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E03486: Floor-mosaics with fragmentary Greek epigrams commemorating the construction or embellishment of a church, probably dedicated to *Maurikios (soldier and martyr of Apamea, S01437) by a bishop. Found at Apamea on the Orontes (Roman province of Syria II). Datable c. 415-431.

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posted on 24.07.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Janine Balty discusses a structure excavated c. 300 m to the north of the city walls of Apamea. Based on the floor-mosaics found at the site and the Martyrdom of Maurikios of Apamea and his 70 companions, she identifies the building as a martyr shrine dedicated to that saint.

Balty mentions two fragmentary mosaic inscriptions (unpublished), probably with poems (elegiac couplets), sited on the east border of the carpet mosaic of the nave, on both sides of the steps leading to the choir. The first contains an invocation of one Maurikios, probably a saint:

Μαυρίκιε, σέ [- - -]

'O Maurikios, you [- - -]'


The other mentions a bishop:

[Ἀλέξα]νδρος ὑποφήτης

'[Alexa]ndros, the preacher'

and

[- - -]ίης ἔργον ἐπισκοπίης

'[- - -] work of the episcopal stewardship'.

Text: Balty 2013. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

History

Evidence ID

E03486

Saint Name

Maurikios, soldier and martyr of Apamea on the Orontes and his 70 companions : S01437

Saint Name in Source

Μαυρίκιος

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Literary - Poems Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

400

Evidence not after

450

Activity not before

400

Activity not after

450

Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Apamea on the Orontes

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

Apamea on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Renovation and embellishment of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Reliquary – institutionally owned

Source

The building was a very large three-aisled basilica (27 m x 58.60 m) with a narthex, an apse, and an oblong bema (14.15 m x 6.10 m) located in the middle of the nave, opposite the choir. This sort of platform is a characteristic feature of north Syrian churches, albeit usually smaller, and had not been attested in the territory of Apamea prior to the discovery of the discussed church. A richly decorated chapel was discovered in the southeast corner of the church, annexed to the south aisle, housing a sarcophagus. The lid of a reliquary was also found on the site. The ruins were first recorded, preliminarily surveyed, and identified as a basilica in 1937, but little archaeological research was done thereafter. By the winter of 1993/1994, when the site was revisited by Abderrazaq Zaqzouq, director of the archaeological precinct of Ḥamāh, the ruins had deteriorated, and over the course of 1994 the floor-mosaics were almost entirely destroyed by looting of the tesserae. Janine Balty was, however, able to examine photographs of the mosaics, in the possession of the Archaeological Museum of Ḥamāh. The floor mosaics were decorated with images of animals and plants. The main carpet mosaic of the nave was framed by a border of acanthus leaves.

Discussion

The bishop is probably Alexandros, bishop of Apameia, in office between at least 415 and 431, known from several dedicatory inscriptions (see SEG 40, 1759, 1773; BE (2014), 504), and from the acts of the council of Ephesos in 431. This approximate date is agreeable with the style of the floor mosaics. The cult of Maurikios at Apamea is first attested by Theodoret of Cyrrhus in Graecarum affectionum curatio, 8.69 (E03501).

Bibliography

Edition: Balty, J., "Maurice, un saint d'Apamée", in: G. Charpentier, V. Puech (eds.), Villes et campagnes aux rives de la Méditerranée ancienne. Hommages à Georges Tate (Topoi, Suppl. 12, Lyon 2013), 223-233. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2014), 502. For the cult of Maurice of Apamea and his companions, see: Van Berchem, D., Le martyre de la légion Thébaine: essai sur la formation d'une legende (Basel: F. Reinhardt, 1965). Woods, D., "The origin of the legend of Maurice and the Theban Legion," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 45 (1994), 385-395.

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