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E02381: Greek inscription commemorating the construction of a church (naos), probably dedicated to *George (soldier and martyr, S00259). Found at Philadelphia/modern Amman (Roman province of Arabia/north Jordan). Probably 6th c.

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posted on 15.02.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
+ θελήματι θ(εο)ῦ, βουλήσι τοῦ ̣ἁ[γ(ιωτάτου)] ̣μον(άχου) (καὶ)
πρεσβ(είᾳ) τοῦ ἁγ(ίου) Γεωργίου ὑπὲ̣ρ [σω]τηρίας (καὶ)
μακροημερ(εύσεως) τῶν δεσππο(τῶν), ἐκ φιλοτιμ(ίας)
αὐ(τῶν) ἐγέρθη ὅσδε ὁ ναὸς ἐπὶ τοῦ ὁσ(ίου) ἐ̣π[ι]σκό(που)
Πολυεύκτου σπουδῇ Θαλασσαμαχία α[. .].

1. τοῦ ̣ἁ[γ(ιωτάτου)] ̣μον(άχου) (καὶ) | πρεσβ(είᾳ) τοῦ ἁγ(ίου) Γεωργίου Feissel, τοῦ ̣ἁ[γ(ιωτάτου)] ̣μον(άχου) (καὶ) | πρεσβ(υτέρου) τοῦ ἁγ(ίου) Γεωργίου Gatier, τοῦ ἡγ{γ}ο(υμέ)ν(ου καὶ) πρεσβ(υτέρου) τοῦ ἁγ(ίου) Γεωργίου Milik, τοῦ ἥττον(ος) Abel || 5. Θαλασσαμαχία α[. .] Abel, Θαλασσομαχίας or Θάλασσα Μαχια Milik || ακρ or απρ = ἀποκρισιαρίου Milik, ἀρχ(ιπρεσβυτέρου) Gatier || for a complete list of alternative readings, see the edition by Gatier

'Through the will of God, by the wish of the most holy monk and through the intercession (?) of Saint George, as a vow and for the longevity of the lords (despotai), through their generosity was built this church (naos). Under the venerable bishop Polyeuktos, by the zeal of Thalassamachias [- - -].'

Text: I. Jordanie 2, no. 43 with altered interpretation of l. 2 by D. Feissel.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, martyr in Nicomedia or Diospolis, ob. c. 303 : S00259

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

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



Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Philadelphia/Amman Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Saint aiding or preventing the construction of a cult building

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Ecclesiastics - abbots Other lay individuals/ people Officials Monarchs and their family Aristocrats


Rectangular white marble plaque, broken into two conjoining fragments in the upper right-hand corner. There is no published description. Now lost. Reportedly found by a local near a statue base inscribed with the name 'Herakles', close to the 'church of Jabal al-Waybdah', to the west of the citadel (termed the 'church of George' by Anne Michel 2001, 281-283). First published with a drawing by Félix-Marie Abel in 1905, who recorded that the stone was owned by a man of Caucasian origin, dwelling near the ruins of the Herakleion. Republished with altered readings, but still based on the same drawing, by Jozef Tadeusz Milik in 1959-1960, and by Pierre-Louis Gatier (1986). An alternative interpretation of line 2 was suggested by Denis Feissel.


The inscription commemorates the construction of a church (line 4: naos). The name of Saint George appears in line 2, but it cannot be directly associated with the building. The interpretation of the text at the breaking of lines 1 and 2 is also dubious, and so the inscription has been interpreted in several different ways by consecutive editors. The first editor, Abel, suggested that the church was built 'by a humble (τοῦ ἥττον(ος)) priest of Saint George', 'doubtless' thanks to the generosity of an imperial couple (despotai). Abel added that it was not clear whether the new church was dedicated to George, but considered this a possibility; and, based on the circumstances of the discovery of the stone, hypothesised that the cult of George could have been established in Philadelphia as the martyred soldier resembled the mythical hero Herakles, venerated in the town in the pagan period. Milik, who studied our inscription several decades later, was sceptical about the identification of the naos from line 4 with the church of George from line 2. He argued that the newly constructed sanctuary (naos) might have been dedicated to a local martyr Theodore and his companions, said to have been situated in the west sector of the city according to the 'Martyrdom of the six martyrs of Philadelphia' (published by Blake and Peeters in Analecta Bollandiana 46 (1926), 70-101), arguing that a chapel described in this text matched the details of a cave (and attached chapel) near the findspot of the inscription (but cf. E02395 for an inscription unknown to Milik which might suggest that the shrine of that Theodore was located elsewhere). He also changed the interpretation of line 1, as he believed that the anonymous priest did not use the epithet 'humble' (τοῦ ἥττον(ος)), but was actually described as higoumenos/leader of a monastic community (τοῦ ἡγ{γ}ο(υμέ)ν(ου)), which he identified with the church of the acropolis. Gatier did not accept this reading, as the abbreviation would be very uncommon, and argued that the end of line 1 read simply 'by the wish of the most holy monk (τοῦ ἁ[γ(ιωτάτου)] μον(άχου)) and presbyter.' Soon after, in comments on Gatier's edition, Denis Feissel suggested that the abbreviated form πρεσβ was unlikely to be the function of that monk, but rather should be expanded as πρεσβείᾳ/'through the intercession' (of the martyr George, whose name immediately follows this term). Feissel's interpretation makes it also much less probable that two different churches are mentioned in our text. If one follows his reading, the only plausible conclusion is that George intercedes for the construction of the very shrine that is commemorated by the inscription. Anne Michel, who did not know Feissel's note, reached similar conclusions and argued that our inscription records the foundation of a church of George, which she identified with the nearby church of Jabal al-Waybdah, sited to the west of the citadel. That church was first recorded by Claude Conder in 1881, and then examined by Savignac and Abel in 1905, and by Bagatti and Lankester Harding in 1948. Proper excavations started in 1994, under the auspices of the American Center of Oriental Research and the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. We suspend judgement on these details, as there is no way to verify the credibility of the drawing. Feissel's theory is, however, interesting, as it creates a sequence of three abstract nouns referring to causes behind the construction: 'Through the will of God, by the wish of the most holy monk, and through the intercession of Saint George'. On the other hand, the apparent lack of the name of the presumed monk is disturbing, and perhaps the introductory formula should be read in a different way. Line 5 probably mentions the actual supervisor of the construction. Abel read his name as Thalassamachias (the name is otherwise not attested), while Milik suggested that we had here a personal name followed by a patronym, e.g. Thalassas, son of Machias. Gatier agrees with Abel in his edition. It might be that the name was followed by an abbreviated function of the supervisor. Milik restored it as apokrisiarios (an envoy, e.g. of a bishop of patriarch), while Gatier as archipresbyter. Dating: the dating formula mentions only bishop Polyeuktos. Abel identified him as a bishop of Philadelphia. Milik noted that the name was extremely rare in the region in the late antique period, but was borne by an archbishop of Bostra, in office between c. 590 and c. 620, frequently appearing in dedications from Riḥāb (see: E02045; E02049; E02053; E02054; E02062; E02273; E02637). Consequently, he argued that the two figures were the same man. In his opinion the term despotai in line 3 referred to at least two rulers, who could have been Maurice and his wife, and he believed the dedication should be associated with similar texts erected after the peace treaty with the Persians, signed in 591. Gatier rejects this dating, as there is little chance that our Polyeuktos was the one from remote Bostra. He must have been a bishop of Philadelphia/Amman. Gatier was originally (1986) skeptical also about the identification of the despotai in line 3 as emperors, and preferred to see them as local landowners (cf. E02394 where we have a similar dedicatory formula: ὑπὲρ σωτηρίας ἰρήνης μακροημε[ρεύ]|σεως τοῦ δεσπότου ἡμῶν Στεφάνο[υ] | τριβούνου/'as a vow for the salvation, peace, and longevity of our lord Stephanos, the tribune'), but in 2015 he wrote that these despotai could have been either Justinian and Theodora or Justin II and Sophia (2015, 202, note 25). In sum, it is probably safest to say that the inscription is currently undatable, though a 6th c. date is plausible (since this was the century of greatest church building in this area), and that it probably, but not certainly, commemorated the building of a church to Saint George.


Edition: Gatier, P.-L., Inscriptions de la Jordanie, vol. 2: Région centrale (Amman, Hesban, Madaba, Main, Dhiban) (Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1986), no. 43. Milik, J.T., "Notes d'épigraphie et de topographie jordaniennes," Liber Annuus 10 (1959-1960), 167-178. Abel, F.M., "Inscriptions de Transjordane et de Haute Galilée," Revue biblique 5 (1908), 568-570. Further reading: Gatier, P.-L., "Les Jafnides dans l'épigraphie grecque au VIe siècle," in: D. Genequand, Ch., Robin (eds.), Les Jafnides : des rois arabes au service de Byzance : VIe siècle de l'ère chrétienne : actes du colloque de Paris, 24-25 novembre 2008 (Paris: Éditions De Boccard, 2015), 202, note 25. Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie, IV, La Palestine," Analecta Bollandiana 69 (1951), 74. 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), 281-283, no. 104. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1962), 320; (1989), 983. Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 878. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 37, 1619.

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