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E02795: Greek painted inscription on a wooden beam, allegedly from a church of a Saint *Konstantinos (just possibly Constantine, emperor, S00186). Found in the Al-Aqsa mosque at Jerusalem (Roman province of Palaestina I). Probably late antique.

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posted on 13.05.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Di Segni's reading:

ἔκαμεν ὡ Ἐλίας τοῦ Γεβαλίνου
ἐς κερὸν πίνας τρῖς κάβος [- - -]
τοῦ ὥλο<υ> κό[σμου - - -]
ΤΙΝΟΥ [- - -]

2-4. perhaps τρὶς κάβος [- - -] τοῦ ὥλο<υ> κό[σμου - - - τοῦ ἁγίου Κονσταν]τίνου Di Segni, τρ<ε>ῖς κάβο<υ>ς τοῦ <ὁ>λοκοτ<τ>ίνου Schwabe

'Elias from Gebalene made (this) at the time of hunger (when) thrice a measure of the whole world [perished (?) - - - (Church of Saint) Konstan]tinos (?).'

Text: CIIP 1/2, no. 1021. Translation: L. Di Segni, slightly modified.

Feissel's reading:

ἔκαμεν ὡ Ἐλίας τοῦ Γεβαλινοῦ
ἐς κερὸν πίνας τρῖς κάβος
τοῦ ὥλοκο-
τίνου

'Elias, son of Gebalinos, completed this work in the time of famine when three kaboi cost one solidus.'

Text: BE (2012), 473. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

History

Evidence ID

E02795

Saint Name

Constantine the Great, emperor, ob. 337 : S00186 Konstantinos (unspecified) : S01746

Saint Name in Source

Κωνσταντῖνος Κωνσταντῖνος

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

500

Evidence not after

700

Activity not before

500

Activity not after

700

Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Jerusalem

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

Jerusalem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Merchants and artisans

Source

Trapezoidal beam of Cedar of Lebanon. Dimensions: H. 0.11 m (back), 0.75 m (front); W. 0.51 m; Th. 0.08-0.012 m. Letter height 0.015-0.03 m. The inscription is in black paint. Only the left-hand part of the text is preserved. Poor spelling and syntax. When recorded, the inscription was reused in the Al-Aqsa Mosque (for another Greek inscription on wood from this mosque, see E02734). Now in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. First published by Moshe Schwabe in 1949. A new edition by Leah Di Segni was based on a re-examination of the object in July 2010. It was significantly reinterpreted by Denis Feissel in Bulletin épigraphique (2012), 474.

Discussion

The meaning of the inscription is very unclear. According to Di Segni's hypothetical interpretation, the last line could contain remnants of the name Konstantinos (..tinou), and might possibly refer to a church dedicated to a Saint Konstantinos, where the beam could have been displayed. See the comments in CIIP 1/2, no. 1021 for the full elaboration of this hypothesis. As for the first part of the inscription, Di Segni suggests that it begins with the name of a craftsman, Elias who is presumably described by a corrupted form of an ethnic referring to the region of Gebalene (between Petra and Tafile). The interpretation of lines 2-3 is based entirely on the understanding of the term κάβος as a Greek counterpart of the Hebrew qab, a measure of dry volume, e.g. wheat or barley, normally equalling c. 2.2 litres, but sometimes used in a wider sense (as an unspecified portion or 1/10). Schwabe supposed that the inscription contained a record of food supplies by a merchant (our Elias), selling it to workers. Di Segni, however, notes that the verb κάμνω from line 1 is never used in reference to the production/distribution of food. In her opinion Elias is a contractor, and lines 2-3 contain a reminiscence of a great famine 'in which one third (τρῖς κάβος) of the world died'. The latter phrase, she says, appears in a number of Greek epitaphs from Feinan in Palaestina Tertia, published by Meimaris and Kritikakou (which themselves echo Revelation 9:18: 'By these three was the third part of men killed'). As one of those epitaphs is dated 592, Di Segni hypothetically ascribes this date also to our beam. In our opinion, Di Segni's interpretation is extremely doubtful. The epitaphs from Feinan do not mention the term κάβος. Moreover, a reference to the calamity is explicable in an epitaph recording the circumstance of one's death, but is harder to explain in an (informal?) building inscription (if our inscription is such a text). Could it be used as a peculiar dating formula? Although it is possible (for a reference to the bubonic plague in a building inscription from Izra/Zorava in Arabia, see E02116), it would be a very unusual case. Similarly, the supposition that the last part of the inscription mentions a Saint Konstantinos is very fragile. Our doubts are shared and even more explicitly expressed by Denis Feissel who offers a very different restoration of the text in Bulletin épigraphique (2012), 474. He rejects any possible references to Saint Konstantinos and points out that the inscription is actually complete but needs a different division of words: in lines 3-4 he confidently reads the term ὁλοκόττινος, that is 'equal to one nomisma/solidus'. According to Feissel we have here a text carved by an artisan who says that he worked during a period of famine when three kaboi of wheat (= 12 modii as the Hebrew qab equals to 4 modii) costed one solidus (while the normal price was 30 modii per one solidus). Feissel cites evidence for periods of famine when the price of wheat raised to the level of even 4 modii per one solidus.

Bibliography

Editions: Cotton, H.M., Di Segni, L., Eck, W., Isaac, B., Kushnir-Stein, A., Misgav, H., Price, J.J., Yardeni, A. and others (eds.), Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad, vol. 1, part 2: Jerusalem, nos. 705-1120 (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2012), no. 1021. Bieberstein, K., Bloedhorn, H., Grundzüge der Baugeschichte vom Chalkolithikum bis zur Frühzeit der osmanischen Herrschaft (TAVO Beiheft B 100, 1-3; Wiesbaden 1994), vol. 3, 62. Schwabe, M., "Note on the graffiti shown in Plate XLVIII", in: R. Hamilton (ed.), The Structural History of the Aqsa Mosque: A Record of Archaeological Gleanings from the Repairs of 1938-1942 (Jerusalem: Published for the Govt. of Palestine by Oxford University Press, London, 1949), 93-94. Further reading: Meimaris, Y., Kritikakou, K., Inscriptions from Palaestina Tertia, vol. 1b: The Greek inscriptions from Ghor Es-Safi (Byzantine Zoora) (Supplement) (Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation, 2008), Khirbet Qazone and Feinan, 149-150. Milik, J.T., "Notes d'épigraphie et de topographie palestiniennes", Revue biblique 67 (1960), 360-361, nos. 5-6, 575-576, no. 61. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2012), 474.

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