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E01654: Floor-mosaic with a Greek inscription commemorating the paving and embellishment of the south aisle in a church dedicated to unnamed Holy Martyrs, and a mosaic just possibly showing the transportation of relics by two mules. Found at the village of Ṭayybat al-Imām near Ḥamāh (central Syria). Probably mid-5th c. or later.

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posted on 23.06.2016, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Χ Α ΡΕ ΙΣ
Ε Π Τ ΣΤ <εὐξάμε>νος ἅ-
μα συνβίῳ καὶ τέ-
κνων τὴν στοὰν
τῶν ἁγίων μαρ-
τύρων ἐψήφωσ-
εν καὶ ἐκόσ-
μησεν

1-2. this part of the mosaic was restored and the text was corrupted

'[- - -] having made a vow together with his wife and children, he paved and embellished the stoa (of the church) of the Holy Martyrs.'

Text: Zaqzuq & Piccirillo 1999, no. 7.

A mosaic band in the north aisle shows a scene of the transportation of a reliquary (in form of a chest with a vaulted lid) by two mules. The mules are richly dressed and harnessed. They are burdened with a litter, on which a circular cloth and the chest is placed. The object is being moved from a high arched door between two double towers to a complex of buildings, made of four superimposed halls.

Edition: Zaqzuq & Piccirillo 1999, 461-462.

History

Evidence ID

E01654

Saint Name

Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060

Saint Name in Source

ἅγιοι μάρτυρες

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Images and objects - Wall paintings and mosaics Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Images and objects - Narrative scenes

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

442

Evidence not after

800

Activity not before

442

Activity not after

800

Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Ḥamāh Ṭayybat al-Imām

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

Ḥamāh Thabbora Thabbora Ṭayybat al-Imām Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Women Children Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Relics

Reliquary – institutionally owned Transfer, translation and deposition of relics

Source

The inscription is within a medallion, set in the mosaic floor of the south aisle of the church, at the centre of a hunting scene. Letter height c. 0.06 m. Black tesserae. The church at Ṭayybat al-Imām is a three-aisled structure. It was explored by the Antiquities Service of Syria in the 1980s. Further works on the mosaic were carried out by Michela Mortensen, Inge and Peder Mortensen, Ingolf Tusen, and Michele Piccirillo in the spring of 1999. It seems that the mosaic floor was at some point refurbished, as several sections are inverted, and do not fit the composition.

Discussion

The unearthed parts of the church revealed seven mosaic inscriptions, but only one of them (no. 7), the one we reproduce here, mentions the holy patrons, probably of the whole sanctuary, rather than of only the south aisle. The dedicatory inscription (no. 1) in the east panel of the central nave says that the church (naos or hagios topos, the term is partially lost) was dedicated in AD 442 (the year 754 of the Seleucid era, see the comments in SEG 49, 1998), under bishop Domnos, the presbyter and periodeutes Epiphanios, and the presbyter Valens, by the efforts of a subdeacon (hypodiakon). Other inscriptions commemorate the paving of specific sectors of the floor by laymen (nos. 2, 4, 5, 6). Inscription no. 3 is the label of the mosaic from the east panel of the nave, showing two churches, surrounded by walls, identified respectively as Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and the Four Rivers of Paradise: Phison, Gheon, Tigris, and Euphrates. Other mosaics show hunting and Nilotic scenes, geometric motifs, and architectural representations, making this church an exceptional and especially interesting archaeological site. The exceptional quality of these mosaic has been compared with those of the church of Daphne by Antioch, that of *John at Gerasa/Jerash, and that of *Stephen at Umm al-Rasas (E02131), but these are about a century later in date. For a detailed description, see: Zaqzuq & Piccirillo 2009. The identity of the aforementioned Holy Martyrs is unknown. They are probably some local martyrs, whose relics were venerated in the church. The scene with the mules certainly shows the transportation of something important, or, perhaps, someone important, if it is a litter that is depicted (somewhat out of scale). Zaqzuq and Piccirillo hypothesised that what is shown is the movement of a reliquary. This is possible, since the object is of roughly the shape of Syrian reliquaries; however, if the object is even approximately to scale, it cannot have been one of the stone or marble reliquaries typical of the region, which would have been much too heavy for the mules. It should also be noted that scenes depicted in churches were often genre scenes, unrelated to the world of religion. For a similar scene of the transportation of an oblong object on a litter, see a mosaic form the north church (the so-called Michaelion) from Huarte: Donceel-Voûte, P., Les pavements des églises byzantines de Syrie et du Liban. Décor, archéologie et liturgie (Publications d’histoire de l’art et d’archéologie de l’Université catholique de Louvain 69, Louvain-La-Neuve: Département d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art, 1988), 108. Dating: Our inscription certainly postdates the dedication of the church in 442.

Bibliography

Edition: Zaqzuq, A., Piccirillo, M., “The mosaic floor of the church of the holy martyrs at Tayibat al-Imam – Hamah, in Central Syria”, Liber Annuus 49 (1999), 443-464. Further reading: Hachlili, R., Ancient mosaic pavements: themes, issues, and trends: selected studies (Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2009), 101, 156, 205, 240. Zaqzuq A., “Nuovi mosaici pavimentali nella regione di Hama”, [in:], A. Iacobini, E. Zanini (eds.), Arte profana e arte sacra a Bisanzio (Rome: Argos, 1995), 239-240. Reference works: L'Année épigraphique (2002), 1663. Bulletin épigraphique (2002) no. 462. Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 647. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 49, 1998-2002; 45, 1905.

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