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E01644: Greek inscriptions from the Monastery of *Symeon the Younger (stylite near Antioch, ob. 592, S00860) at the 'Wondrous Mountain' near Antioch on the Orontes (north Syria), mentioning the joint intercession of Symeon and *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), perhaps for the successful restoration of the monastery. 592-13th c.

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posted on 2016-06-20, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
The monastery of Symeon the Younger (the Wondrous Mountain / θαυμαστὸν ὄρος or θαυμάτουργον ὄρος) is situated on the right bank of the Orontes, between Antioch and Seleukeia/Seleucia. The monastery was founded in 551 (the beginning of the construction), at the site of Symeon's third stylite column. Among the extant buildings, there are: the octagon (the monumental base of Symeon's column, cut in the rock-face, with stairs), three churches, cisterns, and other monastic buildings. The convent is surrounded by walls. The sanctuary was frequently visited by pilgrims, and the cult of Symeon flourished there when the ascetic was still alive (ob. 592), as well as after his death.

The monastery was examined by Jean Mécérian (under the auspices of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres) between 1932 and 1938, but the results of his studies were not completely published, due to the outbreak of World War II. In the 1960s the archaeological research was resumed by Jacqueline Lafontaine-Dosogne, and by Wachtgang Djobadze.

Some inscriptions from the site, found by Mécérian's expedition, were published in 1962 by Mécérian himself in the second volume of Mélanges offerts au Père René Mouterde pour son 80e anniversaire (see: Bulletin épigraphique (1964), 492). In 1991/1992 the texts were reedited and commented anew by Jean-Paul Rey-Coquais in the 52nd volume of Mélanges de l'Université Saint-Joseph (based on the earlier edition, photographs and squeezes). All the dated texts, mostly epitaphs and eulogies from the north narthex, connecting the octagon with the north church (dedicated to Mary), come from the 11th-13th c., and thus are outside the scope of our study. Among undated inscriptions, there are, however, some which might belong to the late antique period. Those, possibly referring to Symeon and Mary, are the following:

1) Three inscriptions from the monumental gate:

The inscriptions are carved on mutilated limestone blocks of the lintel of the gate, apparently by different hands. According to Mécérian the inscriptions gave an account of miracles performed by Symeon, and were meant to be read by pilgrims entering the sanctuary, to impress them, but actually only one (B) might refer to the saint.

Inscription A: on the left-hand block, within a frame and with ruled lines. H. 0.60 m; W. 0.405 m; letter height 0.015-0.025 m. When Rey-Coquais revisited the block, the lower part of the inscription was already lost.

The inscription is simply a collection of slightly altered Biblical quotations (Siracide 2:5; 2:14; Matthew 11:12; Acts 14:22) and does not describe the activity of Symeon. Therefore, we do not reproduce it here. For the edition, see: Rey-Coquais 1991-1992, no. II/1.

Inscription B: on the central block, within a frame. W. 0.18 m; H. 0.48 m.

[- - - - - - - - - -]
[- - - - - - - - - -]
ΝΩΝ[. .]IEN[- - - - -]
Α πρεσβίες ἁ-
γίας, ἐνδόξου καὶ
Θεοτόκου παρ-
θένου Μαρίας καὶ
τοῦ ὁσίου δούλ-
ου σου Συμεών,
θ(εό)ς, στερέωσον
τὴν θαυματο-
υργ̣ὼ̣ν CYNH[.]
[. . .] Ω μονὴν
τὸ θαυμαστὸν
̣Α̣Ν.Ν[- - - - - - ]
[- - - - - - - - - - - - - -]

15. ἀνεν[εώθη τὸ Ὄρος] or ἀνεν[έωσαν τὸ Ὄρος] Rey Coquais

'[- - -] by the intercessions of the holy (hagios), glorious, and the God-Bearer, the Virgin Mary, and of your holy (hosios) servant, o God, strengthen the miraculous [- - -] monastery. The Wondrous [Mountain was] restored (?)[ - - -].'

Text: Rey Coquais 1991-1992, no. II/2.

The inscription is badly weathered, and several rather implausible readings were suggested by Mécérian in his first edition of the text. As they are no longer valid, we do not reproduce them here.

Jean-Paul Rey Coquais completed the beginning of the last visible line (15) as ἀνεν[εώθη τὸ Ὄρος] or ἀνεν[έωσαν τὸ Ὄρος], assuming that the inscription commemorated the restoration of the monastery after the death of Symeon. He justifies the dating to the period after the saint's death by the fact that Symeon is invoked in line 9 as an intercessor together with Mary, Mother of Christ. Though it is very unlikely that a living person, even an influential holy monk, would be depicted in this way, we must note, however, that the holiness of Mary is here expressed with another epithet (hagios) than that of Symeon (hosios). This somewhat weakens the above reasoning. Rey Coquais adds that the Life of Symeon (ch. 123-125, 240) says that the monastery was neglected by Symeon's successor, Angoulos, and therefore might have needed repairs. The association of our inscription with exactly this precise event is possible, but, of course, by no means certain.

Inscription C: on the right-hand block, within a frame. W. 0.47 m; H. 0.68 m; letter height 0.02 m.

The inscription is badly weathered and scarcely legible. Just several words were read in full by both Mécérian and Rey Coquais, and the meaning of the whole text is not clear. In line 4 we find a reference to δορέματα/'donations'. Line 5 might contain the mention of a Δεσπότης or Δέσποινα, i.e. of God as the Lord or Mary as Our Lady, or of an emperor or empress. In the following lines there are also probable references to the restoration of the monastery (τόπο[.]|ς ἀναπλέρωμα), to the good nature (καλὰ ἡ φύσις), and to the moral inclination or propensity (ῥωπή). For the complete edition, see: Rey Coquais 1991-1992, no. II/3.

2) Other inscriptions from the monastery:

Among other pre-8th c. texts found at the site, Mécérian (p. 304) and Rey Coquais (p. 211) mention the label on a limestone fragment with a carving of a nimbus. The label reads Θαυματουργός/'the Miracle Worker', which was the epithet of Symeon. It is supposed that the inscription accompanied a carving or painted icon of the saint, fixed in a niche (see: Rey-Coquais 1991-1992, 211).

Under no. IV Rey Coquais publishes the epitaph of the deacon and guardian of the liturgical equipment (skeuophylax) Anastasios, but it does not refer to any saint. Probably 6th c.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033 Symeon the Younger, stylite near Antioch, ob. 592. : S00860

Saint Name in Source

Μαρία Συμεών

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Images and objects - Sculpture/reliefs


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia Syria with Phoenicia Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Antioch on the Orontes Seleukeia Pieria the Admirable Mountain

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

Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora Seleukeia Pieria Thabbora Thabbora the Admirable Mountain Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image

Cult Activities - Miracles

Saint aiding or preventing the construction of a cult building

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Crowds Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


For the inscriptions, see: Rey-Coquais, J.-P., "Inscriptions du Mont Admirable", Mélanges de l'Université Saint-Joseph (Beyrouth, Lebanon) 52 (1991-1992), 199-226. Mécérian, J., "Les inscriptions du Mont Admirable", [in:] Mélanges offerts au Père René Mouterde pour son 80e anniversaire, vol. 2 (Mélanges Beyrouth 38, Beyrouth: Impr. catholique, 1962), 304, 316-321. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 45, 1920-1923. Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 611. For the archaeological research at the site, see, for example: Gwiazda, M., "Le Sanctuaire de Saint-Syméon-Stylite-le-Jeune au Mont Admirable à la lumière de la documentation photographique du père Jean Mécérian", Mélanges de l'Université Saint-Joseph (Beyrouth, Lebanon) 65 (2013-2014), 317-340 (with further bibliography). Djobadze, W.Z., Hendy, M.F., Archaeological Investigations in the Region West of Antioch on-the-Orontes (Stuttgart: F. Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden, 1986). Lafontaine-Dosogne, J., Orgels, B., Itinéraires archéologiques dans la région d'Antioche, Recherches sue le monastère et sur l'iconographie de S.Syméon Stylite le Jeune (Bibliothèque de Byzantion 4, Bruxelles: Éditions de Byzantion, 1967).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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