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E01212: Fragmentary Greek inscription with an invocation of *Polycarp/Polykarpos (martyr of Smyrna, S00004). Found at Mytilene (Lesbos, the Aegean Islands). Probably late antique or middle Byzantine.

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posted on 2016-03-17, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
[- - - ἅγι]ε Πολύκαρπε τῶν κλῆ[ρον σου - - -] τίρησον αὐτό[ν]

1. perhaps αὐτõ[ν]

'[- - - Saint] Polykarpos, [help (?) your] clergy (?) [- - -] guard him!'

Text: Charitonidis 1968, 21.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Polycarp, bishop and martyr, and other martyrs in Smyrna, ob. 2nd c. : S00004

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Aegean islands and Cyprus Aegean islands and Cyprus

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Lesbos Mytilene

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

Lesbos Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia Mytilene Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people


The inscription is engraved facing downwards, on the inner surface of an arch, in the basilica of St Polycarp, located in the southern suburb of Mytilene (Lesbos, the Aegean Islands). There is no detailed description of the inscription's dimensions. Seen and copied by Seraphim Charitonidis between 1960 and 1964.


The inscription is an invocation of Polykarpos, bishop and martyr of Smyrna (ob. 2nd c., S00004). As Lesbos lies just opposite Smyrna, we can suppose that his cult on the island developed because of the vicinity of the tomb of the martyr. Polykarpos is not a saint frequently referred to in dedicatory inscriptions and invocations from Anatolia and the Cyclades, but an inscription from Ephesos (see: E00708) may prove that the bishops of Smyrna used him to assert their peculiar ecclesiastical status, as Polykarpow was said to have been a disciple of *John the Apostle and Evangelist, and thus an inheritor of his extraordinary, mystical knowledge. The invocation from Mytilene is, unfortunately, very fragmentarily preserved. Charitonidis completed the word appearing after the name of the saint as κλῆρος (in the plural form), which may refer either to 'clergy', for whom the aid of the saint is sought, or to 'lands' placed under the protection of the saint, i.e. the whole province, city, or specific estates owned by the church. The invocation ends with a request for protection for a certain man or for a group, perhaps even the mentioned clerics, as the pronoun αὐτόν could be read as a misspelt plural form: αὐτõν.


Edition: Charitonidis, S., Παλαιοχριστιανικὴ τοπογραφία τῆς Λέσβου, ΑΡΧΑΙΟΛΟΓΙΚΟΝ ΔΕΛΤΙΟΝ 23 (1968) ΜΕΡΟΣ Α' - ΜΕΛΕΤΑΙ, 21. Further reading: Kiourtzian, G., "Pietas insulariorum", [in:] Eupsychia: mélanges offerts à Hélène Ahrweiler, vol. 2 (Série Byzantina Sorbonensia 16, Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1998), 376. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1969), 421.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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