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E02173: Two Greek building inscriptions for a martyr shrine (martyrion) of an unnamed saint. Found at Shaqrā, to the north of Izra/Zorava, between Bostra and Aere (Roman province of Arabia). Dated, probably 536.

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posted on 21.12.2016, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

The inscription is on an elaborately carved, high quality stone lintel. H. 0.45 m; W. 2.34 m; Th. 0.25 m. The centre of the face of the lintel is decorated with low-relief carvings of circles and squares with loops, containing flowers (or stars) and crosses with the letters Α and Ω. The text is written on two squarish panels at the right- and left-hand ends of the lintel. Dimensions of the panels are respectively: H. 0.27 m; W. 0.28 m and H. 0.22 m; W. 0.27 m. Letter height 0.04-0.045 m.

The lintel was first seen by William Waddington in the 1860s, reportedly in situ, above a doorway of a church (presumably the so-called church of the Immaculate One, which is the modern dedication by the Greek-Catholic community, and where the lintel is now displayed). The stone was revisited by Jean Lassus, and then by Marcell Restle and Johannes Koder during their survey of the Hauran in 1978-1980, and by Annie Sartre-Fauriat and Maurice Sartre, who republished it, with a photograph, in the fifteenth volume of Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie.

+ Σορε- + ἔκτι-
ος Δην- σεν τ-
αρου <ἐκ> τ- ὸ μαρ-
ῶν αὐτο<ῦ> τύριν

'+ Soreos, son of Denaros, from his own (funds) + built the martyr shrine (martyrion).'

Text: IGLS 15/1, no. 162.

Inscription 2:

Stone slab. H. 0.38 m; W. 0.60 m. Set in the west facade of the church of the Immaculate One, above the upper left-hand corner of the lintel of the main doorway. The inscription is within a frame. The left-hand border of the frame is lost. Letter height c. 0.08 m.

The slab was first seen by William Waddington in the 1860s above a doorway of a church (reportedly the same as that with Inscription 1). The stone was revisited by Jean Lassus, and by Marcell Restle and Johannes Koder. Annie Sartre-Fauriat and Maurice Sartre, who saw the object and republished it with a photograph in the fifteenth volume of Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, say that the stone in its present setting was certainly reused.

+ Σορεος Δη-
ναρου εὐ-
χαριστῶν
ἔκτ(ισεν) τὸ μ<α>ρ(τύριν) ἔτ(ους) λ[υ]΄

4. ἔτο(υς - - -) Waddington || λ[υ]΄ or Υ[-] Sartre

'+ Soeros, son of Denaros, giving thanks, built the martyr shrine (martyrion) in the year [4]30 (?).'

Text: IGLS 15/1, no. 163.

History

Evidence ID

E02173

Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060

Image Caption 1

Inscription 1. Photograph by the Sartres. From: IGLS 15/1, 227.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 2. Photograph by the Sartres. From: IGLS 15/1, 228.

Image Caption 3

Inscription 1. Majuscule edition by Waddington. From: LBW, 569.

Image Caption 4

Inscription 2. Majuscule edition by Waddington. From: LBW, 569.

Image Caption 5

Plan of the church of the Immaculate One. From: Lassus 1947, 147.

Image Caption 6

Photograph of the church of the Immaculate One. From: IGLS 15/1, 215.

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

436

Evidence not after

636

Activity not before

436

Activity not after

636

Place of Evidence - Region

Arabia Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Bosra Aere Shaqrā

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

Bosra Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Aere Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Shaqrā Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people

Discussion

The inscriptions commemorate the construction of an unnamed martyr shrine. As their phrasing is almost identical and both mention the same donor, a certain Soreos, son of Denaros, one can assume that they refer to the same building. Inscription 2 says that the construction was completed in the year '.30' of the era of the province of Arabia, probably 430 (see below), that is in AD 536. It is possible that Inscription 1 is still displayed in its original location, and has not been inserted into the wall at a later date. This argument made the Sartres suppose that the present-day church of the Immaculate One used to be a martyrion. However, they also note several issues that disturbed them – first of all, the fact that no martyr is mentioned by name in our texts. For this reason, they say, there is a theoretical possibility that our inscriptions, especially Inscription 2 that was apparently reused, come from a different building or just a chapel: an original 4th or 5th c. shrine, from which our panels could have been moved to the 6th c. church together with relics, and where one should expect a longer dedicatory inscription mentioning the name of the venerated saint (or saints). In our opinion, this suggestion is interesting, but we must remember that we do have a number of martyr shrines whose building inscriptions say nothing on the identity of the martyrs whose relics were kept therein (see, for example: E00714; E01618; E01784; E01860; E01978; E01992; E02041). The building itself is discussed by Jean Lassus, based on his survey and a plan sketched by Jean Sauvaget. The structure, believed by Lassus to have been a 6th c. work, is built on the plan of a central square covered by a dome, with four perpendicular halls and other adjacent chambers of irregular shape. The east end of the building is lost, and so we cannot say whether it originally had an apse, but it is possible that we have here a peculiar hybrid of a three-aisled basilica with an apse and an (earlier?) sanctuary on a central plan. Lassus was very happy to consider this sanctuary a martyr shrine, as he believed that churches built on central plans were mainly designed for the veneration of martyrs. It also seemed important to him that our church was certainly built within the area of the settlement, while primitive martyria were normally constructed outside towns and villages, immediately above the tombs of martyrs. Our church might illustrate the process of the transition of the cult of relics from rural chapels to urban churches. The dating formula of Inscription 2 is partially lost. Lassus, based on the style of the west facade and the decorations of the lintel, dated the building to the 6th c., and based on his assumption the Sartres suggested only one coherent restoration: λ[υ]΄ = 430th year of the era of the province of Arabia = AD 536. However, the Sartres rightly note that the facade could have been renovated in the 6th c. (which could have misled Lassus), and we can also easily restore the date otherwise, for example as λ[τ]΄ = 330 = AD 436, or λ[φ]΄ = 530 = AD 636. On the basis of the dating of other church inscriptions from Bostra, 536 is the most likely date.

Bibliography

Inscription 1: Edition: 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. 162. 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), 133-134, no. 2, fig. 64. Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2510b. Further reading: Lassus, J., "Deux églises cruciformes du Hauran", Bulletin d'études orientales 1 (1931), 45, no. 8b. 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), 139; 147-148, fig. 63, Plate XXVI. Inscription 2: Edition: 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. 163. 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), 132-134, no. 1, fig. 63. Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2510a. Further reading: Lassus, J., "Deux églises cruciformes du Hauran", Bulletin d'études orientales 1 (1931), 44, no. 8a.

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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