Saint NameGennadios, probably a martyred bishop in Anatolia, ob. 3rd / early 4th c. : S00707
Saint Name in SourceΓενναδείος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Funerary inscriptions
Literary - Poems
Evidence not before250
Evidence not after350
Activity not before250
Activity not after350
Place of Evidence - RegionAsia Minor
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcLaodikeia Katakekaumene / Laodicea Combusta
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Laodikeia Katakekaumene / Laodicea Combusta
Cult activities - PlacesBurial site of a saint - tomb/grave
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsComposing and translating saint-related texts
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - bishops
Relatives of the saint
SourceA limestone block with a tabula ansata. Broken on the lower right-hand side. H. 0.74 m; W. 1.30 m; Th. 0.25 m (top), 0.15 m (bottom); H. of the inscribed field 0.52 m; W. of the inscribed field 0.85 m; letter height 0.025-0.04 m. Seen and copied by William Ramsay in 1906 at Altınekin, former Suwerek (near ancient Laodikeia Katakekaumene and Ikonion). When recorded, it was reused in a wall of a mosque.
DiscussionThis inscription has attracted considerable scholarly attention. It is the epitaph for a certain Gennadios, composed in five hexameters. The plaque, on which the poem is inscribed, is large and of good quality. The first edition, by Thomas Callander, was done after a poor copy by Ramsay. William Calder offered a much better edition, based on a squeeze and a photograph, and identified the deceased as a bishop and an otherwise unknown martyr (probably under the Tetrarchs), based on the expressions ποιμέν' ὄντ' ἐπ' ὄεσσιν ('he was a shepherd over the sheep') and ὁ ἱρο[γ]ραφείην γὰρ ἀνέτλη, οἴκτιστον θνήσκων καὶ δυσμενέων ̣ἀ̣νοσείων, which he translated: 'he endured (the prophecy of) holy scripture. He died miserably and through the impious (?) enemies'.
The identification of the deceased as a martyr was accepted by some subsequent scholars, but there have also been several attempts to read and translate verses 3 and 4 differently. Henri Grégoire in his paper published in Byzantion in 1924 suggested that the beginning of verse 3 should be read: ποιμένον (= ποιμαίνων) τ' ἐπ' ὄ̣εσσιν (actually it should be ποιμένοντ' ἐπ' ὄ̣εσσιν/'he was a shepherd over sheep' as the phrase is a quotation of Il. XI 106, see the comments in SGO III, no. 14/06/03) and that the phrase ὁ ἱρο[γ]ραφείην γὰρ ἀνέτλη should be corrected to θιρο[τ]ραφίην (= θηροτροφίην) γὰρ ἀνέτλη/'he was fed to beasts'. Thus he interpreted the epitaph as the eulogy for an ecclesiastic, martyred in the arena, devoured by wild animals.
Grégoire's interpretation of verse 3 was criticised by Hondius in Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, who stressed that the letters Ο Ι were clearly visible on the stone, and therefore, that the reading θιρο[τ]ραφίην was implausible. Adolf Wilhelm (1932) was less certain that the original reading by Calder was correct, as the stonecutter could have accidentally omitted the horizontal bar in Θ. He accepted Grégoire's idea that the dubious word should be read as θιροτραφίην = θηροτροφίη, but he proposed another translation. According to Wilhelm, θηροτροφίη meant the job of θηροτρόφος, i.e. custos bestiarium, a breeder (or feeder) of beasts, kept for the amphitheatre. In his opinion Gennadios could have died while trying to catch some wild animals, or while feeding them. In any case, according to this reading, he was not a Christian, but simply a victim of a tragic accident. Grégoire responded (1933) that he was not convinced by Wilhelm's translation, and that he still considered Gennadios as a martyred cleric. Wilhelm's interpretation has been recently revisited and lightly modified by Denis Feissel who suggested to us that one could hypothetically restore the discussed expression also as <χ>οιρο[τ]ραφείην/'devoured by wild boars'.
In the late 1940s the epitaph of Gennadios was re-examined by François Halkin. He understood literally the phrase ποιμένον τ' ἐπ' ὄ̣εσσιν ('while a shepherd over sheep') and argued that the deceased was not a martyr, but a shepherd devoured by beasts (e.g. wolves), while he was with the flocks in the mountains. To prove that such an event could happen, Halkin cited an epitaph composed for a person killed by wolves, which is edited in MAMA I 286: [ὑ]πὲρ Μανου Σουσου ἐγγ[ό]|νου λακισθ[έ]|ντος ὑπὸ λύκ̣ων /'[F]or Manos, descendant of Sousos, slaughtered by wolves'. He also noted that the loss of hands, eaten by a beast, was an element of a Phrygian curse meant to protect graves from desecration (I. Arai Epitymbioi, no. 268: (χεῖρας) ̣π[αρ]|[α]δοῖτο βε<β>ρω[μέ]|[ν]ας ὑπὸ θηρί<ῳ> / 'May (the hands of the desecrator) be eaten by a beast'). Furthermore, Halkin pointed out that the poem lacked any references to faith as the cause of death and to a future reward for martyrdom. He also rejected the reconstruction of the word [ἀν]οσείων / 'of impious' in verse 3. Though he did not reach any definite conclusions on how to complete the lacuna, two scholars offered him possible solutions. P. Joannou hypothesised that the word could be [νε]οσσίον, meaning 'a nestling, chick', used as a diminutive for small children, and Ernst Honigmann completed it as [μολ]οσσίων, claiming that it referred to Molossers, a race of large shepherd dogs, quite popular in antiquity, that presumably killed and ate the boy.
In our opinion, this criticism is unjustified. It seems very unlikely that a common shepherd would have received such a sophisticated, metrical epitaph, claiming that his death saddened all his homeland. In this context the phrase 'shepherd over sheep' is more likely to refer to the function of a bishop than that of a real shepherd. Besides, the expression πότνα μήτηρ / 'Lady Mother' may in fact mean the Christian Church. It is used in this sense, for example, in the epigram for the Christian family of Aurelios Trophimos (SGO III, no. 16/31/93D, lines 8-9). Our inscription's most recent commentators, Stephen Mitchell, Reinhold Merkelbach, Josef Stauber, and Sylvain Destephen, share the view that Gennadios was a Christian martyr.
Dating: probably 3rd or early 4th c. (based on the contents and the lettering).
Tabbernee, W. (ed.), Montanist Inscriptions and Testimonia: Epigraphic Sources for Illustrating the History of Montanism (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1997), no. 56.
Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten III, no. 14/06/03.
Monumenta Asiae Minoris Antiqua I, no. 157.
Callander, T., "Explorations in Lycaonia and Isauria", in: W.M. Ramsay, Studies in the History and Art of the Eastern Provinces of the Roman Empire (Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1906), no. 64.
Inscriptiones Christianae Graecae database, no. 604: http://www.epigraph.topoi.org/ica/icamainapp/inscription/show/604.
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), 65 note 14; 89.
Grégoire, H., "Epigraphie chrétienne (les inscriptions hérétiques d'Asie Mineure)", Byzantion 1 (1924), 709-710.
Grégoire, H., "Notes épigraphiques", Byzantion 8 (1933), 65-69.
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Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie, IX, Asie Mineure", Analecta Bollandiana 71 (1953), 90, 347.
Leclercq, H., "Paléochrétiens", Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et liturgie, vol. 13/1 (Paris: Librarie Letouzey et Ané, 1937), col. 603, no. 4.
Mitchell, St., "The Life of Saint Theodotus of Ancyra", Anatolian Studies 32 (1982), 105, note 4.
Mitchell, St., Anatolia. Land, Men and Gods in Asia Minor, vol. 2: The Rise of the Church (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 65.
Wilhelm, A., "Griechische Grabinschriften aus Kleinasien", Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschafte (1932), 792-865.
Bulletin épigraphique (1951), 19; (1936), 352.
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 6, 343.