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E01888: Greek building inscription for a church dedicated to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Found at el-Hazime/Al-Hazim to the east of Apamea on the Orontes and Ḥamāh/Amathe (central Syria). Dated 390/391.

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posted on 03.10.2016, 00:00 by pnowakowski
+ αὐλὶ τῆς ἁγίας Μαρία[ς].
Σώπατρε· ἔτος βψʹ η[..]

'+ Hall (aula) of the Holy Mary. (Built by?) Sopatros. In the year 702 [- - -].'

Text: IGLS 4, no. 1825.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

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

Apamea on the Orontes Ḥamāh el-Hazime/Al-Hazim

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

Apamea on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora Ḥamāh Thabbora Thabbora el-Hazime/Al-Hazim 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

Other lay individuals/ people


Stone lintel, probably found in situ, over the entrance to a church reportedly dedicated to Mary in modern times. Broken and lost at the right-hand end. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.50 m; W. 1.60 m; letter height 0.08 m. Decorated with a carving of a cross within a circle, with the letters Α and Ω, and flanked by two peacocks. First recorded by Jean Lassus in the 1930s and published by him with the aid of Enno Littman. Republished by René Mouterde in 1955, based on Lassus' edition.


The highlight of this text is certainly its early date for the explicit dedication of the sanctuary to Mary, as churches dedicated to saints were still infrequent in the 4th c. East. Ignacio Peña notes that this is also the earliest attested sanctuary of the cult of Mary in the Near East (for a somewhat earlier sanctuary of unnamed martyrs, see: E00714). Unfortunately, as there is no photograph of the lintel, we cannot verify the key letters of the inscription, and must trust the editor that the reading of the dating formula is correct. We must, however, bear in mind that in two other cases churches, dedicated to *Sergios (E01650) and *George (E00839), allegedly in the 4th c. appear to be in fact mid-6th c. structures, with the erroneous dating the result of misread dating formulas or wrongly identified local eras. The date in our text, given in line 2, is almost certainly computed according to the Seleucid era (year 702), which corresponds to AD 390/391. In favour of an early date is the fact that Mary is named here ἡ ἁγία Μαρία/'the Holy Mary', and not Θεοτόκος/'the God-Bearer', an epithet which spread rapidly after the council of Ephesos 431. The sanctuary is named αὐλή/'aula', which resembles the phrasing of early 4th c. inscriptions from Rome, naming Christian sanctuaries (see: Trout 2015, 263, note 13). The name of the founder, Sopatros, is probably given in line 2 in the vocative form (instead of nominative), probably under the influence of the Syriac language (as noted by Littmann).


Edition: Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Mondésert, Cl., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 4: Laodicée, Apamène (BAH 61, Paris: Librairie orientalise Paul Geuthner, 1955), no. 1825. Lassus, J., Inventaire archéologique de la région au nord-est de Hama (Documents d'Études Orientales 4, Damascus: Institut français de Damas, [1935-1936?]), vol. 1: Text, 163, no. 93, fig. 166. Further reading: Lassus, J., "Syrie", DACL, col. 1936. Peña, I., Lieux de pèlerinage en Syrie (Milan: Franciscan Printing Press, 2000), 11. For the term 'aula', see: Trout, D.E., "Vergil and Ovid at the tomb of Agnes: Constantina, epigraphy, and the genesis of Christian poetry", [in:] J. Bodel, N. Dimitrova (eds.), Ancient documents and their contexts: First North American Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy (Brill studies in Greek and Roman epigraphy 5, Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2015), 268, note 13.

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