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E01785: Basalt pillar with low-relief carving and Greek inscription naming *Symeon the Elder (stylite of Qal‘at Sim‘ān, ob. 459, S00343) or *Symeon the Younger (stylite near Antioch, ob. 592, S00860). Found at Jibrîn, to the southeast of Beroia/Aleppo (central Syria). Probably late antique.

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posted on 04.08.2016, 00:00 by Bryan
A rectangular basalt pillar, dimensions not recorded. Its front face is decorated with low-relief carvings of two leaves in the two upper corners, flanking a small column with a capital. Below, in the middle of the pillar, there is a depiction of another column, and of a saint with outstretched arms, standing on top of it (thus forming a rudimentary cross). A ladder is visible to the left of the column shaft. Below the top of the column, a small niche is shown (perhaps, as suggested by Paul Perdrizet, a place for offerings, or an oil lamp, or an inscription).

The left-hand leaf bears Inscription A. Inscription B is written to the right and left of the column with the stylite.

First published in 1929 by René Mouterde and Louis Jalabert, based on a copy and photograph by Sébastien Ronzevalle. Reexamined by Alfred Merlin. Independently published by Paul Perdrizet in 1933, with a drawing. Now in the Louvre Museum.

Inscription A:

Ἀβρ-
αά-
μις
+ Ἀζίζου

'Abraamis, son of + Azizos (?).'

Inscription B:

ἅ- Σ-
γ- υ-
ι- μ-
ο- ε-
ς ώ-
ν-
η-
ς

Συμεών (ἔτους) ησ΄ Perdrizet

'Saint Symeonis'

Text: IGLS 1, no. 256.

History

Evidence ID

E01785

Saint Name

Symeon the Elder, stylite of Qalat Siman, ob. 459 : S00343 Symeon the Younger, stylite near Antioch, ob. 592. : S00860

Saint Name in Source

Συμεώνης Συμεώνης

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements Images and objects - Sculpture/reliefs Literary - Magical texts and amulets

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

450

Evidence not after

1300

Activity not before

450

Activity not after

1300

Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Beroia Jibrîn

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

Beroia Thabbora Thabbora Jibrîn Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Other

Discussion

The precise purpose of this object is not clear. Jalabert and Mouterde did not comment on this issue. Perdrizet believed that this labelled image ('an icon' as he termed it) was used for protective (apotropaic) purposes, a phylakterion, like similar depictions of Symeon Stylites the Elder, described by Theodoret of Cyrrhus in his Religious History (chapter 26, section 11). These were reportedly displayed in Rome, outside workshops of artisans, to repel evil and ensure prosperity: περὶ γὰρ Ἰταλίας περιττὸν καὶ λέγειν. φασὶ γὰρ οὕτως ἐν Ῥώμῃ τῇ μεγίστῃ πολυθρύλητον γενέσθαι τὸν ἄνδρα, ὡς ἐν ἅπασι τοῖς τῶν ἐργαστηρίων προπυλαίοις εἰκόνας αὐτῷ βραχείας ἀναστηλῶσαι, φυλακήν τινα σφίσιν αὐτοῖς καὶ ἀσφάλειαν ἐντεῦθεν πορίζοντας/'It is said that he enjoyed extraordinary popularity in Italy. They say that in Rome, the greatest city, this man became very famous, as his small images (eikones) were set up (anastelosai) in all porticos of workshops, providing them some kind of protection (phylake) and safety (asphaleia)' (see also: E00444). Perdrizet notes that this passage was later extensively commented on during the Iconoclastic controversy, as it emphasised the power of images of this saint. We must note that the published drawings of the discussed object are strikingly similar to a pillar and a plaque that come from the chancel screen of probably Church B at Ḥawa (see: E01876; E01880). The latter also bears a depiction of a hooded stylite. Therefore, it is not unlikely that our slab was once used as a pillar in the chancel screen of a church. Perdrizet, because of Theodoret's account, identified the saint depicted as Symeon the Elder; but it is normally impossible to distinguish Symeon Stylites the Elder from Symeon Stylites the Younger, if their identity is not precisely specified. Our image could well be of the younger stylite. Jalabert and Mouterde do not raise the issue of the identity of our saint. Ignacio Peña considers him to be Symeon the Elder, but at the same time compares the stone with a pillar from a chancel screen found in a church in Kondos (northeast Syria), bearing a similar image of Symeon (see: Peña 2000, 100). Thus, it might be that our pillar was not an apotropaic device, but rather an element of a chancel screen. The identity of the donor, whose name is given in Inscription A, is even less clear. Perdrizet suggested that this Abraamis, son of Azizos, could be an homonymous disciple of Symeon the Elder, born in the region of Cyrrhestica (where our inscription was found), and mentioned by Theodoret in Chapter 17 of the Religious History (see: E00435). This is, of course, unsound as the name Abraamis/Abraamios was common and the cult of both Symeons was very popular. Another possibility is that the term Ἀζίζου is not the name of Abraamis' father but of his place of origin: Michael the Syrian mentioned a 'Monastery of the Pillar', situated in Cyrrhestica, near the village of Goubrin (Jibrîn?) and the village of 'Azaz (Azizos?) (see: Peña, Castellana & Fernandez 1975, 75). Perhaps this monastery housed monks imitating one of the great Simeons, and our image comes from this site. Dating: Mouterde and Jalabert tentatively date the object to the 5th or 6th c., based on the forms of letters. Perdrizet implausibly dated it to the 208th year of the era of the martyrs (= AD 492), based on an erroneous reading of the names Συμεώνης as a combination of the name Συμέων and the number ης΄ (208).

Bibliography

Edition: Perdrizet, P., Le calendrier parisien à la fin du moyen âge, d'après le Bréviaire et les Livres d'Heures (Publications de la Faculté des lettres de l'Université de Strasbourg, fascicule 63, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1933), 287-289, fig. 28. Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 1: Commagène et Cyrrhestique (BAH 12, Paris: P. Geuthner, 1929), no. 256. Further reading: Peña, I., Lieux de pèlerinage en Syrie (Milan: Franciscan Printing Press, 2000), 100. Peña, I., Castellana, P., Fernandez, R., Les Stylites syriens (Milan: Centro propaganda e stampa, 1975), 75; 185; 187 fig. 36. Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie, II, Les deux Phénicies et et les deux Syries", Analecta Bollandiana 67 (1949), 99. Lassus, J., Sanctuaires chrétiens de Syrie: essai sur la genèse, la forme et l'usage liturgique des édifices du culte chrétien, en Syrie, du IIIe siècle à la conquête musulmane (Bibliothèque archéologique et historique 42, Paris: P. Geuthner, 1947), 288; plate 47. Mouterde, R., Jalabert, L., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 2: Chalcidique et Antiochène: nos 257-698 (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1939), 381 (addendum). “Bulletin des publications hagiographiques”, Analecta Bollandiana 49 (1931), 407. Lassus, J., "Images de stylites", Bulletin d'études orientales 1932), 65 - też o ampułkach, Bobbio.

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