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E00927: Inscribed horse brass with Greek invocations of *Theodore (presumably the soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita, S00480) and *Zechariah (probably the father of John the Baptist, S00597). Found in Ikonion (Lycaonia, central Asia Minor). Probably 7th c.

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posted on 2015-12-03, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Inscriptions on a horse brass:

On outer circle: + ἅγιε Θεόδωρε βοήθι τὸν ἄλογον Γεοργίου· ὑγίᾳ (six-pointed star)

On inner circle: + ἅγιε Ζαχαρία βοήθι

On six spokes connecting the circles (each spoke bearing a single letter): Φῶς, Ζωή

On outer circle: '+ Saint Theodore, help the horse of Georgios! For health!'

On inner circle: '+ Saint Zechariah, help!'

On six spokes connecting the circles (each spoke bearing a single letter): 'Light, Life'

Text: Bendall & Morrisson 2003, 38.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Theodore Tiro, martyr of Amaseia (Helenopontus, north-eastern Asia Minor), ob. 306 : S00480 Zechariah, father of John the Baptist : S00597 Zechariah, Old Testament prophet : S00283

Saint Name in Source

Θεόδωρος Ζαχαρίας

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed objects Images and objects - Other portable objects (metalwork, ivory, 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)

Ikonion Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Healing diseases and disabilities

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people Soldiers Aristocrats Officials Animals

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects



Α circular horse brass found in Ikonion (Lykaonia, central Asia Minor) and currently in a private collection. The inscriptions run around the object, clockwise. The longer text is written on the outer ring, the shorter on the inner one. Both rings are connected by six spokes. At the top and at the bottom there are two loops. Outer diameter: 0.077 m. Inner diameter: 0.055 m. Weight 74.60 gm.


The invocations inscribed on the brass were meant to protect a horse of a certain Georgios. Christian charms / phylakteria of this kind must have been common in Late Antiquity, superseding similar pagan charms. For similar fittings attached, for example, to cattle, see Feissel 1992, 396-404; Bendall & Morrisson 2003, 38-41; Feissel 1994, 284-288; Robert 1936, 61; Stiegemann 2001, 314. But, though some of the fittings listed in these works refer to names of saints, they usually mention the patron saint of the institution owning the labelled animals and do not contain invocations. If they do, these are usually invocations of God, like the one engraved on a little bronze bell of Anatolian origin, kept in the Collection Froehner: κύριε, βοήθι Στρατονίκου κὲ τõν ἀλόγον αὐτοῦ / 'Lord, help Stratonikos and his animals', and the one on a small bronze lid, kept in the British Museum, and found probably in Antarados (Phoenicia): κύριε, βοήθι Νισίου διακ<όν>ου κὲ τῦς ἀλόγυς αὐτοῦ / 'Lord, help Nesios, the deacon, and his animals' (for comments on these two objects, see: Feissel 1994, 286, see also Martiniani-Reber 2011, no. 48 and the Bulletin épigraphique (2014), 552 for a similar formula: Κ(ύρι)ε, βόθι τοῦ ἀλόγου). It is significant that these invocations, made on behalf of animals, are not different from invocations on behalf of humans. The invoked saints are Theodore and Zechariah. Simon Bendall and Cécile Morrisson suppose that Theodore was invoked here a horseman himself and a warrior saint, and that the owner of the horse could have been a military man (a nobleman, soldier, etc.). This is, of course, a hypothesis which can be questioned, as *Theodore appears often in Anatolian inscriptions and was generally perceived as a powerful protector. Nevertheless, it does seem likely that the protected animal was indeed a warhorse rather than a horse trained to race. The reason for invoking Zechariah is less clear. The saint in question, Zechariah, probably father of John the Baptist, identified by an early Christian tradition with an innocent priest murdered at the Temple in Jerusalem (see Matthew 23,35), does not appear in monumental inscriptions from the Diocese of Asia and the Diocese of Pontus. Bendall and Morrisson suggest that he was invoked because of some particular devotion to Zechariah by the owner of the horse, or that the saints were paired because of a local Lycaonian story, unknown to modern scholars. Dating: 7th c. (based on palaeography: alpha is engraved with the oblique horizontal bar, most of the letters have horizontal serifs). See also: E01139; E01695.


Edition: Bendall, S., Morrisson, C., "Protecting horses in Byzantium. A bronze plaque from the Armamenton, a branding iron and a horse brass", ΒΥΖΑΝΤΙΟ ΚΡΑΤΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑ. ΜΝΗΜΗ ΝΙΚΟΥ ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΙΔΗ (Vyzantio kratos kai koinōnia: mnēmē Nikou Oikonomidē / Byzantium, State and Society. In memory of Nikos Oikonomides), eds. A. Abramea, A. Laïou, E. Chrysos (Athens: Institouto Vyzantinōn Ereunōn, Ethniko Hidryma Ereunōn, 2003), 31-49. Reference works: Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 1126. For similar fittings, see: Feissel, D., "Notes d'épigraphie chretienne (IX)", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 118/1 (1994), 284-288. Feissel, D., "Notes d'épigraphie chretienne (VIII)", Bulletin de Correspondance Hellénique 116/1 (1992), 396-404. Martiniani-Reber, M. (ed.) Antiquités paléochrétiennes et byzantines. Collections du Musée d'art et d'histoire - Genève (Geneva: Musée d'art et d'histoire, 2011), no. 48, cf. Bulletin épigraphique (2014), 552. Robert, L., Collection Froehner, vol. 1: Inscriptions grecques (Paris: Editions des Bibliothèques nationales, 1936), p. 61. Stiegemann, Ch. (ed.), Byzanz. Das Licht aus dem Osten. Kunst und Alltag im byzantinischen Reich vom 4. bis 15. Jahrhundert. Eine Ausstellung des Erzbistums Paderborn (Mainz: P. von Zabern, 2001), 314.

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