Saint NameSergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023
Saint Name in SourceΣέργις
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before340
Evidence not after552
Activity not before340
Activity not after552
Place of Evidence - RegionArabia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcSakkaia / Maximianopolis
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Sakkaia / Maximianopolis
Sakkaia / Maximianopolis
Sakkaia / Maximianopolis
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Places Named after Saint
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsBequests, donations, gifts and offerings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - abbots
SourceA stone slab. When recorded, it was reused as a lintel in a house in the village of El-Hît. The text is carved within a frame. Decorated with carvings of two doves at the level of lines 5 and 6.
First recorded by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, who copied it during his stay in El-Hît on 15 November 1810, but did not comment on its contents. Seen and copied by William Waddington during his journey across Syria in 1861/1862. Revisited and read anew (but not republished) by Maurice Sartre in 1982. Scheduled for publication in the sixteenth volume of the Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie under no. 600.
DiscussionThe inscription commemorates the construction of a church, dedicated to Sergios, by the deacon and steward Sabinianos. The actual role of the people mentioned in the dating formula: the presbyter and archimandrite Eulogios, the presbyter Doeros, and the deacon Elias, is problematic. It is possible that they contributed to the construction or were mentioned just to date the moment of the completion and for reasons of prestige.
Because of the dating by the era year, given in line 6, the inscription excited its finder, William Waddington. He suggested that this was the earliest dated inscription attesting to the dedication of a church to a saint. He read the date as the year 249, and suggested that it was computed according to the era of Bostra (= the era of the Roman province of Arabia, which he believed, was used in the nearby city of Sakkaia), corresponding to 22-31 March AD 354 or 1-21 March AD 355. This dating was generally accepted by later scholars commenting on the text, though not without reservations (for early comments on the chronological system used in Sakkaia, see: Devreesse 1945, 235; Honigmann 1947, 159-160; Poidebard & Mouterde 1949, 112, note 8). The later identification of Sakkaia with the ancient Maximianopolis allowed scholars to actually dismiss the view that the inscriptions in its territory were dated according to the era of the province of Arabia, and to establish the first year of the era used in that region, as 287 or 302 (see: Koder & Restle 1992; Meimaris, Kritikakou, Bougia 1992, 321-323; Fowden 1999, 107, note 31: the most probable first year of the era would be that of the settlement's elevation to city rank, which could have taken place under one of the Tetrarchs, the best candidate being Maximianus, the partner of Diocletian, and thus the before his abdication in AD 305. Indiction dates given in inscriptions from Sakkaia indicate that only two years from the period of his reign are possible: 287 and 302).
The implications of this discovery for the interpretation of our inscription are discussed at length by Elizabeth Key Fowden (1999, 105-107). She points out that the church in Eitha was almost certainly dedicated in 536/537 or 551/552, which perfectly coincides with other dated inscriptions referring to the cult of Sergios in the Hawran. In the present database we accept Key Fowden's dating, as the existence of a church dedicated to Sergios in the mid-4th c. would be very implausible. Also the mention of a steward/oikonomos in lines 3-4 points to the period after the council of Chalcedon (451), when it was decided that these ecclesiastical officials should be appointed in every sanctuary.
The shrine built is named simply hieros Sergios (hieros is here the epithet of the saint, and not the designation of the building, hieron, as suggested by Key Fowden 1999, 105, note 25). Waddington believed that it was 'doubtless a chapel' ('sans doute une chapelle'), but actually it is more probable that a monastic church is meant, as an archimandrite, and perhaps a monastic steward, occur in the inscription. Interestingly, no bishop is mentioned as the supervisor or dedicant, but as Eitha was not a bishopric, it might be that only the local clergy participated in the ceremony of the dedication.
Les inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie 16, no. 600 (forthcoming).
Meimaris, Y.E., Kritikakou, K., Bougia, P., Chronological Systems in Roman-Byzantine Palestine and Arabia. The Evidence of the Dated Greek Inscriptions (Meletēmata 17, Athens: Kentron Hellēnikēs kai Rōmaikēs Archaiotētos, Ethnikon Hydryma Ereunōn, 1992), 192, no. 116.
Briinnow, R.E., von Domaszewski, A., Die Provincia Arabia: auf Grund zweier in den Jahren 1897 und 1898 unternommenen Reisen und der Berichte früherer Reisender, vol. 3: Der westliche Hauran von Bosra bis Es-Suhba und die Gegend um die damaskener Weisenseen bis Ed-Dumêr, nebst einem Anhang über die römischen Befëstigungen von Masada (Strassburg: Trübner, 1909), 337-338.
Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2124 (after the examination of the stone).
Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum IV, no. 8819.
Burckhardt, J.L., Travels in Syria and the Holy Land (London: John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1822), 77 (after the examination of the stone).
Devreesse, R., Le Patriarcat d'Antioche depuis la paix de l'Église jusqu'a la conquête arabe (Paris: J. Gabalda et cie, 1945), 235.
Honigmann, E., “The patriarchate of Antioch: A Revision of Le Quien and the Notitia Antiochena”, Traditio 5 (1947), 159-160.
Key Fowden, E., The Barbarian Plain: St. Sergius between Rome and Iran (Transformation of the classical heritage 28, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 105-107.
Meimaris, Y.E., Kritikakou, K., Bougia, P., Chronological Systems in Roman-Byzantine Palestine and Arabia. The Evidence of the Dated Greek Inscriptions (Meletēmata 17, Athens: Kentron Hellēnikēs kai Rōmaikēs Archaiotētos, Ethnikon Hydryma Ereunōn, 1992), 154.
Poidebard, A., Mouterde, R., "A propos de Sainte Serge: Aviation et epigraphie", Analecta Bollandiana 67 (1949), 112, note 8.
Sartre, M. (ed.), Les inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 13/1: Bostra: nos. 9001 à 9472 (BAH 13, Paris: Librairie orientaliste P. Geuthner, 1982) , 197, note 3.
Shahîd, I., “The Church of Sts Sergios and Bakchos in Constantinople. Some new perspectives”, [in:] A. Abramea, A. Laïou, E. Chrysos (eds.), ΒΥΖΑΝΤΙΟ ΚΡΑΤΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΚΟΙΝΩΝΙΑ. ΜΝΗΜΗ ΝΙΚΟΥ ΟΙΚΟΝΟΜΙΔΗ (Byzantium, State and Society. In memory of Nikos Oikonomides) (Athens: Institouto Vyzantinōn Ereunōn, Ethniko Hidryma Ereunōn), 2003, 468, note 4.
Trombley, F.R., Hellenic Religion and Christianization c. 370-529, vol. 2 (Leiden, New York, Cologne: Brill, 1994), 343-344, 373-374.
For an overview of epigraphic sources from the site (focused on the early Roman period), see Sartre, M., "Rome et les Arabes nomades: le dossier épigraphique de Eeitha" in: Genequand, D., Robin, Ch. (eds.), Les Jafnides: des rois arabes au service de Byzance : VIe siècle de l'ère chrétienne : actes du colloque de Paris, 24-25 novembre 2008 (Paris: Éditions De Boccard, 2015), 37-52 (cf. Bulletin épigraphique (2015), 716).