We reproduce the text as published by the Sartres. For the different readings of earlier editors, see: IGLS 15/2, no. 363.
+ Σέργιος Σαμααθου <τ>ῶν Ορεραθης, φυλῆς
Σοβορηνῶν, ἐξ ἰδίων ἔκτισεν τὸ<ν>
ναὸν τοῦ ἁγίου Ἠλία ἐν ἔτι υνη΄, ἰνδικ-
1. <τ>ῶν Ορεραθης IGLS, [κ]ώ(μης) Νορεράθης Waddington
'Sergios, son of Samaathos, from the (clan?) of Oreathes (?), from the tribe (phyle) of the Soborenoi (?), founded the church (naos) of Saint Elijah from his own (funds). In the year 458, indiction [- - -].'
In the central wreath:
[- - -]υ, βοηθ-
3-4. possibly [Κ(ύριε) Ἰ(ησο)]ῦ, βοηθῖ IGLS
'To Good Fortune! [- - -] help!'
Text: IGLS 15/2, no. 363. Translation: P. Nowakowski.
Saint NameElijah, Old Testament prophet : S00217
Saint Name in SourceἨλίας
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before563
Evidence not after564
Activity not before563
Activity not after564
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 CustomsConstruction of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesOther lay individuals/ people
SourceLarge stone lintel decorated with a carving of a wreath in the middle of the inscribed face. One of the editors, William Waddington, noted the presence of two effaced busts. Dimensions unknown. Now lost.
The inscription was first recorded and copied by William John Bankes, during his journeys in the Mediterranean between 1815 and 1820 (for his work in the Near East, see Lewis, Sartre-Fauriat & Sartre 1996, and Sartre-Fauriat 2004, 132). Bankes came from a rich family of Dorset, and was the son of a Member of Parliament and collector of antiquities. Having graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge (where he befriended Lord Byron), Bankes at first followed the career of his father, but in 1812 he left Parliament and embarked on a journey to Portugal and Spain, Egypt, Cyprus, Asia Minor, and last but not least the Levant. His travels resulted in more than 300 copies of inscriptions, but most of them, including our text, remained unknown until published by Lewis and the Sartres. Bankes reports that the inscription was carved on an architrave reused in the outer wall of a mosque, and that the text was scarcely legible.
The inscription was first published in 1864 by Johann Gottfried Wetzstein, Prussian consul in Damascus and Orientalist, from his own copy. The last copy based on an examination of the stone is that by William Waddington, who revisited the site during his journey across Syria in the 1860s (his edition followed in 1870). Waddington saw the stone in the outer wall of the minaret of a mosque, partially covered by plaster.
The site was revisited by the Princeton Archaeological Expedition to Syria in 1909 and by the Sartres during their recent surveys. Sadly, David Magie (a member of the PAES) was unable to read anything but single letters and offers just a short description of the left-hand end of the slab, which, he says, was then in the north wall of a house, high above the ground. The Sartres did not manage to find the stone.
The inscription was reprinted by a number of editors, based on earlier copies. For a list of editions, see our bibliography and the lemma in IGLS 15/2, no. 363. Importantly, Robert Devreesse in his major work Le patriarcat d'Antioche ascribed the inscription by mistake to Orman and wrongly computed the date as AD 668 (see Gatier 2011, 15).
DiscussionThe inscription commemorates the construction of a church (naos) dedicated to Saint Elijah, almost certainly the Old Testament Prophet who was venerated in the region. Line 1 probably contains the name of the founder, a certain Sergios, son Samaathos. The Sartres say that the man was probably additionally described as a member of the clan of Orerathes and of the tribe (phyle) of Soborenoi, but earlier editors read this passage otherwise. Waddington suggested that after the patronym of the founder we could have the ancient name of the village: Norerathe (modern Nejrān). The Sartres point out that a more plausible solution is to read here the plural article τῶν followed by the name of the eponym of the clan (Orerathes: an indeclinable male name or the genitive form of a female name).
The central wreath contains the popular pagan formula ἀγαθῇ τύχῃ/'To Good Fortune!' It is possible that the formula was Christianised by the addition of a simple invocation of Christ. Waddington suggested that the slab could have been reused in late antiquity, and that it originally bore a pagan inscription referring to Helios and Selene (possibly depicted in medallions with the effaced busts).
Dating: the date, given in line 3, is computed according to the era of the province of Arabia. Its year 458 corresponds to AD 563/564.
Sartre-Fauriat, A., Sartre, M., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 15/2: Le plateau du Trachôn et ses bordures (BAH 204, Beyrouth: Institut Français du Proche-Orient, 2014), no. 363.
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), 248, no. 329.
Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2431.
Wetzstein, J.G., "Ausgewählte griechische und latinische Inschriften, gesammelt auf Reisen in den Trachonen und um das Haurangebirge", Philologische und Historische Abhandlungen des königlischen Akademie des Wissenschaften zu Berlin (1863) , 295, no. 106.
Gatier, P.-L., "Inscriptions grecques, mosaïques et églises des débuts de l'époque islamique au Proche-Orient (VIIe-VIIIe) siècles", in: A. Borrut, M. Debié, A. Papaconstantinou, D. Pieri, J.-P. Sodini (eds.), Le Proche-Orient de Justinien aux Abassides : peuplement et dynamiques spatiales : actes du colloque "Continuités de l'occupation entre les périodes byzantine et abbasside au Proche-Orient, VIIe-IXe siècles," Paris, 18-20 octobre 2007 (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 19, Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), 15.
Sartre-Fauriat, A., Les voyages dans le Hawran (Syrie du Sud) de William John Bankes (1816 et 1818) (Pessac: Ausonius; Beirut: Institut français du Proche-Orient, 2004), 132.
Lewis, N.N., Sartre-Fauriat, A., Sartre, M., "William John Bankes. Travaux en Syrie d'un voyageur oublié", Syria 73 (1996), 57-95.
Trombley, F.R., Hellenic Religion and Christianization c. 370-529, vol. 2, (Leiden - New York - Cologne: Brill, 1994), 366-367 (an English translation).
Moors, St.M., De Decapolis. Steden en Dorpen in de romeinse provinces Syria en Arabia (Doctoral thesis: Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, 1992), 345.
Devreesse, R., Le patriarcat d'Antioche, depuis la paix de l'Église jusqu'à la conquête arabe (Paris: J. Gabalda et cie, 1945), 316.
Littmann, E., Magie, D., Stuart, D.R., (eds.), Publications of the Princeton University Archaeological Expeditions to Syria in 1904-5 and 1909, Division III: Greek and Latin Inscriptions, Section A: Southern Syria (Leiden: Brill, 1921), 382.
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), 355.