Saint NamePolycarp, bishop and martyr, and other martyrs in Smyrna, ob. 2nd c. : S00004
Saint Name in SourceΠολύκαρπος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements
Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before400
Evidence not after1300
Activity not before400
Activity not after1300
Place of Evidence - RegionAegean islands and Cyprus
Aegean islands and Cyprus
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcLesbos
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Lesbos
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
Other lay individuals/ people
SourceThe inscription is engraved facing downwards, on the inner surface of an arch, in the basilica of St Polycarp, located in the southern suburb of Mytilene (Lesbos, the Aegean Islands). There is no detailed description of the inscription's dimensions. Seen and copied by Seraphim Charitonidis between 1960 and 1964.
DiscussionThe inscription is an invocation of Polykarpos, bishop and martyr of Smyrna (ob. 2nd c., S00004). As Lesbos lies just opposite Smyrna, we can suppose that his cult on the island developed because of the vicinity of the tomb of the martyr.
Polykarpos is not a saint frequently referred to in dedicatory inscriptions and invocations from Anatolia and the Cyclades, but an inscription from Ephesos (see: E00708) may prove that the bishops of Smyrna used him to assert their peculiar ecclesiastical status, as Polykarpow was said to have been a disciple of *John the Apostle and Evangelist, and thus an inheritor of his extraordinary, mystical knowledge.
The invocation from Mytilene is, unfortunately, very fragmentarily preserved. Charitonidis completed the word appearing after the name of the saint as κλῆρος (in the plural form), which may refer either to 'clergy', for whom the aid of the saint is sought, or to 'lands' placed under the protection of the saint, i.e. the whole province, city, or specific estates owned by the church. The invocation ends with a request for protection for a certain man or for a group, perhaps even the mentioned clerics, as the pronoun αὐτόν could be read as a misspelt plural form: αὐτõν.
Charitonidis, S., Παλαιοχριστιανικὴ τοπογραφία τῆς Λέσβου, ΑΡΧΑΙΟΛΟΓΙΚΟΝ ΔΕΛΤΙΟΝ 23 (1968) ΜΕΡΟΣ Α' - ΜΕΛΕΤΑΙ, 21.
Kiourtzian, G., "Pietas insulariorum", [in:] Eupsychia: mélanges offerts à Hélène Ahrweiler, vol. 2 (Série Byzantina Sorbonensia 16, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1998), 376.
Bulletin épigraphique (1969), 421.