven 16, Wiesbaden: Reichert, 2005), 99-108.
For mosaics from the church, see: V. Scheibelreiter-Gail, Die Mosaiken Westkleinasiens. Tessellate des 2. Jahrhunderts v. Chr. bis Anfang des 7. Jahrhunderts n. Chr. (Vienna: Österreichisches Archäologisches Institut, 2011), pp. 246-250, no. 35.