Saint NameJohn the Baptist : S00020
Saint Name in SourceΠρόδρομος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Funerary inscriptions
Literary - Poems
Evidence not before450
Evidence not after600
Activity not before450
Activity not after600
Place of Evidence - RegionAsia Minor
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcAmisos
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Amisos
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesOther lay individuals/ people
SourceA plaque found by Henri Grégoire in 1907 at Kara-Samsoun (area of Amisos, Helenopontus, north-eastern Asia Minor), near a rock-cut pagan tomb, transformed into a Christian place of cult (the so-called 'Monastiri'). A survey of the site revealed several pagan burials and subsequent Christian ones. Grégoire added that a local folk tradition associated this place with the cult of John the Baptist. The plaque is currently kept in the Musée du Cinquantenaire (Brussels, Belgium). It was donated by an anonymous person. H. 0.27 m; W. 0.69 m; Th. 0.03 m; letter height 0.025-0.04 m. A squeeze by Denis Feissel is available.
We are grateful to Denis Feissel for sharing with us photograph of this inscription.
DiscussionThe inscription attracted considerable attention from scholars primarily because it was considered as a classic example of an epitaph alluding to a burial ad sanctos, i.e. a burial placed close to the relics of a saint or to a sanctuary dedicated to a saint. The text says that the deceased, a certain Eugraphios, was buried close or even inside a sanctuary of John the Forerunner, to whom he had committed his soul. However, despite the fame gained by this inscription, no one has ever addressed its possible metric character. The commentary, included in the first edition does not refer to this option, other scholars discussing the object have never suggested it either. The inscription was not reprinted either by Reinhold Merkelbach and Josef Stauber in the relevant section devoted to metric inscriptions from Amisos in the second volume of Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten or by Werner Peek in Griechische Versinschriften. I discuss the issue in a forthcoming paper: Saint John the Forerunner in Amisus. A note on a Christian epitaph.
The epitaph seems at least to be an example of a poetic attempt, perhaps unsuccessful. The most intriguing element of the inscription is its beginning, i.e. the word μάκαρ employed to address the saint. In inscriptions saints normally are simply called ἅγιοι, while the adjective μάκαρ was reserved for the common deceased and used exclusively in metric epitaphs, see: Sartre-Fauriat 2000, 297-298. Among Anatolian inscriptions there is, however, a single parallel text in which a saint was addressed by the word μάκαρ. It is an inscription from Ephesos that consists of a single hexameter verse which is recorded in The Greek Anthology (see E00565). It is presumed to have accompanied a picture of St. John the Apostle. The inscription deals with the dedication of war spoils to the saint by the emperor Justinian. The verse reads: σοί, μάκαρ, ἔκ σεο δῶκα τάπερ πόρες ἄμμιν ἄρηϊ ('To Thee, O blessed one, from Thee, I give the spoils Thou gavest me in war' – trans. W.R. Paton). The similarity of these texts is striking: both begin in the same way, with an expression σοί, μάκαρ, in both the phrase addresses a saint, and in both the name of the saint is John (though the identities of these Johns differ). Outside Anatolia, the epithet μάκαρ is used to address a saint in a fragmentary inscription (E06639) from Kephalari (northeastern Peloponnese), invoking the Apostle *Paul.
The phrase σοί, μάκαρ is a perfect dactyl, which has good poetic tradition. It was used by both pagan and Christian authors. The earliest attested occurrence of the phrase σοί, μάκαρ is in the first line of the first book of Cynegetica written by an early 3rd c. author, Oppian of Apameia. He addresses the emperor Caracalla in the following manner: σοί, μάκαρ, ἀείδω, γαίης ἐρικυδὲς ἔρεισμα ('To Thee, blessed one, I sing: Thou glorious bulwark of the earth' – transl. A.W. Mair).
Immediately after the phrase σοί, μάκαρ follows the name Prodromos (Forerunner) in the vocative. The usage of this by-name is unusual. In other inscriptions from Asia Minor (invocations and boundary stones) John the Baptist is, normally, called Ioannes or Baptistes. It may be that the word Πρόδρομε was chosen because it also is a dactyl. Nevertheless, its position in the text is inconvenient. The two consonants at the beginning of the word (πρ: muta cum liquida) and the final consonant (ρ) of μάκαρ may cause the undesirable lengthening of the final α in μάκαρ. Though the phrase ἀνέθησεν ἑαυτόν can be read as the conclusion of a hexameter verse, it does not fit the preceding words and together they do not form a correct hexameter verse.
The recognition of the metre in subsequent sections is even more difficult. It appears that the last three lines are written in prose or perhaps in rhythmical cola.
The last word in line 5 has been hitherto interpreted by editors as an abbreviated (or completed on another slab) dating formula, denoting the fourth: year, day of the month, or day of the week. However, Denis Feissel suggested to us that this might be the ending of the last word from line 4. If so, it is possible that we have here the participle τὸν προσ|τεταγ(ένον) describing the tomb of Eugraphios and the whole passage would read: ἀποφυγὴν πάντων ὀδυνηρῶν τὸν προσ\τεταγ(ένον)/ τάφον εὑράμενος / 'He found the refuge from all pains, the tomb placed here.'
Dating: 5th-6th c. (based on the lettering, the contents and the presumed metre).
Guarducci, M. (ed.), Epigrafia greca, vol. 4: Epigrafi sacre pagane e cristiane (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato - Libreria dello Stato, 1978), 407.
Anderson, J.G.C., Cumont, F., Grégoire, H., Studia Pontica, vol. 3, part 1: Recueil des inscriptions grecques et latines du Ponte et de l'Arménie (Brussels: Lamertin, 1910), no. 13.
Cumont, F., Musées royaux du Cinquanténaire. Catalogue des sculptures et inscriptions antiques (Brussels: Vromant, 1913), 165-166, no. 140.
Grégoire, H., "Rapport sur un voyage d'exploration dans le Pont et en Cappdoce", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 33 (1909), 4-5.
Grégoire, H., "Rapport sur un voyage d'exploration dans le Pont et en Cappdoce", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 33 (1909), 145.
Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie, IX, Asie Mineure", Analecta Bollandiana 71 (1953), 95.
Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., "Inscriptions grecques chrétiennes", Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et liturgie, vol. 7/1 (Paris: Librarie Letouzey et Ané, 1926), col. 655.
Nowakowski, P., "St. John the Forerunner in Amisus: A note on a Christian epitaph", Philia 3 (2017), 159-164.
Robert, L., "Inscriptions métriques", Gnomon (1959), 23, note 3 (only mentioned) = Opera Minora Selecta, vol. 3 (Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1969).
Schultze, V., Altchristliche Städte und Landschaften, vol. 2, part 1 (Leipzig: Leipz. &c, 1922), 163.
Bulletin épigraphique (1965), 2 (only mentioned).
Delehaye, H., "Bulletin des publications hagiographiques", Analecta Bollandiana 30 (1911), 335.