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E02342: Greek inscriptions from the church/martyr shrine (martyrion) of *Theodore (soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita, S00480) in Gerasa/Jerash, commemorating the foundation of the building in 494, its completion in 496, and praising the universal glory of the saint, whose church superseded earlier pagan cult at the site.

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posted on 07.02.2017, 00:00 by Bryan
Inscription 1:

The inscription consists of four lines containing a poem of thirteen hexameters., here set out in verse form. It is carved on three moulded lintel blocks from the central west door of the atrium of the church of Theodore (width of the blocks: 1.87 m, 1.87 m, 0.42 m; height of the inscribed field: 0.30 m; letter height 0.05 m). The first block was displaced and found in the modern settlement.

The most often quoted edition (which is also the one we follow here) is that by Charles B. Welles, published in 1938, but the inscription had long been known before that. It was first recorded by Jules Bertou (a renowned French traveller and one of the founders of the archaeology of south Syria, Jordan and Palestine), during his first journey, and published by him in 1837. Subsequently, the stone was re-published, based on various copies, by a number of editors (it is included, for example in the Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum and in the Epigrammata graeca ex lapidibus conlecta by Georg Kaibel). For a complete list by 1938, see the edition by Welles. After Welles, the inscription was included in the Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten by Reinhold Merkelbach and Josef Stauber (with no changes), and in a collection of Greek epigrams by Yiannis Meimaris and Nikoleta Makrigianni. The poem was also commented on by Gianfranco Agosti, Charles March, and Francesco Valerio (who offers a new restoration of line 7).

A photograph was published in 1938, together with Welles' edition, but a better photograph was taken in 1989 by Géza Alföldy and is accessible in the Epigraphic Database Heidelberg (F007989).

θ̣άμβος ὁμοῦ καὶ θαῦμα παρερχομένοισιν ἐτύχθην·
πᾶν γὰρ ἀκοσμίης λέλυτ̣α̣ι ̣νέφος, ἀντι δὲ λήμης
τῆς προτέρης πάντη με θεοῦ χάρις ἀμφιβέβηκεν.
καί ποτε τετραπόδων | ̣ὁπόσα μογέοντα δαμείη
ἐνθάδε ῥιπτομένων ὀδμὴ διεγείρ{ειρ}ετο λυγρή.
+ πολλάκι καὶ παριών τις ἑῆς ἐδράξατο ῥινὸς
καὶ πνοιῆς πό[θ]ον εἶρξε | ̣κακοσμίην ἀλεείνων.
νῦν δὲ δι’ ἀμβροσίοιο πέδου περόωντες ὁδεῖται
δεξιτέρην παλάμην σφετέρῳ προσάγουσι μετώπῳ,
σταυροῦ τιμήεντο[ς ἐπὶ σφρ]ηγῖδα τελοῦντες. |
̣εἰ δ’ ἐθέλεις κ(αὶ) τοῦτο δαήμεναι, ὄφρ’ ἐὺ εἰδῇς,
Αἰνείας τόδε κάλλος ἐμοὶ πόρεν ἀξιέραστον
πάνσοφος εὐσεβίῃ μεμελημένος ἱεροφάντης. +

7. πνοιῆς πό[θ]ον Welles, πνοιῆς πό[ρ]ον Valerio || verse 11 is a quotation of Iliad VI 150

'I have been made a wonder and a marvel at once to passers-by, for all the cloud of unseemliness is dispelled, and instead of the former superstition (leme) the grace of God surrounds me on every side. And once from the four-footed beasts, that toiling died and were here cast out, spread forth a baleful stench, and often would a man going by grip his nose and stop the passage of breath, shunning the foul odour. But now the wayfarers that pass over the scented plain carry their right hand to their brow making the sign of the precious cross. And if thou wilt learn this also, that thou mayst well know it, 'twas Aineias that gave me the beauty, the all-wise priest, practised in piety.'

Text: I. Gersa, no. 299. Translation: A.H.M. Jones in Crowfoot 1929, 21-22, lightly adapted.

Inscription 2:

The inscription consists of four lines containing a poem of seven hexameters, here set out in verse form, and a dating formula in prose, beginning in the second half of the penultimate line. It is carved on four lintel blocks from the central west door of the church of Theodore, but facing the interior of the church (W. 3.55 m; H. of the inscribed field 0.30 m; letter height 0.05 m). The right-hand half of the lintel is weathered and scarcely legible.

As in the case of the previous inscription, the most often quoted edition is that by Charles B. Welles. The present stone, however, was first recorded somewhat later than the poem of Aineias. It was first published (only fragments B and D) in 1853 by August Böckh from a copy by Friedrich Dieterici, a German orientalist and Arabist who carried out extensive surveys of the region shortly before 1850. Consequently, the inscription appears in the Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum and in the Epigrammata graeca ex lapidibus conlecta in an incomplete form. Fragment C was first published in 1885 by Claude Reignier Conder in the Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement, and fragment A in 1928 by A.H.M. Jones in the same journal. The newly recovered fragments proved that the hypothetical restorations suggested by scholars based on the incomplete text, were all incorrect. As for newer publications: the inscription features in the Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten and Ἔρνος κύδιμον Παλαιστινῆς γαίης by Meimaris and Makrigianni.

A photograph of the left-hand fragment was published in 1926 by A.H.M. Jones, and a complete one in 1938, together with Welles' edition. A better photograph was taken in 1989 by Martin Spannagel and is published in the Epigraphic Database Heidelberg (F007990).

+ ἄχραντο[ς] δόμος εἰμὶ ἀεθλοφόρου Θεοδώρου,
μάρτυρος ἀθανάτου, θεοειδέος οὗ κλέος ἔπτη
ἐν χθονὶ κ(αὶ) πόντῳ | καὶ τέρμασιν Ὠκεανοῖο.
σῶμα γὰρ ἐν γαίῃ, ψυχὴ δ’ εἰς οὐρανὸν εὐρύν,
ἀγγελικῆς μετὰ πότμον ἀεὶ μετέχουσα χορείης.
ἕρκος | ἀλεξίκακ[ο]ν τελέθει κἀγήραον ἕρμα
ἄστει καὶ ναέτῃσι καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πολίταις.

+ χάριτι τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ ἐθεμελιώθη | τὸ ἅγιο[ν μα]ρτύριον μη(νὶ) Δίῳ τῆς v γʹ ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) κ(αὶ) ἀνῆλθεν τὰ ὑπέ[ρ]θυρα ἐν μη(νὶ) Δίῳ τῆς εʹ [ἰν]δ(ικτιῶνος) τοῦ θνφʹ ἔτ(ους).

'I am the undefiled house of victorious Theodore, immortal and godlike martyr, whose fame has flown o'er land and sea and the bounds of ocean. For his body is in the earth, but his soul after his doom sped to the broad heaven, where it for ever joins in the angelic choirs and abides an unageing defence and barrier against ill for the town and the dwellers therein and its citizens yet to be. By the grace of God the foundation of the holy martyrion was laid in the month Dios, in the 3rd indiction and the lintel went up in the month of Dios in the 5th indiction in the year 559.'

Text: I. Gerasa, no. 300. Translation: A.H.M. Jones in Crowfoot 1929, 22.

History

Evidence ID

E02342

Saint Name

Theodore Tiro, martyr of Amaseia (Helenopontus, north-eastern Asia Minor), ob. 306 : S00480

Saint Name in Source

Θεόδωρος

Image Caption 1

Photograph of Inscription 1 by Géza Alföldy. From: the Epigraphic Database Heidelberg (F007989).

Image Caption 2

Photograph of Inscription 2 by Martin Spannagel. From: the Epigraphic Database Heidelberg (F007990).

Image Caption 3

Plan of the city. From: Michel 2001, 225.

Image Caption 4

Plan of the episcopal complex. From: Michel 2001, 228.

Image Caption 5

Plan of the church of Theodore. From: Michel 2001, 234.

Image Caption 6

Photograph of the episcopal complex. From: Michel 2001, 228.

Image Caption 7

Photograph of the church of Theodore. From: Michel 2001, 234.

Image Caption 8

Photograph of Inscription 2 (fragment A). From: Jones 1928, Pl. II.

Image Caption 9

Photograph of Inscription 1. From: I. Gerasa, Pl. CXXIX.

Image Caption 10

Photograph of Inscription 1. From: I. Gerasa, Pl. CXXIX.

Image Caption 11

Photograph of Inscription 2. From: I. Gerasa, Pl. CXXIX.

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

494

Evidence not after

496

Activity not before

494

Activity not after

496

Place of Evidence - Region

Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Gerasa/Jerash

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

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

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - bishops Other lay individuals/ people Angels Demons Animals Pagans

Source

The so-called 'episcopal complex' of Jerash consists of several churches, richly surrounded by annexes and situated in the centre of the city, immediately to the south of the temple of Artemis. For an overall plan and list of the structures, see the attached plan. The two principal churches are the so-called 'cathedral church'/east basilica (22.40 m x 42 m), and our church of Saint Theodore (21.60 m x 42 m, see: E02342) with an atrium (32 m x 12 m), sited to the west. The two are separated by a courtyard (31 m x 30.40 m including porches), with a fountain at its centre. The complex was accessible at both ends, at its eastern end by way of a monumental colonnaded stairway leading up from the main street of the city. The chronology of the episcopal complex of Jerash is thoroughly summarised by Anne Michel (2001, 238-240). The one structure within the complex that is securely dated is the church of Saint Theodore, since Inscription 2 dates its foundation to 494 and completion to 496.

Discussion

Both inscriptions come from the west section of the episcopal complex and certainly refer to the same building: the church of Theodore, identified as such in Inscription 2. The speaker in Inscription 1 is the building itself. It praises its own beauty and informs a passer-by that it superseded a place where the stench of slaughtered animals made it hard to breathe, and where error persisted. We also learn that the building is the foundation of a certain priest Aineias, and is a religious institution, as it is surrounded by the glory of God and pious passers-by venerate it. Two interpretations have been suggested regarding this description. Böckh, Conder, and Jones plausibly suggested that the poet meant that a former pagan shrine, a place where animals were sacrificed (especially oxen and bulls called τετράποδα/'quadripeds' or 'four-footed creatures' by the Greeks), was demolished and superseded by a splendid Christian church. On the other hand, Germer-Durand argued that the poem described the construction of a church at the place of a former slaughter-house or a dump where bodies of dead animals were disposed of. Both Jones and Welles, however, rightly rejected his supposition, saying that it is unlikely that such a dump would have been located in the centre of the city and that there would be no reason to mention it in a commemorative text. It is likely that our poem refers to the temple of Artemis, situated next to the episcopal complex, contrasting the Christian religion with the errors of old. For very similar inscribed poems on the abolition of pagan rites, which were offensive to God, and the subsequent construction of churches, see E01754 and E02065 (both from Izra/Zorava; for further references on this kind of dedicatory poem, see Agosti 2010, 171, note 66). In spite of these arguments, one can sometimes find references to Germer-Durand's theory in recent literature. The poem in Inscription 2 is more specific. It addresses the glory of a certain martyr Theodore. The poem is again composed as a monologue, delivered by the building on which it was inscribed. It says that the holy Theodore enjoys world-wide fame, reaching even the western ocean (Okeanos). The epithets used to praise the saint are exceptional. Theodore is described as an 'immortal and godlike' figure (ἀθάνατος, θεοειδής). This is probably a result of the epic style of the work, as the latter epithet is used by Homer in reference to Priam and Telemachos. Another interesting feature of the poem is the little attention paid by the author to the body of Theodore, which is summarily dismissed as buried in the earth, with no reference to the miraculous power of the saint's relics; instead he puts the emphasis on the soul of the martyr which now dwells in Heaven with the angels. The saint is also introduced as a particular protector of the city, and all its inhabitants, present and future. Theodore, the dedicatee of the church, was initially identified by William Calder (1920) as Theodore, a young confessor of Antioch under the emperor Julian. Crowfoot, however, rightly pointed out that our Theodore must be Theodore, the soldier and martyr venerated at Euchaita in Pontus, whose cult was widely spread in the East as we learn from numerous dedications of churches. It is even possible that verse three, stating that Theodore is venerated 'over land and sea'/ἐν χθονὶ κ(αὶ) πόντῳ might contain a wordplay, as Pontos is also the name of the region where Euchaita is situated. Interestingly, in the well-known dedicatory poem for Theodore from that town, he is also shown as the protector of its civic community (see E00969). Dating: Inscription 1 is undated, but it is presumably close in date to Inscription 2 which offers a precise date, computed according to the Gerasene Era (an era of Pompey, in use in Jerash). Its year 559, the date of the completion of the building, corresponds to AD 496. The work is said to have started two years earlier, i.e. in AD 494. These are the sole firm dates in the chronology of the episcopal complex. Merkelbach and Stauber accidentally read the date as the year 599, and thus in their collection it is converted as AD 535/536 (this dating is copied by Agosti 2010, 171).

Bibliography

Edition: Inscription 1: Meimaris, Y., Makrigianni, N.S., Ἔρνος κύδιμον Παλαιστινῆς γαίης ᾿Ανθολογία ἐπιγραφῶν Παλαιστινῆς καὶ ᾿Αραβίας (Athens: , 2008), no. 3. Merkelbach, R., Stauber, J., Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, vol. 4 (Stuttgart: Teubner, 2002), no. 21/23/03 (German translation; wrong date). Welles, C.B., 'The inscriptions', in: Kraeling, C.H. (ed.), Gerasa, city of the Decapolis (New Haven: American School of Oriental Research, 1938), no. 299. Crowfoot, J.W., 'The church of S. Theodore at Jerash', Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (1929), 17-36 (with a translation by A.H.M. Jones). Conder, C.R., 'Jerash texts', Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (1928), 28 (English translation). Kaibel, G., Epigrammata Graeca ex lapidibus conlecta (Berolini: G. Reimer, 1878), no. 1068. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, no. 8655. Bertou, J., 'Voyage dans les plaines du Haouran en Syrie', Bullettino dell'Instituto di corrispondenza archeologica (1837), 165-166. Inscription 2: Meimaris, Y., Makrigianni, N.S., Ἔρνος κύδιμον Παλαιστινῆς γαίης ᾿Ανθολογία ἐπιγραφῶν Παλαιστινῆς καὶ ᾿Αραβίας (Athens: , 2008), no. 11. Merkelbach, R., Stauber, J., Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, vol. 4 (Stuttgart: Teubner, 2002), no. 21/23/04. Welles, C.B., 'The inscriptions', in: Kraeling, C.H. (ed.), Gerasa, city of the Decapolis (New Haven: American School of Oriental Research, 1938), no. 300. Crowfoot, J.W., 'The church of S. Theodore at Jerash', Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (1929), 17-36 (with a translation by A.H.M. Jones). Jones, A.H.M., 'Some inscriptions from Jerash', Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement (1928), Pl. II (photograph). Kaibel, G., Epigrammata Graeca ex lapidibus conlecta (Berolini: G. Reimer, 1878), no. 1063. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, no. 8654 Böckh, A., [A communication], Bericht über die zur Bekanntmachung geeigneten Verhandlungen der Konigl. Preuss. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (1853), 22-27, nos. 3-4. Further reading: Brenk, B., "The last phases of the cathedral church of Jerash", in: M. Blömer, A. Lichtenberger, R. Raja (eds.), Religious identities in the Levant from Alexander to Muhammed: Continuity and Change (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), 399-413. Valerio, F., 'Nota testuale su un’iscrizione tardo-antica da Gerasa (SGO 21/23/03)', Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 179 (2011), 116 (reading of verse 7, based on a phrase from Gregory of Nazianzus). March, Ch., 'From temple to church, the spatial aspects of religious transition at Gerasa', ARAM 23 (2011), 157-176. Agosti, G., 'Saxa loquuntur? Epigrammi epigrafici e diffusione della paideia nell’Oriente tardoantico', Antiquité Tardive 18 (2010), 170-171 (Italian translation). Agosti, G., 'Epigrammi lunghi nella produzione epigrafica tardoantica', in A.M. Morelli (ed.), Epigramma longum. Da Marziale alla Tarda Antichità / From Martial to Late Antiquity. Atti del Convegno internazionale, Cassino, 29-31 maggio 2006 (Cassino: Università degli studi di Cassino, 2008) vol. 2, 684-685. 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), 233-240 (no. 85b) (French translation). Calder, W.M., 'Studies in early Christian epigraphy', The Journal of Roman Studies 10 (1920) 58-59. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 58, 1743; 58, 1885; 61, 1486; 61, 1489. Bulletin épigraphique (2012), 486.

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