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E00998: Fragmentary Greek inscription with otherwise unknown pieces of hagiographical or liturgical writings, referring probably to *James ('brother of the Lord', S00058), and certainly to Abgar, king of Edessa, and to the *Magi (S00180) as people who travelled to or lived in Jerusalem, were redeemed, and were examples to be followed by contemporary Christians. Found at Ankyra (Galatia, central Asia Minor). Probably late 5th/6th c.

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posted on 2015-12-17, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
] ἰδίαν στολὴν καὶ . . . . . ΑCΕΝ̣Ι[
] ἔλαβεν ἀπόλαυ(σι)ν τὴν ἀτελεύτητο[ν
εἰς τοὺς αἰῶ]̣νας· ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Ἰακὼβ σπουδάσας προσένενκε [
] ̣θ(εο)ῦ Χ(ριστο)ῦ πόλις καὶ παρ' αὐτοῦ εὐλογίαν ἔλαβεν καὶ ἄρτον ἐξ οὐρα̣ν[οῦ
]ΗΝ σὺν τῶν ἁγίων ἀγγέλων εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας· ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ Αὔγα̣ρ[ος
Αἰδέ]σσης διὰ ἐπιστολῆς λόγον ἔπεμψεν εἰς τὴν ἁγίαν τοῦ θεοῦ Χριστοῦ πόλιν [
]C περιετίχισεν τῇ πόλει Αἰδέσσης ὥστε ἀσάλευτον καὶ ἀνίκητον αὐτ[ὴν
τ]οῦ αἰῶνος τούτου· ὁμοίως δὲ καὶ οἱ Μάγοι σπουδάσαντες προσενέγκαι τὰ [δῶρα
Θ(εο)ῦ Χ(ριστ)]οῦ πόλιν, ταῦτα αὐτῶν διαπραξαμένων οὕτως ἐπηγγείλατο αὐτοῖς ὅ[πως
μυρ]ιάδας σῶσαι ἐκ τοῦ ἔθνους ἐ̣κ̣είνου· καὶ ὀφείλομεν καὶ ἡμεῖς τὰ αὐτὰ δι<α>πρά[ττεσθαι
]ιν οἱ γονῖς ἡμῶν ἐκ τῆς αἰωνίας κρίσεως καὶ ἡμεῖς σωτηρίας τυχώμεν [
κατ]αλυπάνοτες τὴν ἁγίαν τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ Χριστοῦ πόλη· οἱ γὰρ ταῦτα πράτ<τ>οντες [
πι]κρὰ δάκρυα κατενέγκωσιν κράζοντες· "Κύριε, Κύριε ἄνυξον ἡμῖν [
]σιν ἀκοῦσαι παρὰ τοῦ δικαίου κριτῆ· "οὐκ ὖδα ὑμᾶς· τήνες ἐστέ; πορεύ<εσ>θαι [
[ἀ]π’ ἐμοῦ"

Stephen Mitchell and Cyril Mango suggested extensive completions of the missing fragments and gave a consecutive sense to the whole text, but as their reconstruction is highly hypothetical, we reprint most of these completions only in the apparatus. Some of them are also included in the translation, to make the text better understandable.

2. ΑΠΟΛΑΥΟΝ lapis || ἀτεχευτην van Elderen || 5-6. Αὔγα̣ρ[ος ὁ βασιλεὺς | τῆς Αἰδέ]σσης Mitchell || 6-7. πόλιν [καὶ τὸν λόγον | ἀκούσα]ς Mitchell || 7-8. αὐτ[ὴν μένειν ἕως | τὸ τέλος τ]οῦ αἰῶνος Mango apud Mitchell || 8-9. προσενέγκαι τὰ [δῶρα εἰς τὴν | τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ Χ(ριστ)]οῦ πόλιν Mitchell || 9-10. ὅ[πως αὐτοὺς ἀν|δρῶν μυρ]ιάδας σῶσαι Mitchell || 10. δι<α>πρά[ττεσθαι or δὶ = δὴ πρά[ττειν Mango apud Mitchell || 10-11. διπρά[ττεσθαι ἵνα | ἐκφύγωσ]ιν Mitchell || 11-12. [οὐχ ὥσπερ οἱ κατ]αλυπάνοντες Rizos, [οὕτως οὐδε|πότε κατ]αλυπάνοτες Mitchell || 12-13. πράτοντες [κρούοντες τὴν | δὲ μέλλου]σιν Mitchell ||15. πορεύθαι = πορεύεσθε Mitchell, πορεύ<εσ>θε [πάντες] Mitchell

'[- - -] own robe (?) and [- - -] received the endless joy [- - - for ages] and so Jacob eagerly offered [- - -] the city of God Christ, and from him he received the blessing and the bread from Heaven [- - -] with the holy angels for all eternity. And similarly Abgar [the king of Ede]ssa sent a message by a letter to the holy city of God Christ, [and having heard the Word] placed it all around the walls of the city of Edessa, so as to make it unshakeable and unconquerable [until the end] of this world. And likewise the Magi eagerly offered [the gifts to the city of God Christ.] Once they had accomplished this, he promised them, t[hat he would save myr]iads (tens of thousands) of that nation. And we are also due to do the same, [so that] both our parents and we may be granted salvation from the eternal condemnation, [(and) would never] abandon the holy city of God Christ. Because those, who do these things, [- - -] will shed bitter tears, crying: “Lord, Lord, open to us”. [- - -] so that they will hear from the just Judge the answer: “I do not know you. Who are you? Go away from me”.'

Text: Mitchell 1977, no. 37. Translation: P. Nowakowski, E. Rizos.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Magi (foreigners visiting Jesus after his birth) : S00180 James the Brother of the Lord, also known as James the Just, ob. 1st c. : S00058

Saint Name in Source

οἱ Μάγοι Ἰακώβ

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Liturgical texts - Other Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint Literary - Hagiographical - Other saint-related texts Literary - Magical texts and amulets Literary - Other narrative texts (including Histories)


  • 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)

Ankyra Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Liturgical invocation

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Saint as patron - of a community

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous interventions in war Miraculous protection - of communities, towns, armies

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Foreigners (including Barbarians) Other lay individuals/ people Crowds


A grey marble slab, broken on all sides. Current dimensions: H. 0.57 m; W. 0.79 m; Th. 0.27 m; letter height 0.02 m. It was first published by Bastiaan Van Elderen, who found it in 1967 at the epigraphical depot near the Roman baths at Ankara. In 1968 he transcribed the text, made a squeeze and took a photograph. There was no record of its provenance, but Van Elderen thought that the stone had been brought to Ankara from Edessa. Both Stephen Mitchell and Louis Robert, who later commented on the text, rejected this hypothesis.


The inscription offers us an extremely interesting piece of otherwise unknown hagiographical or liturgical writings, concerning the lives of some holy men, that had connections with or lived in Jerusalem. The first preserved section is devoted to a certain Jacob (Ἰακώβ). Bastiaan Van Elderen identifies him as James the Just, 'brother of the Lord' and leader of the Jerusalem Christians after his ascension. Van Elderen points out that the contents of this paragraph resemble the legend about James, accounted in the passages of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, that were summarised in De viris inlustribus by Jerome, and a lost account of the Last Supper, which said that James had vowed to abstain from food until he had seen Jesus risen from the dead. Mitchell believes that the phrase εὐλογίαν ἔλαβεν καὶ ἄρτον ἐξ οὐρανοῦ / 'he received the blessing and the bread from Heaven' refers to this event. Van Elderen notes that this and other expressions from the inscription: εὐλογίαν ἔλαβεν / 'he received the blessing'; ἄρτον ἐξ οὐράνου / 'the bread from Heaven'; εἰς τοὺς αἰώνας / 'until the end of this world' have parallels also in the phrasing of the canonical Gospels. Line 5 contains a reference to some holy angels: σὺν τῶν ἁγίων ἀγγέλων. Van Elderen supposes that this is a reminiscence of a passage from the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1,20), where angels of the seven churches are mentioned, and that these angels are simply leaders (ἐπίσκοποι) of these communities. Mitchell prefers to consider this passage rather as a statement that James enjoyed eternal life among the angels after his martyrdom. The section on James contains also the phrase σπουδάσας προσένενκε / 'eagerly brought', which may put emphasis on the bringing of certain offerings by James to Jesus. Though the sense of this offering is not obvious, the expression fits the contents of other stories accounted in the inscription. The second preserved section is associated with the story of the letters exchanged between Jesus and Abgar, king of Edessa, which says how he was cured at a distance by Jesus from a terminal affliction. The story is first recorded by Eusebius (HE I 13), but some passages were also inscribed on city walls in several places to protect them from enemies and earthquakes. Eusebius claimed that the letters had been originally composed in 'Syriac' (i.e. Aramaic), and that he had found some manuscripts in the public archive of Edessa. In the Persian Wars Procopius (BP II 12,26) says that the inhabitants of Edessa inscribed some portions of the letter over a city gate as a kind of a charm or phylakterion: 'they have even caused the letter to be inscribed in this form on the gates of the city instead of any other defence' (trans. H.B. Dewing) / καὶ ἀνάγραπτον οὕτω τὴν ἐπιστολὴν ἀντ' ἄλλου τοῦ φυλακτηρίου ἐν ταῖς τῆς πόλεως πεποίηνται πύλαις. The popularity of the legend increased greatly in the second half of the 4th c., when Edessa evaded capture by Persians after the disastrous defeat of Julian in 363. As another great Eastern city, Nisibis, fell in to their hands, it seemed that Edessa's freedom was indeed the result of a miracle. For a brief introduction to the legend, see: Segal 1970, 62-81 and the bibliography in I. Ephesos, vol. Ia, 285-291. Four of the known epigraphical copies of the legend were found in Asia Minor. One comes from Ephesos (I. Ephesos 46 with an addendum in I. Ephesos 7.2, p. 4). The inscription was engraved on a white marble lintel, found in a house on the northern site of the Harbour road (Hafenstraße), now in Selçuk, in the Ephesos Museum (Inv. III 1072). Dimensions: H. 0,52 m; W. 1,55 m; Th. 0,13 m. It is usually dated to the 5th or 6th c. Another exemplar was found at the Syro-Anatolian frontier, close to Edessa in a cave near Kirk Magara, next to a rock-cut tomb (see I. Estremo Oriente 28). This copy lacks the text of the letter by Abgar to Jesus, and renders only the response by Jesus. The version of Kirk Magara is also the only one which mentions the disciple Thaddaeus-Thomas by his name: ἀποστέλλω δέ σοι ἕνα τῶν μαθητῶν μου ὀνόματι Θαδδαῖον τὸν καὶ Θωμᾶν / 'I send you one of my Disciples, called Thaddaeus also known as Thomas' (lines 6-7). The third and fourth exemplars were discovered in Pontus, near Euchaita (see, respectively, Studia Pontica III 1, no. 211 [Gurdja], and no. 226 [Alkat-Hadji-Kevi]). The version of Gurdja contains both: the letter of Abgar and the answer by Jesus, which are preceded by a short introductory statement. Lines 12-13 lack the name of the messenger Ananios, who brought the answer from Jesus, while he is mentioned in the Ephesian exemplar. These texts are not included in our database, since they do not touch on the cult of saints (Abgar never received cult in our period). The third section discernible in the Ancyran inscription, refers to the visit and adoration of the Magi in Bethlehem (Mt. 2,1-12). On their way to the newborn Jesus they passed through Jerusalem, and the prominence of the city is highlighted again. The inscription closes with a section containing instructions to behave in the same way as the aforementioned figures, because this will grant access to the New Jerusalem, and a warning that those who abandon this holy place, will be forsaken by God, which is based on a passage from the Gospel according to Matthew: 'Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said: Verily I say unto you, I know you not' / Κύριε, Κύριε, ἄνυξον ἡμῖν. ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐκ οἶδα ὑμᾶς, πόθεν ἐστέ (Mt. 14,25-27). Stephen Mitchell kindly informed us that two more similar texts were found at Ankara and will be published in the second volume of The Greek and Latin Inscriptions of Ankara (Ancyra). Quite why Ankyra became a centre for inscribed texts focusing on the importance of Jerusalem is currently obscure. Dating: Unknown. Stephen Mitchell hypothesises that the inscription dates to the 5th or 6th c. as it contains the formula ὥστε ἀσάλευτον καὶ ἀνίκητον αὐτ[ὴν μένειν ἕως τὸ τέλος τ]οῦ αἰῶνος / 'so that it would be safe and invincible [until the end] of this world', deriving from the legend of the correspondence between Jesus and Abgar, king of Edessa. The formula, which often features in inscriptions protecting city walls, appears for the first time in the late 4th c. and is unlikely to occur after AD 609, when Edessa, the invincible city, protected by this charm, was captured by the Persians. The form of letters points to the late 5th or 6th c.


Edition: Felle, A.E., Biblia epigraphica. La sacra scrittura nella documentazione epigrafica dell'«Orbis christianus antiquus» (III-VIII secolo) (Bari: Edipuglia, 2006), no. 447. Mitchell, St., "R.E.C.A.M. Notes and Studies No. 1: Inscriptions of Ancyra", Anatolian Studies 27 (1977), no. 37. Van Elderen, B., "A new inscription relating to Christianity and Edessa", Calvin Theological Journal 7 (1972), 5-14. Further reading: Comments to Anderson, J.G.C., Cumont, F., Grégoire, H., Studia Pontica, vol. 3, part 1: Recueil des inscriptions grecques et latines du Ponte et de l'Arménie (Brussels: Lamertin, 1910), no. 211 and 226. Canali de Rossi. F., (ed.), Iscrizioni dello Estermo Oriente greco. Un Repertorio (Bonn: Habelt, 2004), no. 28. Comments to Die Inschriften von Ephesos, no. 46 with an addendum in vol. 7, part 2, p. 4. Segal, J.B., Edessa. The Blessed City (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 62-81. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1978), 495. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 27, 848.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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