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E02545: Floor-mosaic with a complex Greek dedicatory inscription commemorating the paving of a martyr shrine (martyrion) of *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023), and invoking the help of the God of Sergios for a number of contributors, and for the 'komes Almoundaros', probably the Ghassanid/Jafnid phylarch al-Mundhir III. Found at Tall al-'Umayri, c. 15 km to the south of Philadelphia/Amman (Roman province of Arabia/Jordan). Probably mid-6th c., before 570.

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posted on 10.03.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
The inscription consists of seven lines. Line 1 is written above the frame.

Κ(ύρι)ε πρόσδεξε τὴν προσφ(ορὰν) τῷ προσενέκκοντι καὶ τῷ γράψα̣ν[τι δούλῳ σ]̣ου Μουσηλίῳ μετὰ τέκνων·

Κ(ύρι)ε Ἰ(ησοῦ)ς Χ(ριστὸ)ς ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁγίου Σεργίου διαφύλαξαν τὸν μεγαλαπρε(πέστατον) Ἀλμούνδαρον κό̣μ[ητα]·
ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁγίου Σεργίου εὐλόγησον τὸν δοῦλόν σου Εὐσεβὴν μετὰ τέκν[ων]·
ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁγίου Σεργίου εὐλόγησον τὸν δοῦλόν σου Ἰωάννην μετὰ συνβίου καὶ τέκ[νων]·
ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁγίου Σεργίου εὐλόγησον τὸν δοῦλόν σου Αβδάλλα καὶ Διανύσην καὶ Σ[- - -]
(christogram) ἐπὶ τοῦ θεοφιλεστάτου Πολυάκτου ἐπισκ(όπου) ἐψεφώθη τὸ ἅγιαν μαρτύριον τοῦ ἁ̣γ[ίου Σεργίου]
[σ]̣πουδῇ Μαρι Ραββου εὐλαβ(εστάτου) πρεσβ(υτέρου) καὶ Γεωργίου διακ(όνου) καὶ Σαβίνου καὶ Μαρίας ἐν μη(νὶ) Ἀπριλίῳ χρόν̣ω[ν . . ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος)]

1. ]̣Ι̣Ι Μουσηλίῳ Gatier || 2. κόμη[τα] || 3. τέκν̣ω[ν] Gatier || 5. Σ[---]·E Gatier || 6. τὸ ἅγιαν μαρτύριον Gatier 2015, τὸ ἅγιον μαρτύριον Gatier 2010 [2013]

'O Lord, accept the offering of the donor and the one who has written (it), [your servant] Mouselios along with his children!

O Lord Jesus Christ, God of Saint Sergios, protect the megaloprepestatos (magnificentissimus) Almoundaros, the
count (komes)!
O God of Saint Sergios, bless your servant Eusebios along with his children!
O God of Saint Sergios, bless your servant Ioannes along with his wife and children!
O God of Saint Sergios, bless your servant Abdalla and Dionysios and S[- - -]!

(Christogram) Under bishop Polyeuktos, the most beloved by God, this holy martyr shrine (martyrion) of Saint [Sergios] was paved with mosaics by the zeal of Mari, son of Rabbos, the most pious priest, and Georgios the deacon, and Sabinos, and Maria. In the month of April in the time of the [.. indiction].'

Text and translation: Bevan, Fisher, and Genequand 2015, 54; translation lightly adapted.

History

Evidence ID

E02545

Saint Name

Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023

Saint Name in Source

Σέργιος

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

500

Evidence not after

600

Activity not before

500

Activity not after

600

Place of Evidence - Region

Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Philadelphia/Amman Tall al-'Umayri

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

Philadelphia/Amman Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Tall al-'Umayri 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 Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Aristocrats Officials Merchants and artisans

Source

Mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata. The mosaic was damaged and restored in antiquity. H. 0.7 m; W. 3.50 m. Letters in red tesserae. Set at the east end of the nave, in front of the chancel screen, of a church, a three-aisled basilica (14.5 m x 8.55 m) with an apse, at Tall al-'Umayri, c. 11 km to the south of Amman. It seems that the church was built over the foundations of an earlier Roman structure, but its purpose is unknown. The church was excavated in 2009 and based on the archaeological context and style of mosaic pavements its construction was dated to the 6th c. The excavators add that the building was several times refurbished, especially its presbyterium and aisles. The carpet mosaics were decorated with geometrical patterns, round and polygonal medallions. Some of them contained images of birds and figures. By the 8th c. the church had been converted to a dwelling, and was eventually abandoned. As the area around the church was only preliminarily surveyed, the excavators could say only that the church was surrounded by other buildings, but it is not clear whether it was a monastic or village sanctuary. In 2010 a photograph and an Arabic translation of the inscription was published in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan by A.J. al-Shami (with no transcription). A Greek transcription was offered by Pierre-Louis Gatier in L'Année épigraphique (2010) published in 2013 and reprinted in the sixtieth volume of the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum. The inscription was also commented on by Denis Feissel in the Bulletin épigraphique. Gatier revisited the inscription in the acts of a conference held in 2008 (published in 2015), but made no significant changes to his earlier transcription. In 2015 a proper edition and an extensive commentary were offered by George Bevan, Greg Fisher, and Denis Genequand in the Bulletin of the Americans Schools of Oriental Research. Their work and a drawing, they offer, are based on 'an orthorectified version of the only published photograph', not the examination of the panel. This was sadly impossible, as a survey of the site in 2013 revealed that this splendid mosaic was irreversibly destroyed by vandalism.

Discussion

The inscription commemorates the paving of the church (named martyrion) where it was displayed. Although the name of the patron saint, which was given in line 6, is lost, we can confidently complete it as Sergios, as the God of that Saint is frequently invoked in lines 3-5. A notable feature of the inscription is the reference to the count (komes) Almoundaros of megaloprepestatos/magnificentissimus rank. He can plausibly be identified as Al-Mundhir (III), son of al-Ḥārith, and grandson of Jabala, Ghassanid/Jafnid leader from 569 to c. 581. He was raised by the Roman authorities to the senior rank of paneuphemos and also bore the honorific title patricius and the title of phylarch from 570. Feissel suggests that, as these titles are lacking in the present text, it must predate 570, which is highly plausible assuming, of course, that our count is correctly identified as Al-Mundhir III. But Bevan, Fisher, and Genequand say that 'the family associations with the cult of St. Sergius, as well as the presence of Jafnids in central/northern Jordan, make the identification of Ἀλμούνδαρον with the Jafnid leader almost certain.' Importantly another church dedicated to Sergios by representatives of probably the Jafnid family was found at nearby Nitl (see E02543). Furthermore, Bevan, Fisher, and Genequand suggest a date close to 563/564 when al-Ḥārith, having visited Constantinople, was bestowed with the title of patrikios and endoxotatos by Justinian. The authors suppose that al-Ḥārith's sons must have been given inferior titles (e.g. megaloprepestatos). This, however, does not explain why al-Ḥārith himself, then still alive, was not mentioned in the dedicatory formula. Whoever he was, this Almoundaros is unlikely to have been personally involved in paving of the shrine (but cf. Gatier 2015, 202 who argues that Almoundaros was the principal agent behind this offering). That the invocation on his behalf is set at the very beginning of the proper inscription (i.e. the framed section), before requests for help for actual donors, demonstrates a strong loyalty and social cohesion of these donors, who saw themselves as members of one group and found it appropriate prominently to commend their leader to the protection of Saint Sergios. For comments on the onomastics and possible identification of the mosaicist and donors, see Bevan, Fisher & Genequand 2015, 55-58. Among the donors we have three men bearing Greek and Arabic names, with their wives and children. Their identity is not clear. They could be brothers or members of the same clan, but might also be unrelated. Feissel notes that the mosaicist Mouselios bears a name of Armenian origin. A bishop of Philadelphia named Polyeuktos appears in the inscription I. Jordanie 2, no. 43, but we cannot say if this is the person mentioned in our text.

Bibliography

Edition: Bevan, G., Fisher, G., Genequand, D., "The late antique church at Tall al-'Umayrī East: New evidence for the Jafnid family and the cult of St. Sergius in northern Jordan", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 373 (2015), 49-68. 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), 201-203. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 60, 1758 (text after Gatier's edition with remarks by Feissel from BE). L'Année épigraphique (2010) [2013], no. 1736 (ed. P.-L. Gatier, transcription from the photograph and French translation). al-Shami, A.J., "[Excavations at Tell al-'Umayri (East). First campaign, 2009] (in Arabic)", Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 54 (2010), 35-42 (photograph and Arabic translation, no transcription). Further reading: Bevan, G., Fisher, G., and others, "Arabs and Christianity", in: G. Fisher an others, Arabs and Empires before Islam (Oxford: OUP, 2015), 333-347. Millar, F., "A Syriac codex from near Palmyra and the 'Ghassanid' Abokarib", Hugoye. Journal of Syriac Studies 16 (2013), 25-26 (mentioned). Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2012), 488; (2015), 688, 720.

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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