Saint NameBasil (unspecified) : S01149
Basil of Scythopolis (north Palestine) : S01150
Saint Name in SourceΒασίλιος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures
Archaeological and architectural - Altars with relics
Evidence not before594
Evidence not after594
Activity not before594
Activity not after594
Place of Evidence - RegionArabia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcGerasa/Jerash
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Gerasa/Jerash
Sakkaia / Maximianopolis
Sakkaia / Maximianopolis
Sakkaia / Maximianopolis
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesWomen
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
Other lay individuals/ people
Ecclesiastics - bishops
Cult Activities - RelicsReliquary – institutionally owned
SourceA mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata. Sited in the floor of the nave, near the steps of the choir, facing the altar. Black letters, white background and red interlines. There is no published description or dimensions.
The church was accidentally discovered in 1936, during the construction of a house, in the central/north sector of the town, very close of the church of the Prophet Isaiah (see: E02048). It was originally a three-aisled basilica with two 'sacristies' flanking the apse. It is supposed that the church resembled that dedicated to *Paul, sited in the same town (see: E02053). The base of the altar, encapsulating a marble reliquary casket, was found in situ, in the middle of the apse. The reliquary was shaped as a sarcophagus, with a rectangular lid with acroteria, measuring c. 13 x 30 cm. The lid was fitted with a hole at its top. It is not clear whether it was inserted into the altar-base at the moment it was set up, or later. Reportedly, it still contained relics, now lost (see: Comte 2012, 243-245).
The mosaics from the church were first published by Michael Avi-Yonah in 1947. Republished in 1981 by Michele Piccirillo, and in 2000 by Annie Sartre-Fauriat.
DiscussionThe mosaic is one of two dedicatory inscriptions found in the church and recording the names of donors who contributed to its construction. The other inscription was located in front of the altar and specified only the names of the donors: it is the basis for the restoration of their names in our, fragmentary, text. Exceptionally, the list of donors begins with the name of a woman, a certain deaconess Zoe, followed by men of unspecified status. Avi-Yonah supposed that all these people were 'well-to-do' persons, but that none of them could afford to build a church on their own.
The identity of the saint to whom the church was dedicated has been disputed. Avi Yonah argued that this was 'hardly any other but' *Basil of Ankyra (central Asia Minor, S01565), martyred under the emperor Julian, and that his relics were stored in the reliquary in the apse. Piccirillo suggested that we could have here rather *Basileios/Basilios of Scythopolis, venerated in nearby Beit Shean (ancient Scythopolis, see: EXXXXX, E04122). Sarte Fauriat adds other saints to the list of possibilities. Of all these suggestions, Piccirillo's hypothesis is the most plausible.
The date of the inscription, the year 489, is computed according to the era of the province of Arabia. Together with the 12th indiction year, it corresponds to AD 594. Archbishop Polyeuktos, mentioned in the dating formula, is certainly a metropolitan of nearby Bostra. His episcopacy predated that of the metropolitan Theodoros, frequently appearing in dedicatory inscriptions in this region.
In 1998 Pierre-Louis Gatier suggested that the church of Basilios was not actually built in AD 594, but refurbished, and that a fragmentary inscription on a stone plaque, commemorating the construction of an unspecified martyr shrine in 457/458 (see: E02041) referred to the first phase of the existence of our church. This hypothesis is, however, of little plausibility, as there is no direct connection between that inscription and our church (it was found reused in a house). Also, as several churches dedicated to saints were found at Riḥāb, that fragment need not refer to the church of Basilios. Furthermore, our mosaic distinguishes two phases of the construction: the laying of foundations and the completion, which implies that the church of Basil was built from its foundations at the end of the 6th c.
Piccirillo, M., Chiese e mosaici della Giordania settentrionale (Jerusalem: Franciscan Print. Press, 1981), 70-72.
Avi-Yonah, M., "Greek Christian inscriptions from Riḥāb", The Quarterly of the Department of Antiquities in Palestine 13 (1947), 69-70.
Comte, M.-Ch., Les reliquaires du Proche-Orient et de Chypre à la période protobyzantine, IVe-VIIIe siècles: formes, emplacements, fonctions et cultes (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 20, Turnhout : Brepols Publishers, 2012), 243-245 (description of the reliquary).
Comments to: Gatier, P.-L., "Les inscriptions grecques et latines de Samra et Rihab", Humbert, J.-B., Desreumaux, A., Bauzou, Th. (eds.), Fouilles de Khirbet es-Samra en Jordanie, vol. 1: La voie romaine, le cimetière, les documents épigraphiques (Turnhout: Brepols, 1998), 390-394, no. 86.
Michel, A., Les églises d'époque byzantine et umayyade de Jordanie (provinces d'Arabie et de Palestine), Ve-VIIIe siècle: typologie architecturale et aménagements liturgiques (avec catalogue des monuments; préface de Noël Duval; premessa di Michele Piccirillo) (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 2, Turnhout: Brepols, 2001), 212-214, no. 73.
Piccirillo, M., "Les antiquités de Riḥāb des Benê Ḥasan", Revue Biblique 88 (1981), 65.
Piccirillo, M., "Aggiornamento delle liste episcopali delle diocesi in territoria transgiordanico", Liber Annuus 55 (2005), 386.
Sartre-Fauriat, A., "Georges, Serge, Élie et quelques autres saints connus et inédits de la province d'Arabie", in: Fr. Prévot (ed.), Romanité et cité chrétienne. Permances et mutations. Intégration et exclusion du Ier au VIe siècle. Mélanges en l'honneur d'Yvette Duval (Paris: De Boccard, 2000), 310-311.
Bulletin épigraphique (1982), 465.
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 50, 1518.