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E01817: Greek, Syriac, and Arabic inscriptions from the door-lintel of a martyr shrine (martyrion) of *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023) in Zabad (near Anasartha, to the southeast of Chalkis and Beroia/Aleppo, north Syria). Dated 511.

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posted on 22.08.2016, 00:00 by dlambert
In the centre of the lintel is a prominent christogram flanked by the letters Α and Ω.

Inscription 1:
The Greek inscription is carved to the right of the circle with the christogram. Letter height 0.03-0.06 m.

+ ἔτους γκω΄, μη(νὸς) Γο<ρ>πι<έ>ου δκ΄. ἐθεμελιόθη τὼ
μαρτύριον τοῦ ἁγίου Σεργίου ἐπὶ τοῦ περ(ιοδευτοῦ)
Ἰωάννου καὶ Ἄννεος Βουκέου (καὶ) Σέργις τρὶς
ἀρχ<ιτ>(έκτονες). θϙ΄
(christogram) Σατορνῖνος Ἄζιζος. Ἄζιζος Σεργίου (καὶ) Ἄζιζος Μαραβαρκα δί(ς) (?).

3. Βο<ρ>κέ[σ]ου Littmann, Βο<ρ>κέου Kugener, Ῥουκέου Sachau || πρ(εσβύτεροι) Prentice, Σεργιοπο(λίτ)ου Neubauer, τρυφ Sachau || 9. αρχιτ Kugener Cumont, ἄρχ(ων) πόλ(ε)ως (chief of the city) Neubauer, ἀρχιπάρθενος (chief-of-virgins) Prentice, ἀρχπ Sachau || 10. θεργιου Sachau || Μαραβαρκα δί(ς) (?) Kugener Cumont, Μαρα Βαρκα δι(άκονοι) Prentice, Ἀζιζος (καὶ) Μαρα, Βαρκα [υ]ἱοί Neubauer, Μαραβαρκαδι or Μαραβαρκα[ου] Sachau

'In the year 823, on the 24th of the month of Gorpiaios, this martyr shrine (martyrion) of Saint Sergios was founded under the periodeutes (= visiting presbyter) Ioannes. And Anneos son of Boukeos, and Sergis the Third built it (together with?) Symeon, son of Amraas, son of Elias, (and) Leontios, (were) the architects. 99 (= Amen). (Christogram) Satorninos Azizos, Azizos son of Sergios, and Azizos son of Marabarka the Second (?)'

Text: IGLS 2, no. 310, reproducing new readings by Franz Cumont and Marc Antoine Kugener. Translation: William Prentice, modified with remarks in Bevan and others 2015, 347-348.

Inscription 2:
The Syriac inscription is written to the left of the disc with the christogram. The last two lines are after the Arabic text. Letter height 0.03-0.06 m.

ܫܘܒܚܐ [ܠ]ܐܒܐ ܘܠܒܪܐ ܘܠܪܘܚܐ ܕܩܘܕܫܐ
ܒܫܢܬ ܬܡܢܡܐ ܘܥܣܪܝܢ ܘܬܠܬ ܒܪܒܥܐ ܘܥܣܪܝܢ
ܒܝܠܠ ܐܬ(ܣ)ܝܡ ܐܣܘ ܘܝܘܚܢܢ ܦܪܝܕܘܛܐ ܕܘܟܪܢܗ
ܬܐ ܕܣܡ
ܒܗ ܟܦܐ
ܘܐܚܢܢ ܘܐܢܛܝܘܟܐ

In the margin:
ܐܒ(ܐ) ܣ(ܪ)ܓܣ

After the Arabic text:
ܘܐ[ܬ]ܩܢ ܐܒ ܣܪ ܓܝܣ ܘܐܢܛܝܘܟܐ [ܘ]ܡܩܝܡ ܒܪ ܬܝܡܝ ܘܡܪܝ

'+ Glory to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the year 823, the 24th (of the month) of Elul the foundations (of this shrine) were laid, and it was the periodeutes (= visiting presbyter) Ioannes, may his memory be blessed, who set the first stone, and Mara, who carved (this inscription), and Annas and Antiochos the founder.'

In the margin: 'Aba Sergios'

After the Arabic text: 'And Aba Sergios, and Antiochos, and Moqim bar Timay, and Mari constructed (it).'

Text: IGLS 2, no. 310: text by Marc Antoine Kugener with corrections by Enno Littmann.

Inscription 3:
The Arabic inscription is written below the Greek and Syriac texts, on an oblique surface. Letter height 0.03-0.06 m. This is one of the very few extant monumental inscriptions in pre-Islamic Arabic (i.e. so-called Old Arabic).

[ḏ]{k}r ʾl-ʾlh srgw br ʾmt-mnfw w h{l/n}yʾ br mrʾlqys [Roundel] w srgw br sʿdw w syrw w s{.}ygw

'May God be mindful of Sirgū son of ʾAmt-Manāfū and Ha{l/n}īʾ son of Maraʾ l-Qays and Sirgū son of Saʿdū and Š/Syrw and Š/S{.}ygw.'

Text and translation: Fiema, Al-Jallad, Macdonald & Nehmé 2015, 411.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sergios, soldier and martyr of Rusafa : S00023

Saint Name in Source


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 Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Chalkis Beroia Zebed

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

Chalkis Thabbora Thabbora Beroia Thabbora Thabbora Zebed Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people Merchants and artisans


The basilica of Sergios in Zabad/Zebed, situated to the southwest of the citadel, is the greater of the two basilicas in this town. The church is a three-aisled structure with a narthex, an apse, and several side doorways. The inscriptions are on the basalt lintel from the west doorway, broken into three conjoining parts (the right-hand end was found in situ, set in the frame of the doorway). H. 0.67 m; W. 3.05 m; Th. 0.16 m. Decorated with a carving of a circle in low-relief containing a christogram and the letters Α and Ω, positioned in the middle of the lintel. The lintel was first recorded by Eduard Sachau in 1879 and published by him in 1881. This scholar made a squeeze of poor quality because of the lack of water needed to produce the impression. In 1894 the stone was still present at its find-spot, as noted by Adolphe Barthélemy. In 1898 Mark Lidzbarski reported that it was in the possession of a dealer of antiquities from Aleppo. In 1903, Henri Lammens, an orientalist and Belgian missionary (Jesuit) based in Beirut, informed the authorities of the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels that he could buy the monument for the institution. After several months and serious problems with the transportation of such a large stone, the object was acquired by the Museum. Since 1904 it has been housed in the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels. The lintel bears three differing inscriptions, composed in Greek, Syriac, and Arabic. The Syriac and Greek texts, laid out on either side of the christogram, must be contemporary; the Arabic could possibly be later. After the first edition, the inscriptions have been frequently reprinted or read anew by a number of scholars. For a list of editions, see below (section “Bibliography”) and IGLS 2, 178. Among the most important works one should mention first of all the editions published after the acquisition of the stone by the Musée du Cinquantenaire, a fact that allowed for the reexamination of the stone without the need to rely on earlier imperfect copies and squeezes – an extremely important fact for establishing the correct readings of dubious passages. The first complex reexamination in Brussels was conducted by Franz Cumont and Marc Antoine Kugener, followed by further important comments by Enno Littmann. For a detailed discussion of the Arabic text, see: Étienne Combe et alii, vol. 1 (1931), no. 2. For a list of newer commentaries, see: Gruendler 1993, 13-14 and Grohmann 1971, 14, 16. The texts offered here follow the edition in the second volume of IGLS, and this work should be consulted for a list of optional readings, suggested by other editors, published before 1939.


The inscriptions commemorate the construction, and possibly a subsequent restoration, of the martyr shrine, where the lintel was found. The Greek text says that the foundations were laid under the visiting presbyter (periodeutes) Ioannes. The same information is repeated by the Syriac text, but is not present in the Arabic one. Line 3 of the Greek inscription contains the names of two founders: Anneos, son of Boukeos and probably Sergis the Third (i.e. the third in the family bearing this name: son of Sergios and grandson of Sergios; for other, implausible readings, see the apparatus and the comments in IGLS 2, 179). In the Syriac inscription, the name of the first founder is probably rendered Annas and in the Arabic as Han(n)ai, son of Imru'l-qais (as suggested by Littmann). In the Syriac version we find a certain Antiochos as the cofounder instead of Sergios the Third, but at least two Sergioi appear as founders (or restorers?) in the Arabic text. The four names (Symeon, Amraas, Elias, Leontios) from lines 5-8 of the Greek inscription must be of architects, who built the church. This interpretation was, however, suggested only after the reexamination of the stone in Brussels, when Cumont and Kugener deciphered the dubious abbreviation in line 9 as ἀρχιτέκτονες/'architects'. Earlier editors, using the imperfect copy by Sachau, read here different words: Neubauer saw here the title ἄρχων <τῆς> πόλεως/'chief-of-the-city' and Prentice believed that the last name (Leontis), was of a woman, who held the function of ἀρχιπάρθενος/'chief-of-virgins' allegedly in a local monastery, and that Symeon, Amraas, and Elias were cofounders of the shrine. His theory, however, proved to be wrong after the reexamination of the stone. These four names are absent from the Syriac and Arabic versions, but the Syriac one adds that yet another artisan, a certain stonecutter, Mara, carved the inscription (just the Syriac one or all three?) on the lintel. The last line of the Greek text contains some more names: Satorninos Azizos, Azizos son of Sergios, and probably Azizos son of Marabarka the Second. Prentice suggested that the abbreviation δι, placed at the very end of the line, should be expanded as διάκονοι, and that all these people served as deacons in the martyr shrine of Sergios. This hypothesis, although interesting, was rejected by Cumont and Kugener, who pointed out that the abbreviated word was probably δίς/'the Second' and that we might have had here an expression parallel to that from line 3, where apparently Sergios the Third was mentioned. Neubauer believed that the last word should be read as υἱοί/'sons' (of Barka), but this reading was based on the obsolete copy by Sachau. The Syriac and Arabic versions contain also other names, sometimes in separated fields. For example in the Syriac inscription the name Abou Sergis is written in the margin and the names Abou-Sergis, Antiochos, Mouqim bar Timaï, and Marî are added after the Arabic text. The role of these people is not clear. They might be responsible for a later reconstruction of the building. The other explanation is that these are simply Syriac and Arabic names bore by people mentioned in the Greek inscriptions, as in antiquity people sometimes bore more than one name, using them respectively in specific milieus or linguistic contexts. It is also possible that some of the names (as e.g. Antiochos) might have been erroneously repeated by the stone-cutter. For other inscriptions from this basilica, listing other donors, see: E01818. Dating: The Greek and Syriac texts offer us the same date: 24 of the month of Gorpiaios/Iloul of the year 823 of the Seleucid era. This date was originally converted as 24 September AD 512, but in 1922 William Prentice published a note (see: Prentice 1922, 140), in which he argued that, in the calendar used by the Greek-speaking Syrians in north Syria, the month of Gorpiaios was not the last, but the first month of the year, and thus the inscription should be dated to 24 September AD 511.


Editions: Mouterde, R., Jalabert, L. (eds.), Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 2: Chalcidique et Antiochène: nos 257-698 (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1939), no. 310. Combe, E., Sauvaget, J., Wiet, G. (eds.), Répertoire chronologique d'épigraphie arabe, vol. 1 (Cairo: Imprimerie de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale, 1931), 2-3, no. 2 (with further reading for the Arabic inscription). Cumont, F., Catalogue des sculptures et inscriptions antiques (monuments lapidaires) des Musées royaux du Cinquanténaire (Brussels: Vromant, 1913), 172-175, no. 145 (the Greek text with translations of the Syriac and Arabic texts). Littmann, E., "Osservazioni sulle iscrizioni di Ḥarrân e di Zebed", Rivista degli studi orientali 4 (1911), 196-197 (with corrections to the editions of Sachau and Kugener). Jalabert, L., "Deux missions archéologiques américanes en Syrie", Mélanges de la Faculté orientale de l'Université Saint-Joseph (Beirut, Lebanon) 3 (1909), 740-743 (comments on the edition by Prentice). Prentice, W.K. (ed.), Greek and Latin Inscriptions (Publications of an American archaeological expedition to Syria in 1899-1900 3, New York: Century 1908), 268, no. 336a (the Greek text; after the editions by Sachau and Neubauer, without seeing the original in the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels, but with some remarks based on the drawing by Sachau). Kugener, M.A., "Nouvelle note sur l'inscription trilingue de Zébed", Rivista degli studi orientali 1 (1908), 577-586 (with a photograph of the stone and of the squeeze: plate I after p. 586; based on the examination of the stone in the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels). Kugener, M.A., "Note sur l'inscription trilingue de Zébed", Journal asiatique (1907/1), 509-524 (Greek, Syriac, and Arabic text; based on the examination of the stone in the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels). Dussaud, R., Les Arabes en Syrie avant l'Islam (Paris: E. Leroux, 1907), 169, note 2 (the Arabic text, based on the examination of the stone in the Musée du Cinquantenaire in Brussels). Cumont, F., "L'inscription trilingue de Zébed", Bulletin des Musées royaux des arts décoratifs et industriels 1 (2nd ser.) (1908), 75-76. Cumont, F., "L'inscription trilingue de Zébed", Bulletin des Musées royaux des arts décoratifs et industriels 4 (1904-1905), 58-59 (with a photograph). Barthélemy, A., "Relation sommaire d'une excursion de quinze jours au nord d'Alep: dans la Syrie septentrionale, en septembre 1894", Recueil de travaux relatifs à la philologie et à l'archéologie égyptienne 19 (1897), 39 (a new reading of the Arabic text, seen in situ). Lidzbarski, M., Handbuch der nordsemitischen Epigraphik, nebst ausgewählten Inschriften (Weimar: Verlag von Emir Felber, 1898), vol. 1, 484 and vol. 2, plate XLIII 10 (from the edition by Sachau). Sachau, E., Reise in Syrien und Mesopotamien (Leipzig: F.A. Brockhaus, 1883), 126, note 1 (the Greek text, as read by R. Neubauer). Sachau, E., "Zur Trilinguis Zebedaea", Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft 36 (1882), 345-352. Sachau, E., “Eine dreisprachige Inschrift aus Zébed”, Monatsberichte der königlisch-preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (1881), 169-190 (with a drawing and squeeze). Further reading: Briquel Chatonnet, Fr., Desreumaux, A., "Les inscriptions syriaques de Turquie et Syrie", in: Fr. Briquel Chatonnet, M. Debié, A. Desreumaux, Les inscriptions syriaques (Etudes syriaques 1, Paris: P. Geuthner, 2004), 23 (mentioning a forthcoming new edition by Fr. Briquel Chatonnet, D. Feissel, and Ch. Robin). Butler, H.C., Architecture and other Arts (Publications of an American Archaeological Expedition to Syria in 1899–1900 2, New York: Century, 1903), 301-305 (for a description of the site). Bevan, G., Fisher, G., and others, "Arabs and Christianity", in: G. Fisher an others, Arabs and Empires before Islam (Oxford: OUP, 2015), 347-349. Desreumaux, A., Humbert, J.-B., Thébault, G., Bauzou, Th., "Des Romains, des Araméens et des Arabes dans le Balqa' jordanien : les cas de Hadeitha - Khirbet es Samra", 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), 295. Fiema, Z.T., Al-Jallad, A., Macdonald, M.C.A., Nehmé, L., "Provincia Arabia: Nabataea, the emergence of Arabic as a written language, and Graeco-Arabica", in: G. Fisher (ed.), Arabs and Empires before Islam (Oxford: OUP, 2015), 410-411. Fisher, G., Between Empires: Arabs, Romans, and Sasanians in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 137, 145-146, 149, 151-152, 168. Grohmann, A., Arabische Paläographie, vol. 2: Das Schriftwesen. Die Lapidarschrift (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch - Historische Klasse: Denkschriften 94/2. Vienna: Hermann Böhlaus Nachf., 1971), 14, 16. Gruendler, B., The Development of the Arabic Scripts: from the Nabatean Era to the First Islamic Century according to the Dated Texts (Harvard Semitic Series 43, Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1993), 13-14. Hoyland, R., "Epigraphy and the linguistic background to the Qur'ān", in: G.S. Reynolds (ed.), The Qur'an in Its Historical Context (London; New York: Routledge, 2008), 55, 60. Hoyland, R.G., "Arab kings, Arab tribes, and the beginnings of Arab historical memory in Late Roman epigraphy", in: H. Cotton, R.G. Hoyland, J. Price, D.J. Wasserstein (eds.), From Hellenism to Islam: Cultural and Linguistic Change in the Roman Near East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 374–400. Littman, E. (ed.), Semitic Inscriptions (Publications of an American Archaeological Expedition to Syria in 1899-1900, 4, New York: Century, 1904), 47 (for a description of the site). Mouterde, R., Jalabert, L. (eds.), Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 4: Laodicée, Apamène, nos 1243-1997 (BAH 61, Paris: P. Geuthner, 1955), 358 (addendum). Prentice, W.K. (ed.), Publications of the Princeton University of archaeological Expeditions to Syria in 1904-1905 and 1909, Division III: Greek and Latin Inscriptions, Section B: Northern Syria (Leyden: E.J. Brill, 1922), 140 (comments on the date of the Greek inscription). Robin, C.J., "La réforme de l’écriture arabe à l’époque du califat médinois", Mélanges de l’Université Saint-Joseph 56, 319–64. Trombley F.R., "Epigraphic data on village culture and social institutions: an interregional comparison (Syria, Phoenice Libanensis and Arabia)", Bodwen, W., Lavan, L., Machado, C. (eds.), Recent Research on the Late Antique Countryside (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2004), 93. For photographs from the site, by H.C. Butler, see: and the following items. See also:

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