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E02339: Floor mosaic with a Greek inscription commemorating the building, paving and embellishment of a church (naos) of *Thomas, probably the Apostle (S00199). Found at Khirbat Sa'ad, c. 10 km to the northeast of Gersa/Jerash (Jordan/Roman province of Arabia) but probably within the territory of Bostra. Dated 572.

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posted on 06.02.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
[χάριτι θεοῦ κ]αὶ Κ(υρίο)υ Ἰ(ησο)ῦ Χ(ριστο)ῦ ἐθεμηλιώθη
[καὶ ἐψηφώθ]η καὶ ἐκοσμήθη ὁ ναὸς τοῦ
[ἁγίου Θ]ωμᾶ <ἐκ> τῆς ὑποστάσεως Γεροντίου
[- - -] καὶ Ἠλίου αὐτοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ σωτ(ηρίας) Πορφυρίας
[συμ]β(ίου) πρ(οτέρας) αὐτοῦ υἱοῦ τῶν κ(αὶ) ἀναλωσάντων.
[Κ(ύρι)ε Ἰη]σοῦς πρόσδεξ(αι) τὴν καρποφορίαν. ἐψη(φώθη)
[χρ(όνοις) τῆ]ς παρού(σης) ε΄ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ἔτου(ς) υξζ΄. μνήσθητι ὁ θ(εὸ)ς εὐχαῖς
[τοῦ ἁ]γίου τοῦ λαμπρ(οτάτου) ζυγοστ(άτου) Βόστρων κ(υρίου) Ἰωάννου

3. <ἐκ> Feissel || 7. [χρ(όνοις) τῆ]ς παρού(σης) ε΄ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ἔτου(ς) Feissel, [- - -]ς παρ(- - -) ε΄ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ἔτ(ους) Sari || 8. [τοῦ ἁ]γίου Feissel, [- - -]ιου Sari || Βόστρων κ(υρίου) Ἰωάννου Feissel, ζυγοστ(άτου) Βόστρων κ(αὶ) Ἰωάννου Sari

'[Through the grace of God] and Lord Jesus Christ this church (naos) of [Saint] Thomas was founded [and paved], and embellished from the property (?) of Gerontios [- - -] and Elias, his son, and as a vow for the salvation of Porphyria, former wife of his son (?), who also made the offering. [O Lord] Jesus, accept the offering. This mosaic was paved in the time of the present 5th indiction, the year 467. O God, remember through the intercessions [of the saint] the clarissimus zygostates of Bostra, lord Ioannes.'

Text: Sari 1994, 528 with completions by D. Feissel in BE (1997), 663. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

History

Evidence ID

E02339

Saint Name

Thomas, the Apostle : S00199 Thomas (unspecified) : S00842

Saint Name in Source

Θωμᾶς Θωμᾶς

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

572

Evidence not after

572

Activity not before

572

Activity not after

572

Place of Evidence - Region

Arabia Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Bosra Gerasa/Jerash Khirbat Sa'ad

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

Bosra Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Gerasa/Jerash Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Khirbat Sa'ad Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Officials Aristocrats

Source

Mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata, situated at the east end of the nave of the ancient church, in front of the apse. Damaged at the left-hand end. The first editor says that the panel was probably at some point restored (in the Umayyad period?) and that it bears traces of fire, probably from bedouin camps. The sanctuary was a three-aisled basilica, probably with a narthex, measuring c. 24 m x 11 m. The site was recorded by Siegfried Mittmann in 1970 and excavated in 1994 by the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology of the University of Yarmuk and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. Only the east and south foundations and mosaic floors of the church were found, the west and northwest part of the building were lost. It is possible that at least one chapel was annexed to the south aisle. The church housed a richly decorated carpet mosaic: in addition to the panel with the inscription, there were two mosaics with geometric patterns in the aisles, and a mosaic with depictions of a basket, an amphora, and two trees, framed by circles of vine sprouts in the nave. The inscribed mosaic was first published by Salih Sari in 1995. Further completions were suggested by Denis Feissel in 1997.

Discussion

The inscription commemorates three phases of the construction of the church: its foundation, paving, and embellishment. Though the left-hand end of the panel is lost, in line 2 we can safely restore the name of Saint Thomas, probably the Apostle, as the patron of the sanctuary. The phrasing of that part of the inscription which mentions donors is a bit puzzling, but it seems that the work was financed by a certain Gerontios (literally: 'from his property'/ὑπόστασις, and not 'as a vow for the life (ὑπόστασις) of Gerontios', as suggested by Sari). A certain Elias, possibly a son of Gerontios, is also mentioned as a contributor. It might be that the donation was made as a vow for the salvation of his former (i.e. deacesed?) wife, Porphyria, but this passage is very unclear due to several abbreviations and a lost fragment of the text. Denis Feissel was uncertain whether one should accept this interpretation, but did not offer a different one. The inscription ends with an invocation of God, asked to remember the zygostates (that is inspector of weights in the market) of Bostra, Ioannes, by the intercessions of the saint. His relationship to the other donors is not indicated. Dating: the inscription is dated according to the era of the province of Arabia. Its year 467 and the 5th indiction correspond to 22nd March – 1st September AD 572. Pierre-Louis Gatier notes in BE that the use of this provincial era of Arabia and the mention of an official of Bostra suggest that the village lay outside of the territory of nearby Jerash and belonged to Bostra.

Bibliography

Edition: 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), 222-224, no. 83 (as published by Sari, lacking the restorations by Feissel). Sari, S., 'Ricerca storico-archeologica in Giordania XV-1995: 10. A church at Khirbat Sa'ad. A new discovery', Liber Annuus 45 (1995), 526-529 with plates 80-84. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1997), 663. Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 863. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 45, 1983.

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