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E01624: Floor-mosaics with Greek inscriptions from the sanctuary (Michaelion) of *Michael (the Archangel, S00181) at Ḥūarte/Hawarte near ancient Apamea on the Orontes (central Syria). Dated probably 487.

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posted on 13.06.2016, 00:00 by pnowakowski
The French archaeological team in Ḥūarte, c. 15 km to the north of Apamea on the Orontes, revealed the existence of three ecclesiastical buildings: the north basilica (Basilica A, or the so-called Michaelion) with a hypogeum beneath it; the south basilica (Basilica B, or the so-called basilica of Photios) and a Baptistery.

The patron saints of the two latter shrines are unknown, but the inscriptions found in Basilica A show that it was dedicated to Michael the Archangel as it was named Michaelion. For a discussion on this designation, see: Canivet, P., “Le Michaelion de Huarte (Ve s.) et le culte syrien des anges”, Byzantion 50 (1980), 85-117.

Inscription 1:

A mosaic floor with an inscription within a tabula ansata from the nave of Basilica A, in front of the western entrance. Mutilated and lost on the right-hand side. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.64-0.80 m; W. 0.66-0.93 m; letter height c. 0.09 m. Original dimensions probably H. 1.8 m; W. 1.75 m.

Found and copied by Pierre Canivet in 1973, during the excavations at the site. Minor alterations were suggested by Jean-Paul Rey-Coquais in 1987, based on the photograph. Now in the Museum of Apamea.

ὑπὲρ μνή[μ]ης [- - - c.10 καὶ]
Συμεωνίου τ̣õν Δ̣ο̣ρ̣ο[θέου (?)]
καὶ πάντον τῶν διαφερ[όντων]
αὐ<τ>οῦ ἐψιφόθι τ̣ῶ Μιχ[αήλιον]
διὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Δ̣[οροθέου]
τοῦ εὐλαβ(εστάτου) ἡμῶν πρεσ̣[β(υτέρου) - - -c.7- - -]
μη(νὸς) Μαρτίου ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ιʹ το̣ῦ̣[- - - ἔτους].
καὶ διακόνον Στεφά̣[νου καὶ]
Λεοντ[ίου (?)]

5. τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Δ̣[οροθέου] Rey-Coquais, τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ Δ̣[- - - ἐπὶ] Canivet || 8. καὶ. διὰ <τῶν δια>κόνων Rey Coquais

'As a vow for the memory of [- - - and] of Symeonios, sons of Dorotheos (?), and of all belonging to him, this Michaelion was paved with a mosaic by the son of this Dorotheos (?), our most pious presbyter [- - -], in the month of March, 11th indiction, the [- - - year], and (by) the deacons Stephanos and Leontios (?).'

Text: Rey-Coquais 1987, no. 9.

The inscription commemorates the paving of the nave by a presbyter, whose name was given at the now lost end of line 6, and probably by at least two deacons. According to Rey-Coquais it is probable that this presbyter was a son of Dorotheos, mentioned in line 2, though the first editor, Pierre Canivet, had a different opinion.

A mosaic inscription, found in Basilica B in the same city (see: SEG 37, 1415 = Rey-Coquais 1987, no. 3), says that this church was paved under archbishop Photios, the periodeutes Dorotheos, the presbyter Stephanos, and the deacons Iakobos and Symeonios in the year 794 of the Seleucid era (= AD 483). Though the two churches are considered as more or less contemporary, Canivet doubts that the Dorotheos, Symeonios, and Stephanos, mentioned in our inscriptions from Basilica A, are the same people from the mosaic in Basilica B. To us, the close coincidence of names suggests they are.

Dating: If, as seems likely, our inscription is closely contemporary with the inscription in Basilica B (firmly dated to AD 483), then a date close to 483 is likely. The closest eleventh indictional year (as mentioned in line 8 of our inscription) fell in 487.

Inscription 2:

A mosaic floor inscription within a frame, at the eastern end of the north aisle of Basilica A. Dimensions: W. 1.29; H. 0.45. Found and copied by Pierre Canivet in 1973, during the excavations at the site. Now in the Museum of Damascus. Re-edited by Jean-Paul Rey-Coquais in 1987, based on the photograph.

ἐπὶ τοὺς γέρωντας Ἐλευθερίω,
Σεργίω, Θωμᾶ, Δοροθέου καὶ
πενταπρότον Δορωθέω, Ἰωά-
ννη, Θωμᾶ, Γεοργίω καὶ ἑτέρο(υ)
Θωμᾶ, ἐψιφόθι τὼ Μιχαήλιο(ν)

'Under the elders (of the village) Eleutherios, Sergios, Thomas, Dorotheos, and the pentaprotoi Dorotheos, Ioannes, Thomas, Georgios, and another Thomas, the Michaelion was paved with a mosaic.'

(Text: Rey-Coquais 1982, no. 7)

The inscription commemorates the paving of the basilica (or just of its north aisle, where the mosaic was found) as funded by the officials of a village. Pierre Canivet notes that we know little about village administration in 5th and 6th c. Syria, but it seems that the gerontes/'elders', mentioned in lines 1-2 were members of a village council (gerousia), and the pentaprotoi (= principales ?), listed in lines 3-5, were officials resembling dekaprotoi, who were active in cities. The village is probably Ḥūarte itself (see also: Rey-Coquais 1987, 53-54).

Canivet observes that, interestingly, this is the only dedicatory inscription from Ḥūarte, which mentions only laymen.

Other inscriptions from the basilica are fragmentarily preserved and do not mention its dedication, or other saints (see: Canivet 1979, nos. 6-8, and Rey-Coquais 1987).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Michael, the Archangel : S00181

Image Caption 1

Inscription 1; from P. & M.T. Canivet 1987, plate CLXII.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 1; from P. & M.T. Canivet 1987, plate CLXII.

Image Caption 3

Inscription 2; from P. & M.T. Canivet 1987, plate CLXIII.

Image Caption 4

Plan of the complex. From Donceel-Voûte 1988, 90.

Type of Evidence

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



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Ḥūarte Apamea on the Orontes

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

Ḥūarte Thabbora Thabbora Apamea on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Officials Peasants Other lay individuals/ people


Edition: Rey-Coquais, J.-P., "Épigraphie", in: P. & M.T. Canivet and others, Ḥūarte. Sanctuaire chrétien d’Apamène (Paris 1987), 47-62. Canivet, P., “Nouvelles inscriptions chrétiennes à Ḥūarte d'Apamène (Syrie)”, Travaux et mémoirs (Hist. Civil. Byznace) 7 (1979), 353-358. Further reading: Canivet, P., “Le Michaelion de Huarte (Ve s.) et le culte syrien des anges”, Byzantion 50 (1980), 85-117. 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), 90-116. Feissel, D., "L'épigraphie des mosaïques d'églises en Syrie et au Liban", Antiquité Tardive 2 (1994), 289-290. Gatier, P.-L., "Inscriptions grecques, mosaïques et églises des débuts de l'époque islamique au Proche-Orient (VIIe-VIIIe) siècles", in: A. Borrut, M. Debié, A. Papaconstantinou, D. Pieri, J.-P. Sodini (eds.), Le Proche-Orient de Justinien aux Abassides : peuplement et dynamiques spatiales : actes du colloque "Continuités de l'occupation entre les périodes byzantine et abbasside au Proche-Orient, VIIe-IXe siècles," Paris, 18-20 octobre 2007 (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 19, Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), 17. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1980), 554. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 29, 1591-1592; 37, 1430.

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