Saint NameSergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023
Saint Name in SourceΣέργιος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before517
Evidence not after518
Activity not before517
Activity not after518
Place of Evidence - RegionArabia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcBosra
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Bosra
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 NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
Other lay individuals/ people
Cult Activities - Cult Related ObjectsChalices, censers and other liturgical vessels
Precious material objects
SourceStone lintel. Unknown dimensions.
Seen and copied by William Waddington in the 1860s, in a building which he identified as the great church of the village, above a doorway, probably in situ. First transcribed and published by Waddington in 1871. Revisited by Annie Sartre-Fauriat and Maurice Sartre in 2010. These surveyors made a photograph and noted that the stone was still in its place, but the facade with the doorway was covered by a later building of basalt stones. Republished by the Sartres, with the photograph, in 2014.
DiscussionThe inscription commemorates the construction of a church (naos) dedicated to Saint Sergios, certainly the soldier martyr venerated at Rusafa. Unlike numerous similar building inscriptions, this one not only enumerates the names of donors, but also briefly describes the circumstances of the foundation. It says that the church was built by a certain Chrysaphios at the request of his deceased brother, probably anxious on his deathbed about his fate. Interestingly the brothers bore very different names: the classical Greek name Chrysaphios and the Christian name Elias. The deceased brother, Elias, held the post of logothetes. The actual meaning of this function in late antiquity is not clear, but it could refer to a junior steward of a church, subordinated to the oeconomus /oikonomos (a senior steward), as suggested by the Sartres, based on their recent research. Waddington noted that the function of logothetes could designate a high-ranking financial official at the imperial court (λογοθέτης γενικός or μέγας λογοθέτης or λογοθέτης τοῦ δρόμου), but he concluded that in this case it was more probable that Elias was simply a steward at a local church or in his village.
Furthermore, we learn that there was one more voluntary donor, the presbyter Euangelos, who offered marble plaques to revet the church (probably its floors) and paid for the construction of arches. The Sartres note that the gift of Euangelos also lists τὸ πρὶν ἔνθα ἀπόθητον which they hypothetically translate as 'dépôt conservé là auparavant' (after ἀποτίθημι/'put away, stow away'), and they suggest that this might denote the deposition of relics or of precious objects, for example, liturgical vessels, possibly acquired from another church. Interestingly, Waddington believed that this phrase 'doubtless' meant that the church had been built over an earlier pagan shrine (an undesired (place)/ἀπόθητον; cf. Trombley 1994, 378), an interpretation which was, however, rejected by the Sartres, as the sentence clearly refers to an offering. In our opinion the word might refer to a previously unused secular building (e.g. a former storehouse) that was converted into a church. The author of the inscription says that Euangelos was rewarded for his generosity with burial in the church, but we cannot say whether this was meant to be a burial ad sanctos (close to relics of Saint Sergios) or merely a burial at a holy place.
The construction was supervised by the archdeacon Elias who mentions that he was a descendant of one Maiourinos. The Sartres identify this ancestor as Maiorinus, Pretorian Prefect of the East in the period 345-347 (i.e. under Constantius II), who died in c. 365. This Maiorinus certainly came from our village and was buried here (for his epitaphs, see: IGLS 15/1, nos. 241-242); our inscription shows that his brilliant career was remembered in the region approximately 150 years later.
Dating: the dating formula mentions the 412th year of the era of the province of Arabia and the 11th indictional year. These together correspond to 1st September AD 517 - 21st March AD 518.
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. 235.
Meimaris, Y.E., Kritikakou, K., Bougia, P., Chronological Systems in Roman-Byzantine Palestine and Arabia. The Evidence of the Dated Greek Inscriptions (Meletēmata 17, Athens: Kentron Hellēnikēs kai Rōmaikēs Archaiotētos, Ethnikon Hydryma Ereunōn, 1992), 229, no. 255.
Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2477.
Brünnow, R.E., von Domaszewski, A., Die Provincia Arabia: auf Grund zweier in den Jahren 1897 und 1898 unternommenen Reisen und der Berichte früherer Reisender, vol. 3 (Strassburg: Trübner, 1909), 350-351.
Moors, St.M., De Decapolis. Steden en Dorpen in de romeinse provinces Syria en Arabia (Doctoral thesis: Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, 1992), 300, 349.
Trombley, F.R., Hellenic Religion and Christianization c. 370-529, vol. 2, (Leiden - New York - Cologne: Brill, 1994), 378.