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E02637: Floor-mosaic with a Greek inscription commemorating the paving of a church (naos) dedicated to *John the Baptist (S00020). Found at Riḥāb, between Bostra and Gerasa/Jerash (Jordan/Roman province of Arabia). Dated 604 or 619.

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posted on 31.03.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
The inscription is reportedly almost entirely complete. Here square brackets indicate passages which are not visible in the published photograph.

[+ ἐπὶ τ]οῦ ἁγιωτάτου καὶ μακαριωτάτου Πολυ[ε]ύκτου [ἀρχιεπισκ(όπου)]
[ἐψηφ]ώθη ὁ ναὸς οὗτος τοῦ ἁγίου (καὶ) Βαπτιστοῦ Ἰωάννου ἐκ [τῶν προσόδων (?)]
[τοῦ ἁγίο]υ τόπου, ἐκ σπουδῆς Γεωργίου πρεσβ(υτέρου) (καὶ) περιοδευτο[ῦ - - -]
[ἐν μην]ὶ Ἀπελλαίῳ, χρόνων ὀγδόης ἰνδικτιõνος τ[οῦ . . . ἔτους]

'+ Under the most holy and the most blessed [archbishop] Polyeuktos was paved this church (naos) of the holy and Baptist John from [the incomes (?)] of the holy place, through the zeal of the presbyter Georgios and itinerant priest (periodeutes) [- - -]. In the month of Apellaios, in the times of the eighth indiction of the [... year].'

Text: SEG 51, 2040. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

In 2011 Piccirillo published a translation based on a photograph of the complete text, which is slightly different from the provisional transcription in SEG, suggesting that the right-hand end is longer than it had been supposed:

'At the time of the most holy and blessed archbishop and metropolitan Polyeuktos, this temple of Saint John the Baptist of Neon Kastron (?) was paved with mosaics by George the priest and visitor and by Severus the steward, in the month of Apellaios, in the 8th indiction of the year 514 of the province [= November - December AD 619].'

Text and translation: Piccirillo 2011, 104-105.

History

Evidence ID

E02637

Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source

Βαπτιστῆς Ἰωάννης

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

604

Evidence not after

619

Activity not before

604

Activity not after

619

Place of Evidence - Region

Arabia Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Riḥāb Gerasa/Jerash Bosra

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

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

Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy

Source

Framed mosaic panel from an unspecified church in Riḥāb. There is no published description. Another, scarcely legible, line, is visible below the lower frame. The middle section of the mosaic was published in a photograph, together with a number of other new epigraphic finds from Riḥāb, with little or no descriptions, by Abdel-kader Al-Hissan in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan in 2001 and again in 2002. Based on the photograph, preliminary comments were offered by Denis Feissel in BE and tentative transcriptions by the editors of SEG 51. In 2011 Michele Piccirillo published a translation of our inscription, with no transcription, which, as the editors of SEG 61, 1476, say 'shows that some elements of the provisional text in SEG are incorrect; P[iccirillo] tentatively reads "this temple of Saint John the Baptist of Neon Kastron [?]"; the latter would be the ancient name of Riḥāb.'

Discussion

The inscription commemorates the construction of a church (termed naos) dedicated to John the Baptist. The photograph, which was the basis for the transcription offered in SEG, does not show the whole text, but it is certain that the church was built under the archbishop of nearby Bostra, Polyeuktos, well know from other dedicatory mosaics from Riḥāb (c. 596–c. 624). The toponym Neon Kastron, reportedly mentioned in the inscription, was identified by Piccirillo as the ancient name of Riḥāb. Piccirillo compares it with Kastron Mefaa, the ancient name of nearby Umm er-Rasas and notes that the Beersheba tax edict records a different Neon Kastron in Palestine, whilst a Latin inscription from Qasr el-Uweinid in the Azraq osasis records a Castellum Novum Severianum (for references, see Piccirillo 2011, 105, note 13). Dating: the year of the era of the province of Arabia is not visible in the published photograph, but the eighth indiction year and the month of Apellaios, mentioned in line 4, fall on November – December AD 604 or 619. The editors of SEG 61 date the inscription to AD 619 (after Piccirillo's translation).

Bibliography

Editions: Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 51, 2040. Al-Hissan, A., "The new archaeological discoveries of the al-Fudayn and Rahāb - al-Mafraq excavation projects", Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 46 (2002), 84 (Arabic Section). Al-Hissan, A., Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 45 (2001), 11 (Arabic Section). Further reading: Piccirillo, M., "Aggiornamento delle liste episcopali delle diocesi in territoria transgiordanico", Liber Annuus 55 (2005), 386. Piccirillo, M., "The Province of Arabia during the Persian Invasion (613-629/630)", in: K.G. Holum and 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), 104-105. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2005), 544; (2002), 481. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 61, 1476.

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Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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