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E00906: Small stone chest, probably a reliquary, with a Greek inscription for a martyr *Trophimos (probably the martyr in Synnada in Asia Minor, S00606). Found near Synnada (Phrygia, west central Asia Minor). Probably 3rd-4th c.

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posted on 2015-11-28, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
A (on the front face of the shaft):

ὧδε ἔνα Τρο-
φίμου τοῦ μ-
άρτυρος ὀστέ-

B (on the lid):

τίς ἂν δὲ ταῦ-
τα τὰ ὀστέα
ἐκβάλῃ ποτέ,
ἔσται αὐτῷ
πρὸς τ[ὸ<ν>] θεό-

A: 'Here within are contained the bones of the martyr Trophimos.'
B: 'If anyone, at any time, should throw out these bones, that person shall be answerable to God.'

Text: Tabbernee 1997, no. 35. Translation: W. Tabbernee.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Trophimos, martyr in Synnada (Phrygia, central Asia Minor), ob. c. 276-282 : S00606

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures Inscriptions - Funerary inscriptions


  • 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)

Synnada Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives


Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - head Reliquary – institutionally owned Bodily relic - bones and teeth


A chest of white marble. Found by a local in 1907 in Şuhut near ancient Synnada (Phrygia, central Asia Minor). H. 0.25 m; W. 0.2 m. The chest resembles a small pillar (with base and capital), which is also the form of a certain type of Anatolian sarcophagus. Inscription A is engraved on the "shaft", Inscription B on the lid (probably written by a different hand). Currently kept in Bursa Museum (inv. no. 548).


This is one of the most famous inscribed reliquaries, found in Anatolia (some scholars refer to it as an "ossuary"). When opened, it contained a well preserved human skull. The martyr Trophimos, mentioned in Inscription A, is believed to be the figure known from the Acts of Saint Trophimos of Synnada (BHG 1853-1854), who was killed under the emperor Probus, together with two companions: *Sabbatios and *Dorymedon. Trophimos tried to convert some pagans to Christianity at a festival in honour of Apollo in Antioch, but was captured by the angry mob. Sabbatios was executed in Antioch, Trophimos and Dorymedon were both taken to Synnada and suffered martyrdom there. The Acts of Trophimos were regarded as spurious by Adolf von Harnack and Henri Grégoire. William Tabbernee stresses that the reliquary attests only to the existence of a cult of a certain Trophimos in Synnada and cannot be considered as a proof of authenticity of these Acts. William M. Calder and William H.C. Frend believed that Trophimos had been a Montanist and a voluntary martyr. But the only arguments, they brought forward, were an unjustified identification of our Trophimos with a Montanist ἅγιος Τρόφιμος mentioned in an inscription from Payamalanı / Sebaste (see E00907), and the fact that there were no systematic persecutions of Christians under Probus (see Calder & Grégoire 1952, 165-168; Calder 1955, 37; Frend 1965, 445). Their hypothesis was rightly rejected by William Tabbernee (see Tabbernee 1997, 239). Dating: 3rd c. (Mendel); early 4th c. (Kalinowski). The editors say that the ornamentation on the reliquary stylistically resembles the art of the Hellenistic period. Mendel argued for the 3rd c. dating as there were no Christian symbols on the reliquary and the martyr was not called ἅγιος. He also pointed at 2nd and 3rd c. palaeographic parallels and at the presence of a formula (ἔσται αὐτῷ πρὸς τὸν θεόν) in Inscription B, which is characteristic of Christian or Jewish inscriptions from the area of the city of Eumeneia.


Edition: Tabbernee, W. (ed.), Montanist Inscriptions and Testimonia: Epigraphic Sources for Illustrating the History of Montanism (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1997), no. 35. Guarducci, M. (ed.), Epigrafia greca, vol. 4: Epigrafi sacre pagane e cristiane (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato - Libreria dello Stato, 1978), 390-392. Buschhausen, H. (ed.), Die spätrömische Metallscrinia und frühchristlichen Reliquiare (Wiener byzantinistische Studien 9, Wien, Köln, Graz, 1971), C 60. Mendel, G., "Catalogue des monuments grecs, romains et byzantins du Musée Impérial Ottoman de Brousse", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 33 (1909), 342-348, no. 102. Further reading: Calder, W.M., "Early Christian epitaphs from Phrygia", Anatolian Studies 5 (1955) 37. Calder, W.M., Grégoire, H., "Paulinos κοινωνός de Sébastè de Phrygie", Bulletin de la Classe des Lettres de l'Académie Royale de Belgique 37 (1952), 165-168. Delehaye, H., Les origines du culte des martyrs (Bruxelles : Société des Bollandistes, 1912), 190. Destephen, S., "Martyrs locaux et cultes civiques en Asie Mineure", in: J.C. Caillet, S. Destephen, B. Dumézil, H. Inglebert, Des dieux civiques aux saints patrons (IVe-VIIe siècle) (Paris: éditions A. & J. Picard, 2015), 92. Frend, W.H.C., Martyrdom and persecution in the Early Church: a study of a conflict from the Maccabees to Donatus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), 445. Kalinowski, A., Frühchristliche Reliquiare im Kontext von Kultstrategien, Heilserwartung und sozialer Selbstdarstellung (Spätantike – Frühes Christentum Byzanz 32, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2011), 129-130. Mitchell, St., "An apostle to Ankara from the New Jerusalem: Montanists and Jews in Late Roman Asia Minor", Scripta Classica Israelica 24 (2005), 214. Robert, L., "Les Kordakia de Nicée, le combustible de Synnada et les poissons-scies. Sur des lettres d'un métropolite de Phrygie au Xe siècle. Philologie et réalités, I", Journal des Savants (1961), 154, n. 73. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1910), 322; (1963), 260. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 6, 343; 30, 1494.

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