We follow the edition by Maurice Sartre; for the readings of earlier editors, see: IGLS 13/1, no. 9125.
+ ἐπὶ τοῦ θεοφιλεστάτου καὶ ὁσιωτάτου Ἰουλιανοῦ ἀρχι-
επισκ(όπου) ᾠκοδομήθη καὶ ἐτελιώθη ὁ ἅγιος ναὸς Σεργίου,
Βάχχου καὶ Λεοντίου, τῶν ἀθλοφόρων καὶ καλλι-
νίκιων μαρτύρων, ἐν ἔτι υζʹ, ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ϛʹ +
'+ Under the most God-fearing and most holy Ioulianos, archbishop, was built and completed the holy church (naos) of Sergios, Bakchos, and Leontios, the prize-bearing and gloriously triumphant martyrs. In the year 407, 6th indiction. +'
Text: IGLS 13/1, no. 9125. Translation: E. Littmann, lightly adapted.
Saint NameSergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023
Bakchos, martyr in Barbalissos (Syria), ob. c. 303-311 : S00079
Leontios, martyr in Tripolis (Syria), ob. c. 303-312 : S00216
Saint Name in SourceΣέργιος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before512
Evidence not after513
Activity not before512
Activity not after513
Place of Evidence - RegionArabia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcBosra
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Bosra
Sakkaia / Maximianopolis
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsConstruction of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
SourceStone lintel. Its original dimensions are unknown. In 1909 Enno Littmann saw a fragment containing part of line 1. The fragment measured H. c. 0.15 m; W. c. 2.00 m.
The inscription was first published in 1822, from a copy by Otto Friedrich von Richter, a philologist and surveyor born at Dorpat in Livland. Having studied oriental languages in Heidelberg and Vienna, he departed for a journey to Egypt and Nubia together with Sven Frederik Lidman (in 1815), and to Constantinople, Cyprus, Syria and Asia Minor (in 1816). In Smyrna he fell ill and died. His journals, notes and copies of inscriptions were edited by Johann Philipp Gustav von Ewers, a professor of law at the University of Dorpat and a friend of Richter. The inscription was reportedly displayed over the main doorway of an ancient church.
In March 1816 Bostra was revisited by James Silk Buckingham, a Cornish journalist and traveller, later known as an advocate for a free press in India. The 1825 publication of journals from his extensive travels in Syria contains a transcription of our text. Buckingham wrote that he saw the inscription 'in a tablet over a door in the west or semicircular front' of 'a large ruined edifice, which was originally an oblong square, with one semicircular end'. He further commented that 'The interior of the building presents a miserable work of the Greek Christians, by whom it was no doubt used as a place of worship up to the period of its destruction. The walls have been stuccoed on the inside, and portions of this remain, showing that it had once been ornamented with portraits and figures of the principal Greek saints.'
The village was revisited by William John Bankes, during his journeys in the Mediterranean between 1815 and 1820 (for his work in the Near East, see the comments in E02194), but his copy remained unknown until published by Lewis and the Sartres. His drawing shows the inscription within a tabula ansata.
The stone was also seen by Ulrich Jasper Seetzen, a German traveller in the Levant who departed from Jever (Friesland in Lower Saxony) in 1802, and reached the Fayum Oasis in Egypt, via Smyrna, central Asia Minor, Aleppo, Palestine and Sinai. Seetzen saw the inscription certainly before 1811 when he was poisoned by his guide, while on his way to Muscat (modern Oman), but his journals were published only in 1854, so after the editions of Richter and Buckingham. It was, however, Seetzen's edition that was reprinted in the fourth volume of the Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum by Adolf Kirchhoff. Seetzen saw the inscription over the doorway of the great church of Bostra.
In the 1860s the inscription was seen by William Waddington, over the doorway of a building he identified as the cathedral church. Waddington offered a new, and so far the most complete, edition in 1870. In 1909 Bostra was surveyed by the Princeton Archaeological Expedition to Syria. The explorers were able to find only a fragment of the stone with line 1, reused in a house in the centre of the city, in the arch of a doorway. Even this fragment is now lost, as it was not found by Maurice Sartre during his survey of Bostra in the 1970s. Sartre follows the text as published by Waddington.
DiscussionThis important inscription is our primary evidence for the joint cult of Sergios, Bakchos, and Leontios (three martyred soldiers) in the cathedral church of Bostra. It has been frequently cited by scholars discussing the cult of these saints, and is the basis for the interpretation of scarcely legible graffiti from Rusafa, possibly suggesting that Leontios was venerated there together with Sergios (see: E01462).
The identity of Sergios and Bakchos as the companion martyrs of Barbalissos and Rusafa is beyond doubt, though their appearance together is noteworthy, as Sergios was usually venerated alone in the East. As for Leontios, he is most probably a 2nd c. martyr believed to have been killed under the emperor Hadrian in Tripolis in Lebanon, where his main place of cult was located, as reported by Evagrius in his Church history (HE III 33; EXXXXXX). Leontios was also known to Procopius who mentions a chapel built to him by Justinian in Damascus (Buildings V 9; EXXXXXX) and to Theodoret of Cyrrhus who mentions him in his sermons, as among the most famous martyrs (Sermo de martyribus, Opera, IV, 607; EXXXXX).
The inscription says that the cathedral church was built under archbishop Ioulianos/Julianus.
Dating: the year 407 of the era of the province of Arabia and the 6th indictional year correspond to the period September 512 – March 513. Given the date of this inscription, Ioulianos, the archbishop mentioned in line 1, is certainly the archbishop of Bostra who together with a number of other bishops protested against the rejection of the decisions of the council of Chalcedon by the Miaphysite patriarch of Antioch, Severos, supported by the (also Miaphysite) emperor Anastasius. As a result of his protest, Ioulianos had to flee from Bostra and seek refuge in Epiphaneia in Syria. He later reclaimed his bishopric. Evagrius (HE III 33) dated the emperor's deposition of the Chalcedonian patriarch of Antioch, Flavianos, and his settlement there of Severos, to 513, but his testimony has been questioned, as other literary sources dated the conflict and the deposition of Ioulianos of Bostra to 512. Our inscription proves that Ioulianos was still in office in the autumn of 512 or even in the spring of 513, and so Evagrius' dating seems to be correct. For the activity of archbishop Ioulianos, see: Bostra chap. III, § I C.
Sartre, M. (ed.), Les inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 13/1: Bostra: nos. 9001 à 9472 (BAH 13, Paris: Librairie orientaliste P. Geuthner, 1982), no. 9125.
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), 246, no. 557.
Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 1915 (and plate no. 1914).
Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, no. 8625.
Seetzen, U.J., Reisen durch Syrien, Palästina, Phönicien, die Transjordan Länder, Arabia Petrae und unter-Aegypten, vol. 1 (Berlin, 1854), 70 (and vol. 4, 46).
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), 196.
von Richter, O.F., Wallfahrten im Morgenlande. Aus seinen Tagebüchern und Briefen dargestellt von Johann Philipp Gustav Ewers, Band 1: Textband. Band 2: Tafelband (Berlin 1822), 187 and 561, no. 19 (cf. a new edition: Documenta Arabica, Teil 1: Reiseliteratur/Olms Verlag 2005).
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), 303, note 59.
Sartre, M., Sartre-Fauriat, A. (eds.), Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 13/2: Bostra (Supplément) et la plaine de la Nuqrah (BAH 194, Beirut: Institut français du Proche-Orient, 2011), 16 (supplement).
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 52, 1588bis.