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E01208: Greek inscription on a sarcophagus with an epitaph, probably for a bishop (unnamed) who preached on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, considered by the locals as a successful intercessor. Found near Laphiona (Lesbos, the Aegean Islands). Probably 4th-5th c.

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posted on 15.03.2016, 00:00 by pnowakowski
+ ὁ τῆς Τριάδος κῆρυξ
καὶ τῆς π̣αρθ̣ε̣νίας φύλαξ
Α καὶ τοῦ Χ(ριστο)ῦ φίλος Ω
ἐνθάδε κατάκιται
ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν εὐχόμενος

"Α + The herald of the Trinity and the guardian of virginity and a friend of Christ lies here, praying for us. Ω"

Text: Charitonidis 1968, 54.

History

Evidence ID

E01208

Saint Name

Alexandros, bishop of Alexandria, ob. 326 or 328 : S00733 Unnamed saints (or name lost) : S00518

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

320

Evidence not after

500

Activity not before

320

Activity not after

500

Place of Evidence - Region

Aegean islands and Cyprus Aegean islands and Cyprus Aegean islands and Cyprus

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Lesbos Laphiona Methymna

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Lesbos Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia Laphiona Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia Methymna Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Heretics

Source

An inscribed sarcophagus, lying near an early Christian basilica in the hills in the area of modern Laphiona (close to Methymna, Lesbos, the Aegean Islands). The inscription is framed by a tabula ansata.

Discussion

The inscription is the epitaph for an unnamed person, described as the 'herald of the Trinity' (ὁ τῆς Τριάδος κῆρυξ) and the 'guardian of virginity' (τῆς παρθενίας φύλαξ). The ending of the epitaph implies that the person had the ability to intercede for common Christians ('praying for us' / ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν εὐχόμενος). Therefore, as argued by Kaldellis and Efthymiadis, it is possible that the epitaph was composed for a person involved in the Arian controversy that was considered a holy man with intercessionary powers by the inhabitants of Lesbos. A local folklore tradition associates the church, near which the sarcophagus is located, with *Alexandros, bishop of Alexandria, to whom Arius, the founder of the Arian heresy, was subordinated as a presbyter. Alexandros was said to have been the first opponent of Arius' teachings on the inequality of Son and Father. The tradition says also that Alexandros himself was buried in the tomb near Laphiona and that the epitaph was composed precisely for him. This is, however, unsound. Anthony Kaldellis and Stephanos Efthymiadis, the editors of The Prosopography of Byzantine Lesbos, rightly note that it is very unlikely that Alexandros would have been buried in such a remote place. It is more probable that the tomb contained the body of a Nicaean missionary, who preached to the locals on the Holy Trinity, and probably constructed the church. Georgios Deligiannakis (2015) has recently proved that bishops of Lesbos were often open supporters of the Arian creed or sympathised with that doctrinal option. Therefore, the presence of a Nicene 'mission' on the island is not unlikely. If Kaldellis' and Efthymiadis' interpretation is correct, this may be a very rare case of a bishop, portrayed as a saint and successful intercessor in an epigrahic source. Normally, bishops and living holy men were rarely mentioned in inscriptions as saints – the majority of them refers to the Apostles, other New Testament figures, martyrs, and Archangels. Dating is based on the contents and the archaeological context of the basilica.

Bibliography

Edition: Kaldellis, A.E., Λέσβος και ανατολική Μεσόγειος κατά τη ρωμαϊκή και πρώιμη βυζαντινή περίοδο (100 π.Χ.–600 μ.Χ) (Thessaloniki: ΗΡΟΔΟΤΟΣ, 2002), 146, 195-218. Charitonidis, S., Παλαιοχριστιανικὴ τοπογραφία τῆς Λέσβου, ΑΡΧΑΙΟΛΟΓΙΚΟΝ ΔΕΛΤΙΟΝ 23 (1968) ΜΕΡΟΣ Α' - ΜΕΛΕΤΑΙ, 53-56 (with references to earlier editions of the inscription, offering erroneous readings). Further reading: Deligiannakis, G., "Heresy and late antique epigraphy in an island landscape: exploring the limits of the archaeological evidence", in: K. Bolle, C. Machado, C. Witschel (eds.), The Epigraphic Culture(s) of Late Antiquity (Heidelberger althistorische Beiträge und epigraphische Studien, Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2017), 521-522. Kaldellis, A., Efthymiadis, S., The Prosopography of Byzantine Lesbos, 284-1355 A.D. A Contribution to the Social History of the Byzantine Province (Denkschriften, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse 403, Denkschriften, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse. Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung 22, Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2010), 54 (with a list of references to other studies). Touchais, G., "Chronique des fouilles et découvertes archéologiques en Grèce en 1976", Bulletin de correspondance hellénique 101 (1977), 624. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1969), 421.

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