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E01130: Greek inscription with a request for God's grace for a household, with an invocation of Christ and possibly *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Found at Priene (Caria, western Asia Minor). Probably late antique or later.

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posted on 17.02.2016, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
+ θ(εο)ῦ χάρις ἐν τὸͅ : οἴκῳ τ(οῦ)τοͅ +
βοήθει ΑΡΒΑΝΤΙCΑΛΤΟ Χρ(ιστέ)

1. ἐν τὸͅ : οἴκῳ Blümel Merkelbach Rumscheid, ἐν τõι οἴκῳ Hiller von Gaertringen

'+ The grace of God in this household + (Mother of God?), Christ, help!'

Text: I. Priene 2014, no. 222.

History

Evidence ID

E01130

Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source

μήτηρ θεοῦ

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

500

Evidence not after

1300

Activity not before

500

Activity not after

1300

Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Priene

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

Priene Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Source

Doorstep slab in a "Byzantine" house at the site of the so-called “Isisterrasse” (also called the “Temple of the Egyptian gods”). Seen and copied probably by Thedore Wiegand in c. 1895 and Hans von Prott in c. 1898/1899. First published by Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen in 1906. Now lost. A squeeze of line 1 is kept in the archive of the Inscriptiones Graecae in Berlin.

Discussion

The inscription is a request for God's grace on behalf of the owner of the house, where it was found. As it was carved on the doorstep, we can suppose that it was also meant to prevent evil powers from entering the building. Line 2 contains a request for help, addressed to Christ, and a sequence of letters, which make no sense in Greek. Such sequences of apparently disconnected letters are common in protective (apotropaic) inscriptions and charms. Henri Grégoire argued that they are a transcription of the Syriac numerals ʼarbʻîn thišʻâ, meaning forty, nine, followed by a sum of Greek numbers: λτο΄ (= 30 + 300 + 70 = 400). In Greek these numbers correspond to the letters Μ Θ Υ, which, in the Christian context, can stand for the exclamation: βοήθει μ(οι) θ(εοῦ) ὑ(ιὲ) Χρ(ιστέ), 'Help me Christ son of God'. However, Blümel, Merkelbach, and Rumscheid, editors of the new corpus of inscriptions from Priene, found it unconvincing that a sum of Greek numbers would have followed two Syriac numerals. Therefore, they hold only to the first part of Grégoire's interpretation, accepting that in line 2 we have two Syriac numbers: forty (Greek Μ) and nine (Greek Θ), but suggest another expansion of the hidden Greek letters: μ(ῆτηρ) θ(εοῦ) / Mother of God. If we accept their interpretation, we can also wonder whether the abbreviated name of Christ was actually in the genitive form. The phrase would read then: βοήθει (μήτηρ θεοῦ) Χρ(ιστοῦ) / Mother of God the Christ, help! For a similar use of transcribed Syriac numerals to denote a holy name in a Greek Christian inscription, see: SGO III, no. 14/06/05. Dating: probably late antique or middle Byzantine (the inscription must postdate the construction of the house in which it was found).

Bibliography

Edition: I. Priene (2014) - Blümel W., Merkelbach R., Rumscheid F., Die Inschriften von Priene (Inschriften griechischer Städte aus Kleinasien 69, Bonn: Dr. Rudolf Habelt GmbH, 2014), no. 222 (after the squeeze). Grégoire, H. (ed.), Recueil des inscriptions grecques chrétiennes d'Asie Mineure, vol. 1 (Paris: Leroux, 1922), no. 123. I. Priene (1906) - Hiller von Gaertringen, F. (ed.), Inschriften von Priene (Berlin: Reimer, 1906), no. 217 (after copies and the examination of the stone). Further reading: Grégoire, H.,"Note sur une inscription de Priène (Inschriften von Priene, no. 217)", Revue de l'instruction publique en Belgique 51 (1908), 215-216.

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