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E00810: Greek inscription with an invocation of unnamed *Archangels associated with seven vowels of the Greek alphabet, asked to protect the city of Miletos (Caria, western Asia Minor). In a wall of the theatre of Miletos, probably late antique (5th-6th c.).

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posted on 2015-10-26, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Ι Ε Ο Υ Α Η Ω Ι Α Ω Α Ι Ε Ο Υ Α Η Ω Ι Ω Α Ε Η Ο Υ Ι Α Ω Ι Η Ε Ο Υ Ε Ν Ο ̣Ν[c. 14 letters]

ἅγιε ἅγιε φύλαξον φύλαξον φύλαξον ἅ[γιε ἅγιε]
φύλαξον  φύλαξον τὴν πόλιν τὴν πόλιν τὴν πόλιν φύ[λαξον φύλαξον]
τὴν πόλιν τὴν πόλιν Μιλησίων Μιλησίων Μιλησίων τὴν πό[λιν τὴν πόλιν]
Μιλησίων Μιλησίων καὶ πάντας καὶ πάντας καὶ πάντας Μιλησί[ων Μιλησίων]
καὶ πάντας καὶ πάντας τοὺς κατοι- τοὺς κατοι- τοὺς κατοι- καὶ πάντ[ας καὶ πάντας]
τοὺς κατοι- τοὺς κατοι- κοῦντας κοῦντας κοῦντας τοὺς κατ[οι- τοὺς κατοι-]
κοῦντας κοῦντας κο̣ῦ[ν]τας [κοῦντας]

ἀρχάγγελοι, φυλάσσεται ἡ πόλις Μιλησίων καὶ πάντες οἱ κα̣τ[οικοῦντες]

1. Ε Ν Ο ̣Ν[ = ἐν ὀν[όματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ or θεοῦ Grégoire, ἐν ὀν[όματι (?) - -] Herrmann

'Ι Ε Ο Υ Α Η Ω Ι Α Ω Α Ι Ε Ο Υ Α Η Ω Ι Ω Α Ε Η Ο Υ Ι Α Ω Ι Η Ε Ο Υ Ε Ν Ο ̣Ν[c. 14 letters]

ΑΕΗΙΟΥΩ O Holy One, keep the city of the Milesians and all that dwell therein!
ΕΗΙΟΥΩΑ O Holy One, keep the city of the Milesians and all that dwell therein!
ΗΙΟΥΩΑΕ O Holy One, keep the city of the Milesians and all that dwell therein!
ΙΟΥΩΑΕΗ O Holy One, keep the city of the Milesians and all that dwell therein!
ΟΥΩΑΕΗΙ O Holy One, keep the city of the Milesians and all that dwell therein!
[ΥΩ]Α[ΕΗΙΟ] O H[oly One], kee[p] the ci[ty] of the Mi[lesians] and a[ll] that dw[e]ll therein!
[ΩΑΕΗΙΩΥ O Holy One, keep the city of the Milesians and all that dwell therein]!

Archangels, the city of the Milesians is protected and all that dwell therein!'

Text: Milet VI/2, no. 943. Translation: L.R.M. Strachan, lightly modified.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Archangels (unspecified) : S00191

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Literary - Magical texts and amulets


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Miletus Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Exorcism Healing diseases and disabilities Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Crowds Other lay individuals/ people


Incised on a block in the outer wall on the northwest corner of the theatre of Miletos. H. 0.595 m; W. 1.05 m.


The inscription offers us an almost completely preserved invocation of unnamed Archangels, asked to protect the city of Miletos and all its inhabitants. The first line contains a series of vowels and perhaps an invocation of God or Christ which is partially lost. Then we find seven columns of text with invocations. They are written in oval frames which resemble (and perhaps were deliberately meant to mirror) magical gems. Each of them begins with a sequence of seven vowels. In Greek magical texts vowels were usually associated with the seven heavenly spheres or planets as well as with (arch)angels. After the vowels there follow invocations of unnamed holy creatures (called ἅγιοι), probably holy archangels. Identical combinations of vowels, here associated with specific archangels, can be found in the magical papyrus PGM II, X 36-50. If the same rule is applied in our inscription, we can identify the archangels as: αεηιουω = Michael εηιουωα = Raphael ηιουωαε = Gabriel ιουωαεη = Souriel ουωαεηι = Zaziel υωαεηιο = Badakiel ωαεηιου = Suliel The final line contains a statement that the city of Miletus and all the inhabitants are protected by unnamed Archangels. Early editors (see Deissmann 1927 and comments in IGC 221 by Henri Grégoire and in Milet VI/2 943 by Peter Herrmann) dated the inscription to the 6th c., based on the supposition that the Milesian theatre was fortified in this period and that the inscription was to protect the city and the new fortress from invaders. Ragnar H. Cline argues that the inscription is not clearly Christian (but contains Hellenic and Jewish elements) and it could have been made in the 4th or 5th c. to protect the city from plague or other maladies. He points out that the inscription much more resembles 4th/5th c. magical gems than other 6th c. inscriptions from Miletus and that the Milesian theatre may not have been fortified until the 12th c., after the Bzyantine re-conquest of western Anatolia (for references to the archaeological evidence, see Feist, Erkul, Giese 2013, 206-207 and Cline 2011, 56 n. 6). Deissmann (1927, 454) shows that the wording of the invocation is influenced by the Septuagint. The structure may be based on Psalm 126(127): ἐὰν μὴ Κύριος φυλάξῃ πόλιν, εἰς μάτην ἠγρύπνησεν ὁ φυλάσσων ('except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain'). Line 11 includes a fixed formula καὶ πάντες οἱ κατοικοῦντες ('and all that dwell therein') which is common in the Septuagint, see e.g. Psalm 23,1-2: τοῦ Κυρίου ἡ γῆ καὶ τὸ πλήρωμα αὐτῆς / ἡ οἰκουμένη καὶ πάντες οἱ κατοικοῦντες ('The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein'). There were attempts to translate the last line as an imperative clause with φυλάσσεται understood as a misspelt form of φυλάσσετε but this would require us to change the case of the expression ἡ πόλις Μιλησίων to the accusative, which is neither necessary nor convincing.


Edition: Herrmann, P. (ed.), Milet. Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen und Untersuchungen seit dem Jahre 1899, vol. 6: Die Inschriften von Milet, part 2 (Berlin – New York 1998), no. 943. Grégoire, H. (ed.), Recueil des inscriptions grecques chrétiennes d'Asie Mineure, vol. 1 (Paris: Leroux, 1922), no. 221. LBW, no. 218. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, no. 2895. Inscriptiones Christianae Graecae database, no. 1713: Further Reading: Cline, R.H., "Archangels, magical amulets, and the defense of late antique Miletus", The Journal of Late Antiquity 4/1 (2011), 55-78. Deissmann, G.A., Licht vom Osten (Tübingen: Mohr, 1909), 339. Deissmann, G.A., Light from the Ancient East, trans. L.R.M. Strachan (New York - London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1927; repr. 1995), 454–455. Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie, IX, Asie Mineure", Analecta Bollandiana 71 (1953), 83. Horsley, G.H.R., Luxford, J.M., ‘Pagan angels in Roman Asia Minor: Revisiting the epigraphic evidence’, Anatolian Studies 66 (2016), 170–175, no. 12. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2014), 569. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 4, 440. For the chronology of the theatre of Miletos, see: Feist, S., Erkul, E., Giese, St., "Die nachantike Siedlung auf dem Theaterhügel", in: Niewöhner, P., "Neue spät- und nachantike Monumente von Milet und der mittelbyzantinische Zerfall des anatolischen Städtewesens", Archäologischer Anzeiger, (2013/2), 206-214.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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