1/1
3 files

E02116: Three Greek inscriptions from the church (naos) of *Elijah (Old Testament prophet, S00217), commemorating its construction by villagers under a bishop who died of the bubonic plague, and probably the burial of a local aristocrat devoted to the saint. Found at Izra/Zorava to the northwest of Bostra (Roman province of Arabia). One inscription is dated 542/543.

online resource
posted on 13.12.2016, 00:00 by pnowakowski
The inscriptions have been known since the early 19th c., through a number of corrupted copies which were used to produce faulty editions. As these erroneous readings have no significance for the interpretation of the actual meaning of the texts, we do not list them here, and follow the edition offered by Maurice Sartre in the fifteenth volume of the Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, based on new photographs and a personal examination of the stones. For a detailed discussion of earlier editions of these texts, see the comments by Sartre in IGLS.

Inscription 1:

Stone lintel. H. 0.45; W. 2.40 m. Decorated with a band of geometric patterns surrounding the inscribed field. A carving of a chi-shaped cross (Χ) within a circle is in the middle of the inscription. The right-hand end is broken, but the broken fragment is preserved.

Found, like other inscriptions discussed in this entry, by Ulrich Jasper Seetzen on 30 May 1805. Reportedly in situ, over the main doorway of the south facade of the church dedicated to Saint Elijah (called Mar Elias by the locals in the 19th c.) in Zorava, situated to the south of the local church of George (see E01754). The present-day church of Elijah is a small basilica with the plan of a Latin cross.

+ οἱ ἀπὸ Ζορ(αουηνῶν) ἐξ ἰδίων ναὸν Ἠλίου προφ(ήτου) σπουδῇ Ἰωάννου Μεννεου διακ(όνου) ἐν ἔτι υλζ΄
ἔκτισαν ἐπὶ Ουαρου θεοφ(ιλεστάτου) ἐπισκόπου ᾧ ἐπήγαγ(εν) ὁ θ(εὸ)ς πότμον βόνβωνος (καὶ) μάλης

'+ The people of Zorava built the church (naos) of Elijah the prophet from their own funds by the exertion of John, son of Menneos, the deacon, in the year 437, under Ouaros, the most God-fearing bishop, upon whom God brought the fate (of the bubonic plague) in the groin and armpit.'

Text: IGLS 15/1, no. 179. Translation: F. Trombley, lightly adapted.

The inscription commemorates the construction of our church from the offering of inhabitants of the village of Zorava. The dating formula mentions the year 437 of the era of the province of Arabia, which corresponds to AD 542/543, and a certain bishop Ouaros. The era year was misread by earlier editors (Waddington: 407 = AD 512) and so the church used to be erroneously considered as prior to that of George in the same settlement, built in AD 515.

Bishop Ouaros, says Sartre, bears a name popular among Arabs in the Hauran, as the Greek form Ouaros and the Latin form Varus were normally used as counterparts of the Arabic name w'r. Sartre also praises the frankness of the author of our inscription, who did not hesitate to vividly describe the circumstances of the death of Ouaros from bubonic plague. This is the so-called 'plague of Justinian', which hit the empire first in 541 (as recorded by Procopius), so one or two years before the completion of our church. The description of Ouaros' illness, although very close to the terms used in contemporary sources, was, however, puzzling to earlier editors who apparently misunderstood the phrasing (for instance, Waddington marked the last two words with a query, while Meimaris and Lassus interpreted the terms βόνβωνος and μάλης as personal names).

The prophet Elijah enjoyed a considerable cult in the East, mostly due to his veneration in monastic milieus. Waddington, however, suggested that the popularity of this Old Testament figure was also strengthened by the fact that his names Ἠλίας resembled that of the Greek solar God Ἥλιος/Helios, and that the cult of the prophet superseded the cult of the solar God Αὖμος, venerated in the Hauran. Though this view is sometimes expressed in studies on the cult of Elijah, we must note that it was not the primary factor for the origin and spread of the veneration of this saint. An equally implausible explanation is that by Frank Trombley who, apart from seeing links between the cults of Αὖμος and Elijah, argued that the main reason behind the peculiar veneration of Elijah was 'his ascent into the sky atop of a fiery chariot' and that 'men might now in spite of their humanity aspire to rise with Elijah into the sky beside the incarnate God.' As an argument for this dubious thesis, Trombley also cited our Inscription 2.

Inscription 2:

Rectangular stone block with line-markings. H. 0.30 m; W. 1.18 m. Letter height 0.065-0.08 m.

In the early 19th c. Seetzen reportedly saw it at the end of the choir. Buckingham and Burckhardt, travellers who revisited the site soon after Seetzen, noted the presence to the inscription respectively: above a squarish window in the centre of the west end of the apse, and in the outer wall, in the north side of the apse. According to Waddington the inscription was in situ, in the external wall of the apse.

+ πίστ<ε>ι διέδραμεν + Θεόδορος προτε[ύων]
σπουδῇ κ<ὲ> ἔργοισιν εἰς ἀγαθῶν ἀνταπόδοσιν*
προφήτου Ἠλία σὺν ἀγγέλοις ἐν οὐρανοῖσι +

'+ He has run over to faith. + Theodoros the city councillor (proteuon), by his exertion and works, in recompense for good things (from) the prophet Elijah, is with the angels in the heavens. +'

Text: IGLS 15/1, no. 181. Translation: F. Trombley, lightly adapted.

The inscription mentions a deceased person, Theodoros, a local man of importance (proteuon). The actual meaning of lines 2-3 has been disputed, but Maurice Sartre suggests a plausible explanation. Thedoros is said to have joined the heavenly community of angels, like the patron of the village church, the prophet Elijah, in exchange for his pious deeds. On the other hand, Waddington interpreted the adjective ἀγαθῶν as referring to Elijah and the angels, which requires a slight modification of the translation: '+ He has run over to faith, + Theodoros, the city councillor (proteuon), by his exertion and works, as an imitation of the good ones: the prophet Elijah with the angels in the heavens. +'. The general sense is nonetheless preserved.

It is possible that our Thedoros was mentioned in another inscription from this church, which records an offering by a certain Theodoros, son of Aineios, proteuon (see: IGLS 15/1, no. 184). Other dedicatory inscriptions say that the proteuon Ioannes, the scholasticus Palladios with his sons, and the cavalryman Ambrilios also contributed to the construction of the sanctuary.

The inscription begins with a declaration that Theodoros 'ran over to faith'. Sartre points out that this is not a metaphor for conversion, as argued by Trombley (who believed that our Theodoros must have been the very first Christian in his village), but a quotation of a passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews (11,29), which was identified in the present text already by Waddington. Kruse and Fleischer supposed that the inscription was meant to be a poem, written in iambic trimeters, but later editors did not discuss this possibility and the number of syllables in each line makes the hypothesis implausible.

Inscription 3:

Stone block. H. 0.345 m; W. 1.90 m; W. of the inscribed field 0.93 m. Letter height 0.04-0.05 m. Decorated with a carving of a moulded cross in the middle of the inscribed face.

Claimed by Seetzen and Burckhardt to have been placed above a doorway in the church. Sarte says that the inscription was hidden by modern buildings, but eventually resurfaced when some of these structures were demolished. It appears that it was situated above the doorway of an extension to the south part of the church.

ὁ ἅγιος + Ἠλίας

'Saint + Elijah.'

Text: IGLS 15/1, no. 182.

This, the shortest of all three inscriptions, simply mentions the name of Elijah as a saint/ἅγιος and not explicitly as a prophet/προφήτης.

History

Evidence ID

E02116

Saint Name

Elijah, Old Testament prophet : S00217

Saint Name in Source

Ἠλίας

Image Caption 1

Photograph of Inscription 1. From: IGLS 15/1, 247.

Image Caption 2

Photograph of Inscription 2. From: IGLS 15/1, 250.

Image Caption 3

Photograph of Inscription 3. From: IGLS 15/1, 251.

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

542

Evidence not after

543

Activity not before

542

Activity not after

543

Place of Evidence - Region

Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Bosra Izra/Zorava

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

Bosra Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Izra/Zorava Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of an individual

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Aristocrats Peasants

Bibliography

Selected editions: Inscription 1: Sartre-Fauriat, A., Sartre, M., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 15/1: Le plateau du Trachôn et ses bordures (BAH 204, Beyrouth: Institut Français du Proche-Orient, 2014), no. 179. Restle, M., Koder. J., Architekturdenkmäler der spätantiken und frübyzantinischen Zeit im Hauran, vol. 1: Azr'a (Zora) (Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung 31, Vienna: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2012), 51-52, no. 1. Meimaris, Y.E., Kritikakou, K., Bougia, P. (eds.), Chronological Systems in Roman-Byzantine Palestine and Arabia. The Evidence of the Dated Greek Inscriptions (Meletemata 17, Athens: Diffusion de Boccard, Paris, 1992), 226, no. 243. Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2497. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, no. 8628. Buckingham, J.S., Travels among the Arab tribes inhabiting the countries east of Syria and Palestine (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825), 270. Burckhardt, J.L., Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1822), 59. Kruse, F., Fleischer, H.L., Commentare zu Ulrich Jasper Seetzen's Reisen (Berlin, 1859), 27-28. Seetzen, U.J., Reisen durch Syrien, Palästina, Phönicien, die Transjordan Länder, Arabia Petrae und unter-Aegypten, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1854), 52. Inscription 2: Sartre-Fauriat, A., Sartre, M., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 15/1: Le plateau du Trachôn et ses bordures (BAH 204, Beyrouth: Institut Français du Proche-Orient, 2014), no. 181. Restle, M., Koder. J., Architekturdenkmäler der spätantiken und frübyzantinischen Zeit im Hauran, vol. 1: Azr'a (Zora) (Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung 31, Vienna: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2012), 54-56, no. 4. Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2499. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, no. 8631. Buckingham, J.S., Travels among the Arab tribes inhabiting the countries east of Syria and Palestine (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825), 270-271. Burckhardt, J.L., Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1822), 60. Kruse, F., Fleischer, H.L., Commentare zu Ulrich Jasper Seetzen's Reisen (Berlin, 1859), 77-78. Seetzen, U.J., Reisen durch Syrien, Palästina, Phönicien, die Transjordan Länder, Arabia Petrae und unter-Aegypten, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1854), 114. Inscription 3: Sartre-Fauriat, A., Sartre, M., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 15/1: Le plateau du Trachôn et ses bordures (BAH 204, Beyrouth: Institut Français du Proche-Orient, 2014), no. 182. Restle, M., Koder. J., Architekturdenkmäler der spätantiken und frübyzantinischen Zeit im Hauran, vol. 1: Azr'a (Zora) (Veröffentlichungen zur Byzanzforschung 31, Vienna: Verlag der österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2012), 56, no. 5. Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2503. Buckingham, J.S., Travels among the Arab tribes inhabiting the countries east of Syria and Palestine (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1825), 270. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, no. 8629. Burckhardt, J.L., Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1822), 59. Kruse, F., Fleischer, H.L., Commentare zu Ulrich Jasper Seetzen's Reisen (Berlin, 1859), 26. Seetzen, U.J., Reisen durch Syrien, Palästina, Phönicien, die Transjordan Länder, Arabia Petrae und unter-Aegypten, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1854), 51. Further reading: Trombley, F.R., Hellenic Religion and Christianization c. 370-529, vol. 2, (Leiden - New York - Cologne: Brill, 1994), 361-362 (English translations). Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, p. 267.

Usage metrics

Categories

Keywords

Licence

Exports