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E00714: Greek inscription commemorating the beginning of the construction, and completion, of a sanctuary (martyria) of unnamed martyrs in Anasartha (northern Syria). Start of construction dated to 369.

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posted on 2015-09-15, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
εἷς θε̣ὸ[ς καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς αὐτοῦ ὁ βοηθῶν (?). ἐγένετο]
ἡ καταρχὴ τοῦ κτίσματος τῶν μαρτυρίων το̣υ[---]
ἐν μηνὶ Ξα̣ν[θικοῦ] ̣τοῦ π' χ' ἔτους καὶ ἐτελιώθη ἐ̣ν [μηνὶ --- τοῦ --- ἔτους]

2. perhaps το̣ύ[των Feissel

'One God [and his Christ, the helper (?)]. The beginning of the construction of these (?) martyria in the month of Xanthikos (?) of the 680th year. Completed in [the month of - - - , year - - -].'

Text: Feissel 2002, 203.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Anonymous martyrs : S00060

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Anasartha Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings


Two fragments of a basalt lintel. Fragment 1 was seen in 1982 by Denis Feissel near a former police station at Khanāṣīr (ancient Anasartha). Fragment 2 was found and connected with Fragment 1 by Marc Griesheimer. Exact provenance and the original place of display unknown. First published by Denis Feissel in 2002 (with photographs).


The inscription commemorates the beginning of the construction of a martyr shrine in 'the 680th year', and its somewhat later completion (this date is lost). Dating in this region is by the Seleucid era, offering us a date of AD 369. This is therefore the earliest precisely dated non-literary written testimony to the cult of martyrs in northern Syria (and apparently in the whole of the Near East, cf. E01888). There is no mention of founders or supervisors. Perhaps the name of the martyr (or martyrs) was given in the lacuna in line 2 but the space allows for just several letters. The inscription's editor, Denis Feissel, suggests that the better option is to reconstruct there the pronoun τούτων ('of these martyria'). Interestingly, the term used to denote the shrine is in the plural form (τὰ μαρτυρία). Feissel believes that this means that the sanctuary housed relics of several martyrs. The plural form μαρτυρία is used for instance also in another very early source, a papyrus from Oxyrhynchos (P.Haun. III 67, dating to AD 398, see: E00731) that includes an order for food supplies for a martyr shrine of only one martyr, perhaps apa Taurinos: παράσχου εἰς τὰ ἅγια μαρτυρ<ί>α ἄπα Τ̣[.] . . . . σίτου ἀρτάβας ὀκτώ (...); 'Supply the holy martyria of apa T[aurinos (?)] with eight artabas of grain, etc.' Irfan Shahîd argued that the anonymous martyrs, venerated in Anasartha and its surroundings, were actually Christian Arab warriors who fell in a rebellion of the Nicene foederati tribes (Tanukhids) against the Arian Roman emperor Valens. They believed, they were “soldiers of the cross”, fighting and dying for the "orthodox" religious option, and therefore were equal to martyrs (see: Shahîd 1984, 232-233; E01618). Despite the chronological correlations (our inscription is dated 369; Valens reigned in the period 328-378; the Mavia's revolt reportedly broke out in 378), this idea is very hypothetical and seems implausible to us. It was also rejected by Denis Feissel (2002) as lacking any solid basis.


Edition: Feissel., D., "Les martyria d'Anasartha", in: Mélanges Gilbert Dagron (Travaux et Mémoires 14, Paris: Association des Amis du Centre d'Histoire et Civilisation de Byzance, 2002), 202-205. Further Reading: Shahîd, I., Byzantium and the Arabs in the Fourth Century (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1984), 232-233. Reference works: L'Année épigraphique (2002), 1504. Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 584. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 52, 1542.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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