Saint NameJohn the Evangelist : S00042
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Literary - Poems
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after700
Activity not before394
Activity not after700
Place of Evidence - RegionConstantinople and region
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcConstantinople
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Constantinople
Major author/Major anonymous workGreek Anthology
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsBequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesMonarchs and their family
SourceThe Greek Anthology is a collection of Greek epigrams from dating from the Archaic period to the 9th century AD. It was initially compiled by Meleager of Megara (100-90 BC), whose collection was edited and expanded by Philip of Thessalonica (under Nero), Agathias of Myrina (AD 567/8) and finally by Konstantinos Kephalas (c. AD 900).
The word epigram literally means an inscription. Although most Greek inscriptions were in prose, the word came to be specifically connected to those written in verse, and eventually to include poetic texts which were not necessarily inscribed. From the earliest period of Greek literature, epigrams were mostly sepulchral or dedicatory: they either memorialised the dead or marked the dedication of an object to a god.
Book 1 of the Greek Anthology contains Christian epigrams from Late Antiquity to the 9th century. It was compiled c. 880-900, containing a considerable number of poems copied directly from monuments. The scholar responsible for the transcriptions may have been Gregorios Magistros, a colleague of Kephalas. Epigrams 1-17 and possibly others were taken down from inscriptions at Constantinople and two of them, namely No. 1 (inscription from the bema arch of St. Sophia) and No. 10 (inscription from the church of St. Polyeuktos) have been found in situ, thus confirming the accuracy of the entries in the Anthology.
DiscussionThis dedicatory epigram was probably among the mosaic inscriptions in the basilica of John the Evangelist in Ephesos. Commemorating victory in war, it evidently pertains to an endowment by an emperor. It could be among the dedicatory inscriptions commemorating the refurbishment of the basilica under Justinian. However, the reference to spoils of war could also refer to the victory of Theodosius I over the usurper Eugenius in 394, which was ascribed to a miracle of John, according to a legend recorded by Theodoret of Cyrrhus (see E04186).
The phrasing echoes a long tradition of dedications of spoils of war by monarchs at temples, which goes back to pagan times. Particularly striking is the use of the ritual phrase σοὶ ἐκ σέο δῶκα ('I offer you from what it is yours'), which is best known from its usage in the anaphoras of the liturgies of John Chrysostom and Basil of Caesarea (τὰ σὰ ἐκ τῶν σῶν σοι προσφέρομεν = 'thine own from thine own we offer unto thee').
Another interesting feature of the poem is its first dactyl: σοί, μάκαρ. Epithets μάκαρ and μακάριος were very rarely used to address saints in inscriptions, they were preferred to praise the deceased in common epitaphs (the first term was used in metrical epitaphs, the other in prose). Besides the Ephesian epigram discussed here, this dactyl occurs in an invocation of a saint in an epitaph from Amisos which reads as follows: σοί, μάκαρ Πρόδρομε, ἀνέθησεν ἑαυτὸν Εὐγράφιος / 'To Thee, O blessed Forerunner, Eugraphios devoted himself.' (see E00979), and in a fragmentary inscription (E06639) from Kephalari (northeastern Peloponnese), invoking the Apostle *Paul. It seems that the first author to use the phrase σοί, μάκαρ was Oppian who addressed the emperor Caracalla with the words: σοί, μάκαρ, ἀείδω, γαίης ἐρικυδὲς ἔρεισμα / 'To Thee, blessed one, I sing: Thou glorious bulwark of the earth' (trans. A.W. Mair, Cynegetica I 1). Later, the words σοί, μάκαρ are often found in both pagan and Christian poetry as the initial dactyl of the hexameter verse. Among Christian authors who appreciated them one should point, first of all, at Gregory of Nazianzus. In the Carmina de se ipso he prays: σοί, µάκαρ, ἠδὲ νόµοισι τεοῖς κεχαρισµένα ῥέζειν, / 'To Thee, O blessed one, and according to Thy laws one should dedicate this what gladdens Thee' (Carmen II.1.1, v. 110, PG 37, col. 978) and καὶ σοί, μάκαρ, πλείστη χάρις Καλῆς ἀτιµίας / 'And to Thee, O blessed one, I thank for the beautiful dishonour' (Carmen II.1.30, v. 19, PG 37, col. 1291). The phrase was also familiar to the founder of 4th c. Christian building inscriptions from Kerkyra (see IG IX/1 721: (…) σοί, μά<κα>ρ ὑψιμέδον, τόνδ’ ἱερὸν ἔκτισα νηὸν… / 'To thee, O the blessed one ruler on high, I had this sanctuary constructed'; IG IX/1 1032: σοί, μά<κα>ρ ὑψιμέδον). Here it occurs in the dedicatory context as it is used in Ephesus.
For a closer discussion on other references see Nowakowski, P., “St. John the Forerunner in Amisus: A note on a Christian epitaph”, Philia 3 (2017).
BibliographyEdition and Translation:
Paton, W.R., rev. Tueller, M.A., The Greek Anthology, Books 1-5, 2nd ed. (Loeb Classical Library; London, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2014).
Beckby, H., Anthologia Graeca (Munich: Ernst Heimeran Verlag, 1957).
Conca, F., Marzi, M., and Zanetto, G., Antologia Palatina. 3 vols. Vol. 1 (Classici Greci; Turin: Unione Tipografico-Editrice Torinese, 2005).
Waltz, P., Anthologie Grecque (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1928).
Further reading on the Greek Anthology:
Cameron, A., The Greek Anthology: From Meleager to Planudes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993).
Grégoire, H., Recueil des inscriptions grecques chétiennes d'Asie Mineure (Paris: Leroux, 1922) [=IGC], no. 100(5).
Wankel, H. et al., Die Inschriften von Ephesos (Bonn: Habelt, 1979- ) [= I. Ephesos], 1354/4.
Merkelbach, R., and Stauber, J., Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten. 5 vols. (Stuttgart: Teubner 1998-2004) [= SGO], 03/02/52.
Amelotti, M., Migliardi Zingale, L., (eds.), Le costituzioni giustinianee nei papiri e nelle epigrafi (Milan: Giuffrè, 1985), 141, no. 26.
Amelotti, M., Luzzatto, G.I., (eds.), Le costituzioni giustinianee nei papiri e nelle epigrafi (Milan: Giuffrè, 1972), 112, no. 23.
Andaloro, M., “La decorazione pittorica degli edifici cristiani di Efeso: La chiesa di Santa Maria e il complesso di San Giovani”, [in:] Pillinger, R., Kersten, O., Krinzinger, F., Russo, O. (eds.), Efeso paleocristiana e bizantina = Frühchristliches und byzantinisches Ephesos: Referate des vom 22. bis 24. Februar 1996 im Historischen Institut beim Österreichischen Kulturinstitut in Rom durchgeführten internationalen Kongresses aus Anlass des 100-jährigen Jubiläums der österreichischen Ausgrabungen in Ephesos (Denkschriften: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Philosophisch-Historische Klasse 282, Archäologische Forschungen 3, Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1999), 55-57.