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E02273: Floor-mosaic with a Greek inscription commemorating the construction and completion of a church dedicated to a saint *Konstantinos (perhaps the emperor Constantine, ob. 337, S00186; but possibly an unattested local saint) under archbishop Polyeuktos of Bostra. Dated 623. Also a mosaic panel purportedly dating a subsequent restoration of the pavements to 832. Found at Riḥāb, between Bostra and Gerasa/Jerash (Jordan/Roman province of Arabia).

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posted on 25.01.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Inscription 1

The inscription was found in a church (a small three-aisled basilica with three apses) situated c. 1.5 km outside the city, in a small monastic establishment, near the road to Jerash. The site was excavated by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan before 1997. The results of the excavations, and the inscription, are, to the best of our knowledge, still unpublished; but a short description appears in Michel 2001, 221-222 and in Di Segni 2006, 578-579. For an Italian translation, see Piccirillo 2005, 387, note 64:

'Per la grazia di Dio Gesù Cristo fu eretta dalle fondamenta e terminata quest'aula di preghiera del santo e vittorioso Costantino, al tempo del santo Polieuctos arcivescovo e metropolita, con la provvidenza e la fatica di Kaium (figlio) di Procopio il conte, per la salvezza e lunga vita sua e dei suoi figli amatissimi da Dio, e dei benefattori; a cura di Giovanni e di Germano piissimi paramonarii nel mese di Febbraio, il 29mo giorno, al tempo dell'11ma indizione aell'anno 517 della Provincia.'

In 2011 Piccirillo offered an English translation and a scarcely legible photograph, but again no Greek transcription:

'By the grace of God Jesus Christ, this hall of prayer of the saint and victorious Constantine was founded and completed at the time of the most holy archbishop and metropolitan Polyeuktos, with the providence and labor of Kaioumos (son) of Prokopios the count (comes), for the salvation and succor of himself and his God-beloved household, under the care of John and Germanus, most pious church-guardians (paramonarioi), in the month of February, the 28th, at the time of the 11th indiction of the year 517 of the province [= AD 623].'

The inscription is in red tesserae and records that the church was dedicated to a Saint Konstantinos. Archbishop Polyeuktos of Bostra is mentioned in the dating formula, which also says that the church was completed on 28 February of the 517th year of the era of the province of Arabia (= 28 February AD 623, during the Persian occupation and in the year of the completion of the church of the Apostle Peter: E02054).

Polyeuktos appears in a number of other dated inscriptions in mosaic floors in Riḥāb: E02045, church of an unspecified martyr *Basil, AD 594; E02053, church of *Paul the Apostle, AD 596; E02062, church of the Holy Wisdom, AD 604; E02049, church of *Stephen the First Martyr, AD 620; E02054, church of Peter the Apostle, AD 623.

There is no way of knowing precisely who this Saint Konstantinos was - a local martyr, founder of a monastery, or just possibly the early 4th c. emperor?

Inscription 2

Another squarish mosaic panel from the same church bears a very short inscription: 'ΤΜ'. Di Segni argues that this is a number, which itself corresponds to 340, and is probably an abbreviated date of the era of the world creation that should be expanded as (6)340 = AD 832 (which is within the Abbasid reign). As the date falls in the period of iconoclastic disputes and the panel is apparently restored, Di Segni argues that this is the date of the re-laying of the mosaics in the church, resulting from the pressure of the iconoclasts. Pierre-Louis Gatier (2011, 15) considers this dating implausible.

Other mosaics from the church:

Among the original early 7th c. decorations of the carpet mosaic Piccirillo (2011, 105-106) distinguishes a hunting scene with a spearman and a gazelle, a fruit and a knife, and a skewer with sausages which, if correctly identified, is a very unusual motif. Furthermore, one of the panels contains an invocation of God on behalf of a donor called Konstantinos. This fact can be an argument for the possibility that Saint Konstantinos was a local martyr, popular in the region, whose name was given to children, rather than the emperor.

History

Evidence ID

E02273

Saint Name

Constantine the Great, emperor, ob. 337 : S00186 Konstantinos (unspecified) : S01746

Image Caption 1

Photograph of Inscription 1. From: Piccirillo 2011, 105.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 2. From: Di Segni 2006, Pl. 53.

Image Caption 3

Photograph of the church. From: Di Segni 2006, Pl. 53.

Type of Evidence

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

Evidence not before

623

Evidence not after

832

Activity not before

623

Activity not after

832

Place of Evidence - Region

Arabia Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Gerasa/Jerash Riḥāb Bosra

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

Gerasa/Jerash Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Riḥāb Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Bosra 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

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Bibliography

Al-Hissan, A., "The new archaeological discoveries of the al-Fudayn and Rahab—al-Mafraq Excavation Projects, 1991-2001", Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 46 (2002), 88-89 and fig. 29 (in Arabic). Di Segni, L., "Two enigmatic letters in the mosaic pavement of St Constantine Church at Rihab (Fig. 1-2)", Liber Annuus 56 (2006), 578-579 and fig. 1-2. Di Segni, L., "The use of chronological systems in sixth-eight centuries Palestine", Aram 18-19 (2006-2007), 119. 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, and 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), 15-16 (for comments on the use of creation eras in late antique inscriptions). Michel, A., Les églises d'époque byzantine et umayyade de Jordanie (provinces d'Arabie et de Palestine), Ve-VIIIe siècle: typologie architecturale et aménagements liturgiques (avec catalogue des monuments; préface de Noël Duval; premessa di Michele Piccirillo) (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 2, Turnhout: Brepols, 2001), 221-222. Piccirillo, M., "Aggiornamento delle liste episcopali delle diocesi in territoria transgiordanico", Liber Annuus 55 (2005), 387, note 64 (an Italian translation). Piccirillo, M., "The Province of Arabia during the Persian Invasion (613-629/630)", in: K.G. Holum, H. Lapin (eds.), Shaping the Middle East. Jews, Christians, and Muslims in an Age of Transition, 400-800 C.E. (Bethesda, MD: University Press of Maryland, 2011), 105 (fig. 4 - a photograph). Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 56, 1916; 57, 1812; 61, 1476.

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