Saint NameMary, Mother of Christ : S00033
Saints, name wholly or largely lost : S01744
Menas, soldier and martyr Abu Mena : S00073
Saint Name in SourceΘεοτόκος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before400
Evidence not after500
Activity not before400
Activity not after500
Place of Evidence - RegionAegean islands and Cyprus
Aegean islands and Cyprus
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcCrete
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Crete
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
SourceFragment of a limestone plaque. Broken and lost on the right-hand side and bottom. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.25 m; W. 0.21 m; Th. 0.047 m; letter height 0.02-0.03 m.
Found in the collection in Rhethymnon and copied by Federico Halbherr before 1896. Said to have been brought from Prines Mylopotamou (near Eleutherna, central-west Crete). Revisited and reexamined by Margherita Guarducci before 1939. Now in the Archaeological Museum in Rhethymnon.
DiscussionFederico Halbherr, the first editor of the inscription, interpreted it as an invocation of Mary as the God-Bearer, possibly asked to intercede on behalf of a deceased person. He supposed that the word 'Israel' in line 5, here spellt 'Isdrael', came from a Biblical expression, for example ὁ θεὸς τῶν φυλῶν τοῦ Ἰσραήλ / 'God of the twelve tribes of Israel', which occurs in an inscription from Ikonion in Lycaonia, central Asia Minor (Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, no. 9270). Alternatively, he added, the prayer could be a request to receive the presumed buried person into the lap of Israel.
Having examined the stone, Margherita Guarducci noted that the reconstruction offered by Halbherr, which we reprint in the apparatus, left no place for the name of the deceased person. The name should be placed in the first line, immediately after the imperative διάσωσον/'preserve'. She also suggested that the saint, whose name was lost in line 3, could have been the patron saint of the deceased.
The recent reconstruction by Anastasios Bandy is based on the supposition that the inscription is not an epitaph, but a request for the protection of a land or the whole Christian world/oikoumene ('the Land of the holy ones of Israel', understood as the universal Christian community) through the intercessions of Mary and a saint, whose name is lost (line 3). Bandy also supposes that such was the purpose of this text, because the word ἀπόστρεψον/'turn away' (every evil) is unlikely to be used with reference to a deceased person. According to Bandy, one could speculate that the name of the saint in line 3 was Menas, as the lacuna is very short, and the saint enjoyed extraordinary popularity in Egypt, and widely in a slightly later period.
Dating: Guarducci and Bandy date the inscription to the 5th c., based on the form of letters.
Bandy, A.C., (ed.), The Greek Christian Inscriptions of Crete (Athens: Christian Archaeological Society, 1971), no. 85.
Guarducci, M., Inscriptiones Creticae, vol. 2: Tituli Cretae occidentalis (Rome: Libreria dello Stato, 1939), no. 41.
Gerola, G., Monumenti veneti nell'isola di Creta, vol. 4 (Venice 1932), 408, no. 3.
Petroulakes, E.N., "", Αρχαιολογική Εφημερίς 1914, 227, no. 7.
Halbherr, F., "Cretan Expedition. II. Christian Inscriptions", The American Journal of Archaeology and of the History of the Fine Arts 11 (1896), 607-608, no. 4.
"", Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et liturgie, vol. 3/2 (Paris: Librarie Letouzey et Ané, ____), vol. 3, part 2, col. 3031, no. 4.
Halkin, F., "L'Egypte, Chypre, la Crète et les autres îles grecques. La Grèce continentale et les pays balkaniques. L'Italie et la Sycylie", Analecta Bollandiana 70 (1952), 120.
Kiourtzian, G., "Pietas insulariorum", [in:] Eupsychia: mélanges offerts à Hélène Ahrweiler, vol. 2 (Byzantina Sorbonensia 16, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1998), 375.