Saint NameUnnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060
Saint Name in Source[- - -]ίων
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Funerary inscriptions
Evidence not before324
Evidence not after400
Activity not before324
Activity not after400
Place of Evidence - RegionAsia Minor
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcPerta
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Perta
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - tomb/grave
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsComposing and translating saint-related texts
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
Relatives of the saint
SourceFragment of a grey marble sarcophagus. Broken and lost at the bottom, and on the right- and left-hand side. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.48 m; W. 0.45 m; Th. 0.14 m; letter height 0.017-0.022 m. The inscription is framed by a tabula ansata and is preceded by a christogram. Seen and copied by Michael Ballance in 1956 at Maydos (area of Perta). First published by Peter Thonemann after Michael Ballance's notebook copy, a photograph, and a line drawing (Ballance archive no. 1956/151).
DiscussionThe inscription is the epitaph for a man, whose name is partially lost ([- - -]ion), and for his mother, Tata, composed by his brother and her son, the deacon Alexandros. Alexandros' brother is described by a series of epithets, which suggest that he was more than an average Christian, perhaps even a martyr.
First, he is described as 'a holy virgin' (ἁγνὸς παρθένος), which points to his sexual abstinence. The fact that the term παρθένος was applied to a male figure may seem strange, but in fact there were other male saints (e.g. the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, John the Apostle, and Basil of Caesarea), who were regularly praised for their virginity and the epithet παρθένος belonged to their official titulature. Here it was probably applied because of the presumed membership of the deceased in a Lycaonian ascetic movement (their dedication to virginity is stressed in the polemical treatise by Amphilochios of Ikonion, see Thonemann 2011, 193).
Secondly, the deceased is described as 'a strong athlete of Christ' (κρατερὸς ἀθλητὴς τοῦ Χριστοῦ); the words 'of Christ' are missing from the inscription and reconstructed, but are very likely to be correct. Thonemann notes that this expression “is particularly striking, since the phrase ἀθλητὴς τοῦ Χριστοῦ is normally used only with reference to martyrs”. He concludes, however, that the phrase is here used in a different sense, probably referring to the oppression of ascetic and charismatic movements by members of the mainstream church. The Lycaonian sects were outlawed by the emperor Theodosius I at the outset of his reign (see C.Th. XVI 5,7,3 – AD 381; XVI 5,9,1 – AD 382; XVI 5,11 – AD 383). The deceased may therefore have been a “heretical” Christian, harassed or even martyred for his opposition to these laws and to the mainstream church, and acknowledged as a martyr by people sharing his beliefs. We must note, however, that the clear technical term μάρτυς/martyr was not used by the author of the inscription (while it appears, for example, in the epitaph for Paulos, martyr of Derbe E00931). It is possible, since the deceased was almost certainly an ascetic, that his athletic contest refers to his successful contests with human frailty, seen here as something comparable to the ἄθλησις of the martyrs.
Dating: probably 4th c. (based on the contents and the identification of the deceased as a member of the 4th c. Lycaonian ascetic movements).
Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua XI, no. 292.
Thonemann, P., "Amphilochius of Iconium and Lycaonian asceticism", The Journal of Roman Studies 101 (2011), no. 2.
Inscriptiones Christianae Graecae database, no. 1495: http://www.epigraph.topoi.org/ica/icamainapp/inscription/show/1495
Bulletin épigraphique (2014), 576.