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E02662: Floor-mosaic with a Greek inscription commemorating the paving of an unnamed martyr shrine (martyrion), probably at a monastery. Floor-mosaics in the aisles show narrative scenes of the Book of Daniel (with *Daniel, the Old Testament Prophet, 00727, and *Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Old Testament Martyrs, S01198), an image of *Moses (S00241), and presumably of the Adoration of the Magi (S00180). Found at Tell Ya‘amun, to the south of en-Nu'eiyima, between al-Husn and Jerash (Jordan/Roman province of Arabia). Dated, perhaps AD 500.

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posted on 05.04.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Inscription:

x ἐπὶ τοῦ θεοσεβεστάτου καὶ ὁσι-
οτάτου Λεοντίου ἐπισκόπου καὶ τοῦ εὐλ(αβεστάτου)
Ἠλία πρεσβ(υτέρου) καὶ Ἰωανίου διακ(όνου) καὶ Καμοῦ-
σα καὶ Ἀλαφέου καὶ Μάξιμον, Χασουος, Γερμαμ-
η, Σαβατίου, Ἠλία, Σαβατίου καὶ λυποῖς γηρότης ἐψη<φώ>-
θη τὸ μαρτύρην ἐν ἔτι ὀγδόου, χρ(όνοις) ὀγδόης ἰνδικ(τιῶνος)

3-4. Καμοῦ|σα Tybout in the SEG, Καμου|σα Turshan || 4. Ἀλαφεου Tybout in the SEG, Ἀλαφέου Turshan || Μάξιμον Tybout in the SEG, Μαξίμον Turshan

'x Under the most God-fearing and most holy bishop Leontios, and the most humble presbyter Elias, and the deacon Ioanios, and Kamousas, and Alaphaios, and Maximos, and Chasouos, Germames, Sabatios, Elias, Sabatios, and other elders, was paved with mosaics this martyr shrine (martyrion). In the eighth year, in the times of the eighth indiction.'

Text: Turshan 2010, 617. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

Narrative scenes:

Although these are not cultic representations, it might be of some interest, that in the north and the south aisle two large panels with narrative scenes were found. The figures were, however, removed and replaced with white tesserae in a period of iconoclasm, and therefore their identification is somewhat doubtful.

The north aisle houses a floor-mosaic consisting of three large fields. The first (left-hand) field shows a Nilotic scene, probably referring to biblical descriptions of the Nile Delta. The centre of the field is damaged, so we cannot say if any characters were represented here. The middle field shows a nilometer with markings from ι (10) to ιη (18), and with a ladder attached. To the right of the nilometer there is a depiction of a pomegranate tree with five pomegranates. A rod, curved at its end, is attached to the tree, and apparently held by a person whose image was erased. Turshan and Nassar suggest that this is a metaphor for the five books of the Torah, and the erased figure is Moses, collecting the five fruits, as he was credited with the authorship of the Pentateuch. Yet another person was probably depicted to the left of the tree. The editors do not comment on the narrow section of the mosaic, linking the middle and the right-hand field. It shows an erased/damaged shape with two labels: ΑΒ and ΙCΑΚ. Two plants and a large burning cup are also shown. Could this be a reference to Abraham and Isaac or the story of the Burning Bush? The largest, right-hand panel shows four characters of the Book of Daniel, labelled respectively: Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael. The figures are almost entirely erased, though the upper half of the head of Azariah is well preserved. These are the Three Youths (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), thrown into a fiery furnace by Nebuchadnezzar.

The scene in the south aisle shows three unlabelled figures approaching a domed structure with a hanging lamp. The people stretch their arms towards the building, as if they were offering something. Turshan suggests that these could be the Magi of the Nativity story (Matthew 11), bringing gifts to the Child Jesus (here represented by the burning lamp), or, less plausibly, the three women visiting Jesus' tomb on Easter morning (Luke 24:10). Turshan favours the first possibility and hypothetises (2010, 624): 'The mosaic floor shows that the artist, under the instruction of the clergy, did not portray the body or face of Christ; because of his sanctity, Christ is instead symbolized by the flame of the lamp hanging from the dome. While the artist was not allowed to portray such a face on the floor, he still could show the wise men of Persia — later damaged in an iconoclastic episode.' If so, the mosaic would be a very early, unique representation of the Magi.

History

Evidence ID

E02662

Saint Name

Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060 Magi (of the Nativity story) : S00180 Daniel, the Old Testament prophet : S00727 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Old Testament martyrs : S01198 Moses, Old Testament prophet and lawgiver : S00241

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

500

Evidence not after

500

Activity not before

500

Activity not after

500

Place of Evidence - Region

Arabia Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Gerasa/Jerash en-Nu'eiyima Tell Ya‘amun

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

Gerasa/Jerash Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka en-Nu'eiyima Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Tell Ya‘amun 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 - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Source

Rectangular framed mosaic panel. Set in the floor of the nave, in front of the chancel screen. H. 0.71 m; W. 2.03 m. Letter height 0.06-0.08 m. Found in a church at Tell Ya‘amun, to the south of en-Nu'eiyima (or Khirbat Ya'mun to the south of Nu'ayamah as spelt by Michele Piccirillo). Excavations at the site were started in 1999 by a joint Bioarchaeological and Archaeological Field School project under the supervision of Jerome Rose (Arkansas University), Mahmoud el-Najjar, and Nizar Turshan (Yarmouk University). The church is a three-aisled basilica with an apse, and a narthex. The aisles with the apse measure c. 20 m x 14 m. The floor-mosaics are decorated with animal, floral, and geometric motifs. Figural motifs were also present, but they were carefuly removed and replaced with white tesserae in a period of iconoclasm. The floor-mosaics were cleaned and secured in 1999 by the Jordanian Department of Antiquities. The church was also fitted with two baptismal fonts, but no traces of a pulpit, and a diakonikon and prothesis have been recorded (the plan shows, however, a rectangular room annexed to the east end of the north aisle). A photograph was first published by N. Hasawneh and on the website of the University of Arkansas. A transcription was offered by Rolf Tybout in the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 57, 1874 (from the published photograph). In 2010 Nizar Turshan offered the first proper edition of the inscription and an English translation (the text is basically the same, but several accents differ from Tybout's edition). He also republished the colour photograph. The text is also given in the 2011 paper on floor-mosaics of the church, by Nizar Turshan and Mohammad Nassar.

Discussion

The inscription commemorates the paving of a martyr shrine (martyrion) at a church in a village sited in the territory of Jerash. Leah Di Segni suggests that this martyrion was a chapel at a monastic church, as the inscription mentions several 'elders'/λοιποὶ γέροντες, that is 'the leading monks of a monastic or hermit community'. The dating formula is problematic, as 'the eighth year and the eighth indiction' do not fit any of the local eras, especially the Gerasene Era normally used in the territory of Jerash, which is a Pompeian era. Di Segni argues that the date is actually computed according to the Byzantine era of creation, and that the author of the inscription deliberately omitted its first digit, as possibly did authors of several other inscriptions from the region believed to be dated by the same system. If this reasoning is correct, the date should be understood as the 6008th year from the creation of the world, which, together with the specified indiction year, corresponds to 25th March - 31st August AD 500. Di Segni notes that this would be the earliest attested case of the use of the Byzantine creation era, c. 200 years predating its first securely confirmed occurrence, but at the same she produces a number of arguments supporting her thesis, including an inscription from Athens possibly dating to AD 504 when calculated according to the same chronological system. Denis Feissel in his comments in BE suspends judgement, and Pierre-Louis Gatier (2011, 15-16) is sceptical about the presumed elision of thousands in this system of dating, as well as about such an early occurrence of creation eras in dated inscriptions.

Bibliography

Edition: Nassar, M., Turshan, N., "Geometrical mosaic pavements of the church of bishop Leontios at Ya῾amun", Palestine Exploration Quarterly 143 (2011), 41-62 (Greek text, English translation, colour photograph). Turshan, N., "The Magi: A rare mosaic floor in the Ya῾amun Church (Jordan)", Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 50 (2010), 616-624 (Greek text, English translation, colour photograph). Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 57, 1874 (Greek text by R.A. Tybout, from a photograph). Hasawneh, N., "", Majallat Al-Athar 4 (2001), 34. For a photograph, see http://www.uark.edu/campus-resources/dlevine/ChurchMosaic.html Further reading: Di Segni, L., "The use of chronological systems in sixth-eight centuries Palestine", Aram 18-19 (2006-2007), 117-118. Gatier, P.-L., "Inscriptions grecques, mosaïques et églises des débuts de l'époque islamique au Proche-Orient (VIIe-VIIIe) siècles", in: A. Borrut, M. Debié, A. Papaconstantinou, D. Pieri, J.-P. Sodini (eds.), Le Proche-Orient de Justinien aux Abassides : peuplement et dynamiques spatiales : actes du colloque "Continuités de l'occupation entre les périodes byzantine et abbasside au Proche-Orient, VIIe-IXe siècles," Paris, 18-20 octobre 2007 (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 19, Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), 15-16 (for comments on the use of creation eras in late antique inscriptions). Nassar, M., Turshan, N., "A mosaic of the Book of Daniel in the Ya῾amun Church", Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 51 (2011), 340-349. Nassar, M., Turshan, N., "Plant mosaics in the church at Ya῾amun", Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 52 (2012), 208-225. Piccirillo, M., "II mosaico pavimentale in Giordania come fonte storica di un’epoca - V (1997-2001)", in: Morlier, H., Bailly, Ch., Janneteau, D., Tahri, M. (eds.), La mosaïque gréco-romaine IX: Colloque international pour l'étude de la mosaïque antique (9th: 2001: Rome, Italy) (Rome: Ecole française de Rome, 2005), 459-460. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2008), 569. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 57, 1812, 1874; 55, 1748 (3); 60, 1752; 61, 1490.

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