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E01655: Floor-mosaic with a Greek inscription commemorating the paving of a martyr shrine (martyrion) of *John the Baptist (00020). Found at Umm Hartaine, to the northeast of Ḥamāh (ancient Amathe/Epiphaneia, central Syria). Dated 500.

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posted on 2016-06-23, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Κύριε μνή-
σθητι ἐν τῇ βασσιλ-
ίᾳ σου τὸν τὰ πάντα
πιστάτατον κ(αὶ) φιλόχρ<ισ>-
το<ν> τὸν δία τὸν θέον καὶ
τὴν λύτρωσ(ιν) τῆς ἑαυτοῦ ψ-
υχῆς τὸν κ(αὶ) ἐξ
ἰδίων κτίσα<ν>τ-
ος κ(αὶ) φιλοκαλ<ή>σαντος τὸ π<ᾶ>ν
μαρτύριον τοῦ ἁγίου κ(αὶ) Προδρ-
όμου κ(αὶ) Βαβπτιστοῦ Ἰωάννου ᾧ
τὸ ὄνομα Συμέωνες πρε<σ>β(ύτερος) ἐψη-
φώθη μη(νὶ) Ἀρτεμισίου ι΄ τοῦ αιω΄ ἔ-
τους διὰ Θ<ω>μᾶ ψηφ<ο>θήτ(ου). κα-
<ὶ> αὐτόν, Κύριε, μνή<σ>θητι ἅμ-
<α> τοὺς μαθητ<ὰ>ς αὐτοῦ τοὺς γ-
νησίως καὶ σπουδέ-
ως κάμοντες Σε-
ργίου κ(αὶ) Ὄνδα

9-10. τὸ π<ᾶ>ν μαρτύριον Feissel, τόπον μαρτύριον Donceel-Voûte || 14. διὰ Θ<ω>μᾶ ψηφ<ο>θήτ(ου) Bingen, διάθσομα Donceel-Voûte || 14-15. κα|<ὶ> αὐτόν, Κύριε, μνή<σ>θητι ἅμ|<α> τοὺς μαθητ<ὰ>ς αὐτοῦ Bingen, κα|καὐτὸν, Κύριε, μνή<σ>θητι Ἀμ|ίτου γ΄ μαθητὴς αὐτοῦ (?) Donceel-Voûte

'O Lord, remember in your Kingdom the most faithful one in all aspects, the most Christ-loving one, who through God and for the redemption of his soul built from his own resources and decorated this whole martyr shrine (martyrion) of the Holy and Forerunner, and Baptist John, whose name is Symeonis, presbyter.

It was paved with a mosaic on the 10th (day) of the month of Artemisios, of the 811th year by Thomas the mosaicist. O Lord, remember also him with his apprentices, Sergios, and Ondas, who diligently worked together (with him).'

Text: Donceel-Voûte 1988, 196-197 with altered readings by Jean Bingen 1993 and Denis Feissel (CEByz 649).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

John the Baptist : S00020

Saint Name in Source

Πρόδρομος καὶ Βαβπτιστὴς Ἰωάννης

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Syria with Phoenicia Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Ḥamāh Umm Hartayn

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

Ḥamāh Thabbora Thabbora Umm Hartayn Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Ceremony of dedication

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Anniversary of church/altar dedication

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Merchants and artisans


The inscription is within a large medallion, framed by a braid-like pattern. It is set in the south aisle. The church was a three-aisled basilica, with a semi-circular apse. It is not clear whether the apse was flanked by pastophoria. The floor of the church was richly decorated with high quality mosaics, with depictions of birds, snakes, bulls, horses, rams, and of a lion, dogs, hares, birds, and other animals in a hunting scene. The site was first surveyed in 1972 under the auspices of the Direction générale des antiquités et des musées (Syria). Several fragments of the mosaic floors of the church were removed to Damascus, and stored there. First published by Pauline Donceel-Voûte in 1988 [1991].


The spelling and the syntax of the inscription is poor, especially in the second part, and several improved readings were suggested by Jean Bingen and Denis Feissel. Despite some uncertainties, the aim of the text is clear: it is the commemoration of the paving of a martyr shrine of John the Baptist. Donceel-Voûte read the name of this sanctuary as τόπος μαρτύριος/'the martyrial place', and identified it as an annex to the south aisle of the church, probably with a presumed chapel or side-apse, where the relics could have been deposited, mostly because of the word διάθσομα, which she read in line 14, and understood as διάζωμα: 'stoa, aisle'. The inscription was, however, differently interpreted by Denis Feissel and Jean Bingen. Feissel prefers to read lines 9-10 as τὸ π<ᾶ>ν μαρτύριον/'the whole martyr shrine', and, accepting an earlier remark by Jean Bingen (1993), argues that in line 14 a mosaicist, named Thomas (διὰ Θ<ω>μᾶ), is mentioned, and not the 'aisle' (διάθσομα = διάζωμα). The result of this new reading is that we cannot be sure whether the paving of the whole church, or only of its south aisle, is meant here, and whether John was the patron of the whole sanctuary. Other mosaic inscriptions from the site are of little help, as they do not refer to the patron saint. Among them we have: 1) a fragmentarily preserved Greek dedicatory inscription, mentioning a bishop, a periodeutes, a presbyter, and contributors to the building – probably the main building inscription of the church; unfortunately, the lines which might have contained the name of the church and of its patron saint, are lost (Donceel-Voûte 1988, 199); 2) a short Greek inscription with the name of a mosaicist (Donceel-Voûte 1988, 197); 3) a short Syriac inscription with the names Amito and Sergios (Donceel-Voûte 1988, 193); 4) a short, probably Syriac inscription with probably another signature of a mosaicist (Donceel-Voûte 1988, 195 note 3). Dating: the date, the year 811, is given according to the Seleucid era, and corresponds to AD 500.


Edition: 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), 192-201. Further reading: Balty, J., Mosaïques antiques de Syrie (Bruxelles: Centre belge de recherches archéologiques à Apamée de Syrie, 1977), 130-133. Bingen, J., “Sur quelques mosaïques inscrites d'Apamène”, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 95 (1993), 125-126. Feissel, D., "L'épigraphie des mosaïques d'églises en Syrie et au Liban", Antiquité Tardive 2 (1994), 290. Reference works: Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 649. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 40, 1770. For photographs from the site, see the Manar al-Athar database:!collection677

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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