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E01427: Floor-mosaics with Greek and Syriac inscriptions commemorating the construction of a basilica under the supervision of an abbot of a monastery of the Holy Alexander (probably *Alexander the Akoimetos, S00839). Found in Halawe, between Hierapolis-Bambyke in Syria and Rusafa, on the Euphrates (west Mesopotamia/Osroene). Dated 471.

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posted on 01.06.2016, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

The inscription is within a tabula ansata sited between the middle of the nave and the bema, in the eastern and central section of a large framed panel. Width of the inscribed field: c. 2.10 m. The completions are based on the parallel Syriac text:

ἔτ[ους ψπβ΄ ἐν] μηνὶ Δύστρου ἐν ἡμέραις τῶν
[ἡμῶν εὐλαβεσ]τάτων Νόννου ἐπισκόπου καὶ
[Σεργίου ἀρχ]ι̣μ[αν]δρίτου μονε͂ς τοῦ ἁγίου
[Ἀλεξάνδρου - - -εἰς μν]ημόσυνον αἰώνι-
ο[ν καὶ - - - τ]ῶν ἐνώπιον τοῦ
θ[εοῦ] καὶ [πάντων τῶν κοινωνησάντ]ων τῷ ἔργῳ
[μνήσθητι, Κύριε θεός. ἀμή]ν

2. [ἡμῶν εὐλαβεσ]τάτων or [ἡμῶν θεοφιλεσ]τάτων Donceel-Voûte || 4-5. διὰ ἐλε]ημοσηνõν Διωνι|σ[ίου Donceel-Voûte || 6-7. θ[εοῦ] καὶ [πάντων τῶν καρποφορησάντ]ων τῷ ἔργῳ | [καὶ τοῦ ἁμαρτολοῦ τοῦ γράψαντος (ψηφόσαντος?) τοῦτο. ἀμή]ν

'In the year [782, in] the month of Dystros, in the days of [our most pious]: bishop Nonnos and [Sergios,] the abbot (archimandrite) of the monastery of the Holy [Alexander - - - for the] everlasting remembrance [and - - -] of those before God and [of all those who] participated in this work. [O God, the Lord, remember (about them)! Amen.]'

Text: Donceel-Voûte 1988, 148-149 with completions by Denis Feissel, CEByz, 569-570.

Inscription 2:

The inscription is sited outside the frame of the panel enclosing Inscription 1, near the apse, in the right-hand part of the nave, alongside a step leading to the sanctuary. The text is within a tabula ansata.

ܒ]ܚܕ ܐܕܪ ܕܫܢܬ ܫܒܥ ܡܐܐ ܘܬܡܢܐܝܢ
ܘܬܖ̈ܬܝܢ ܒܝܘܡܝ ܩܕܝܫܐ ܡܪ ܢܘܢܐ
ܐܦܝܣܩܘܦܐ ܘܡܪ ܣܪܓܝܤ ܪܝܫ
ܕܝܪܐ ܕܕܝܪܐ ܕܛܘܒܢܐ ܡܪ
ܐܠܟܣܢܕܪܐ ܕܘܟܪܢܗܘܢ
ܢܗܘܐ ܠܒܘܪܟܬܐ ܩܕܡ ܐܠܗܐ
ܘܕܟܠ ܡܢ ܕܐܫܬܘܬܦ ܒܥܒܕܐ
ܘܕܚܛܝܐ ܕܪܫܡ ܟܬܝܒ̈ܬܐ ܗܠܝܢ
ܐܡܝܢ

'On the 1st day of (the month of) Adār, in the year 782, in the days of the holy bishop Mar Nōnā and Mar Sargīs, the abbot (archimandrite) of the monastery of the blessed Alexander. May their memory be blessed before God, and (the memory) of all those, who took part in this work, and of the sinner, who engraved this inscription. Amen.'

Text: Donceel-Voûte 1988, 148-149. Translation: S. Minov.

Inscription 3:

Sited in the central-left-hand section of the nave, within a small panel. The text is framed by a tabula ansata, decorated with floral motifs.

ἡ ἐλεύθερα
Κόσμια καὶ
ὁ τιμ(ιώτατος) Κοσμᾶς
ἐκοινώνη-
σαν ἐν τῷ
ἔργῳ τούτῳ

'The wife Kosmia and the most dignified Kosmas, participated in this work.'

Text: Donceel-Voûte 1988, 147.

History

Evidence ID

E01427

Saint Name

Alexander the Akoimetos, holy monk and abbot, ob. c. 430 : S00839

Saint Name in Source

Ἀλέξανδρος

Image Caption 1

Inscription 3; from: Donceel-Voûte 1988, 146.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 2 (Syriac); from: Donceel-Voûte 1988, 147.

Image Caption 3

Plan of the basilica; from: Donceel-Voûte 1988, 145.

Image Caption 4

Mosaic panels; from: Donceel-Voûte 1988, 148.

Image Caption 5

Mosaic panels; from: Donceel-Voûte 1988, 146.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

471

Evidence not after

471

Activity not before

471

Activity not after

471

Place of Evidence - Region

Mesopotamia Syria with Phoenicia Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Halawe (Houeidjit Halaoua) Resapha-Sergiopolis Hierapolis Euphratensis

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

Halawe (Houeidjit Halaoua) Edessa Edessa Ἔδεσσα Edessa Resapha-Sergiopolis Thabbora Thabbora Hierapolis Euphratensis Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - abbots Merchants and artisans

Source

The remains of the basilica in Halawe (Houeidjit Halaoua), at the presumed site of the Monastery of Alexander the Akoimetos, were discovered in 1971. Its mosaic floors were examined and removed in the autumn of 1971 by Raïf Hafez. A survey of the preserved foundations, conducted by Janine and Jean-Charles Balty, followed in 1972. The basilica appears to have been a one-aisled structure. The uncovered dimensions of the nave are: W. c. 9 m; L. 17.40 m. The original dimensions are unknown as a modern building covers the basilica's eastern end. The mosaics were restored and housed in the Museum of ar-Raqqah and in the National Museum of Damascus. In addition to panels with the mosaic inscriptions, the floor of the basilica was also decorated with depictions of birds, animals, plants, vessels, etc. The mosaics are made of white, black, grey, green, red, and yellow tesserae. One of the panels with inscriptions was located in the apse and three in the nave. First published in 1988 [1991] by Pauline Donceel-Voûte.

Discussion

The inscriptions almost certainly commemorate the construction of the basilica in which they were found, and record the names of donors and ecclesiastics who participated in this undertaking. The see of the bishop Nonnos, mentioned in Inscription 1 and 2, is not specified, but Donceel-Voûte supposed that he must have resided in Dausara/Qalaat Jaber, to the south of the find-spot, or in Apamea-Birtha on the Euphrates near ancient Zeugma, to the north of the site. On the other hand, in their commentary on the Chronicle of Pseudo-Joshua the Stylite, John Watt and Frank Trombley say that bishop Nonnos, might have held the metropolitan see of Edessa or one of the bishoprics subordinated to it (if so, they also opt for Dausara). Janine Balty (1977, 126) also opted for Edessa. But Donceel-Voûte notes that Edessa is more than 100 km detached from Halawe, and the inscription does not refer to Nonnos as a metropolitan bishop, whereas a bishop of Edessa would have been addressed as such. The bishop is accompanied by Sergios, abbot of the monastery of "holy (ἅγιος) Alexander". Pierre-Louis Gatier identified this figure as *Alexander the Akoimetos, based on a paragraph from his Life, which mentions a monastery he founded in the area (see: Gatier 1995). Watt and Trombley point out that a certain abbot Sergios was the addressee of Pseudo-Joshua's Chronicle, but the date of its composition makes it unlikely that he was the archimandrite mentioned in our inscriptions (see: Watt & Trombley 2000, xliii). Despite the fact that the Syriac Inscription 2 is completely preserved, the reconstruction of its Greek version (Inscription 1) is disputable. Donceel-Voûte suggested only hypothetical completions, which were later revised and altered by Denis Feissel. Feissel changed the original reconstruction of lines 4-5 from διὰ ἐλε]ημοσηνõν Διωνισ[ίου / 'by the alms of Dionysios' to: εἰς μν]ημόσυνον αἰώνιο[ν / 'for] the everlasting remembrance', as there is no mention of any Dionysios in the Syriac version. Feissel's suggestion presupposes that the lines contained a quotation of Psalm 111(112),6: εἰς μνημόσυνον αἰώνιον ἔσται δίκαιος / 'the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance'. The reconstruction of lines 6-7 also needs discussion. The poorly preserved word in line 6, denoting the participation of donors, was reconstructed by Donceel-Voûte as κοινωνησάντ]ων, based on the same verb used in Inscription 3. However, a much more popular formula, which could, in our opinion, also occur here, was τῶν καρποφορησάντ]ων (for other examples from the area, see: Canali De Rossi, F., Iscrizioni dello estremo oriente greco: un repertorio (Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien 65, Bonn: Habelt, 2004), nos. 39; 214; 454). The mention of a craftsman at the end of line 7 is also necessary, as Donceel-Voûte remarked herself (p. 148), and the final request for God's help, proposed by Donceel-Voûte, (μνήσθητι, Κύριε θεός) is superfluous. Therefore, the last line might have read: καὶ [πάντων τῶν καρποφορησάντ]ων τῷ ἔργῳ | [καὶ τοῦ ἁμαρτολοῦ τοῦ γράψαντος τοῦτο. ἀμή]ν / 'and [of all the contributo]rs to this work [and of the sinner, who wrote this. Ame]n'. Inscription 3, which is completely preserved, records the names of two lay donors, who funded a part of the mosaic pavement in the basilica or contributed to the construction of the whole building. The name of the woman, Kosmia, is mentioned first and preceded by the title ἐλεύθερα/'free', which Donceel-Voûte interpreted as a notion that she was freed from her father's legal supervision (tutella), i.e. married. The term is attested in inscriptions and papyri, see: LSJ, s.v. ἐλεύθερος 1.b. The naming of the monastery by the name of its founder, Alexander, does not necessarily show that he was widely considered a saint in this period, since Syriac monasteries were often named after their founders, who had only very local, if any, veneration. Dating: It is supposed that all inscriptions (at least Inscription 1 and 2) are contemporary to the construction of the basilica. The date, the year 782, is probably calculated according to the Seleucid era, which corresponds to AD 471. This date implies that the church was built c. 40 years after the death of Alexander the Akoimetos.

Bibliography

Edition: Donceel-Voûte, P., Les pavements des églises byzantines de Syrie et du Liban. Décor, archéologie et liturgie (Publications d’histoire de l’art et d’archéologie de l’Université catholique de Louvain 69, Louvain-La-Neuve: Département d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art, 1988), 148-149. Further reading: Balty, Janine, Mosaïques antiques de Syrie (Bruxelles: Centre belge de recherches archéologiques à Apamée de Syrie, 1977), 126. Feissel, D., "L'épigraphie des mosaïques d'églises en Syrie et au Liban", Antiquité Tardive 2 (1994), 286. Gatier, P.-L., “Un moine sur la frontiè, Alexandre l'Acémète en Syrie”, [in:] A. Rousselle (ed.), Frontières terrestres, frontières célestes dans l'antiquité (Perpignan: Presses universitaires de Perpignan; Paris: Diffusion de Boccard, 1995), 435-457. Watt, J.W., Trombley, F.R. (ed. and trans.), The chronicle of pseudo-Joshua the Stylite (Translated texts for historians 32, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), xliii. For references to the dossier of Alexander the Akoimetos, see: Kazhdan, A., "Alexander the Akoimetos", in: Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium Reference works: Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 569-570 (improved reconstruction). Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 45, 1883; 40, 1380bis-ter.

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