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E01661: Greek building inscription for a martyr shrine (martyrion), found near South Church at Suganeh in the Limestone Massif/Jabal Sem'ān (north Syria, between Antioch on the Orontes and Beroia/Aleppo). Dated 515 or 516.

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posted on 2016-06-24, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
+ ἐτελιώθη τὸ μαρ-
τύρεν τοῦτο μ(ηνὸς) Αὐδυ-
νέου ·ς΄·, ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) θ΄, τοῦ γξφ΄
ἔτου<ς>. ἐπὶ τοῦ μεγάλο-
̣πρ(επεστάτου) Θαυμᾶ κληρούχο<υ>
διὰ ἐπιστασίας Σεργίου Α
καὶ Στεφάνου πρεσβ(υτέρου) ̣κ̣α[ὶ - - -]⸀ΔΓ̣I[- - -]

1. + omiserunt Jarry, card || 2. μ(ηνὶ) Donceel-Voûte || 3. ·𐅃· squeeze, photograph, ς Donceel-Voûte, γ΄ Jarry, γ΄ omisit card || 3-4. ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) Θ τοῦ | ΓΞΦ ἔτου(ς) Donceel-Voûte || 4. μεγάλο<υ> Donceel-Voûte, μεγὰν Jarry, ΜΕΓΑΝ card || 5. ̣ΠΡΘΑΥΜΑ squeeze, photograph: Π damaged or corrected, πρ(ώτου) Θαύμα Donceel-Voûte, Βρθαῦμα Jarry, ΒΑΡ ΘΑΥΜΑ card || κληρούχο<υ> Donceel-Voûte, κληρούχο Jarry, ΚΛΗΡΟΥΧΟ card || 6. διὰ ἐπιστασίας Donceel-Voûte, διὰ ἐπιστασία Jarry, ΔΙΑ ΕΠΙCΤΑCΙΑ card || Σεργίου Α Donceel-Voûte, [- - -] Jarry, card || 7. possibly κ[αὶ οἰκ]οδ̣ό̣μ[ου] or κ[αὶ Θε]οδό̣ρ[ου], καὶ Στεφάνου πρεσβυ(τέρων)... Donceel-Voûte, καὶ Στεφάνου πρεσβ. ̣κ[αὶ ... ΘΔ ... Jarry, ΚΑΙ CΤΕΦΑΝΟΥ ΠΡΕCΒ Κ[ΑΙ _ _ ΟΔ card

'+ This martyr shrine (martyrion) was completed on the 6th (day) of the month of Audynaios, the 9th indiction, the year 563, under Thauma (?) of megaloprepestatos rank, landowner (klerouchos), through the supervision of Sergios (?) and Stephanos the presbyter (or: the presbyters) and [- - -].'

Text: SEG 40, 1570, with lightly altered readings in lines 6-7, based on the examination of a photograph of the squeeze and a card with a transcription from the Tchalenko Archive (housed at the School of Archaeology at the University of Oxford).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060

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 Syria with Phoenicia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Beroia Suganeh Antioch on the Orontes

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

Beroia Thabbora Thabbora Suganeh Thabbora Thabbora Antioch on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Ceremony of dedication

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Anniversary of church/altar dedication

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people Aristocrats Officials Merchants and artisans


The inscription is on a stone plaque with a gable-shaped top. Dimensions of the inscribed field, framed by a tabula ansata: H. 0.34 m; W. 0.75 m; letter height 0.03 m. The last line of the inscription is carved below the lower frame of the tabula. It was first published with a photograph by Jacques Jarry in 1970 as carved on a fragment of a reliquary found near the North Church at Suganeh, a three-aisled basilica which was first surveyed in 1936 by Jean Lassus, and further explored by Georges Tchalenko in 1968 and 1969. A card with a transcription, kept in the Tchalenko archive says, however, that the stone was recorded near the South Church. In 1988 [1991] Pauline Donceel-Voûte re-published the inscription in a footnote in her book on Syrian floor-mosaics, based on an unpublished transcription made in 1936 by Jean Lassus. She adds that Lassus saw the stone near the South Church, and that the object is very unlikely to have been a fragment of a reliquary but rather is a stone from an arched doorway. In 1992 Denis Feissel plausibly suggested that lines 4-5 contain the title μεγαλοπρεπέστατος, and a variant spelling of the name Thomas. We offer here a lightly altered text, taking into consideration the readings of both former editors, but primarily based on the photograph of a squeeze from the Tchalenko Archive (School of Archaeology, Oxford University).


The inscription commemorates the construction of a martyr shrine (termed martyrion) that is either a chapel housing stone reliquaries, possibly located in the South Church, in the south pastophorion flanking the apse, or an independent sanctuary. The plaque could have been displayed over the entrance to this chapel or church. In line 4-5 we find a reference probably to one Thaumas or Thomas (the reading is not clear) of megaloprepestatos rank, probably described as 'landowner'. As this person is mentioned in a kind of a dating formula, we cannot be certain if he was present in the village during the dedication of the sanctuary and if he was the founder. It is possible that the village belonged to his estate, whilst he himself resided in Antioch or in Constantinople. Lines 6-7 tell us that the construction was supervised by Sergios and Stephanos. At least one of them was a presbyter. It is also possible that after their names a stonemason (oikodomos?) is mentioned. This passage is, however, largely lost, and the readings are very dubious. Dating: The inscription is dated by the indiction year (9th) and the year of the Caesarian era of Antioch (γξφ΄ = 563). The month mentioned is Audynaios which in the calendar of Antioch corresponds to January. Therefore, the martyrion was completed on 6 January, which is the Epiphany. Purely by mistake, Jacques Jarry read the era year as 583 (in the French translation; his Greek text has the correct number). Therefore, he wrongly converted the date to AD 535. Pauline Donceel-Voûte and Denis Feissel compute the date as 6 January AD 515 or 6 January AD 516. They hesitate because 6 January in the 9th indiction year (= 1 September AD 515 - 31 August 516) is not compatible with the 563rd year of the era of Antioch (= 1 October AD 514 - 30th September AD 515). Donceel-Voûte notes that the author of the inscription may have dated it according to the era of Antioch beginning in 48 BC (which is a system used by some Syriac manuscripts), and not in 49 BC (which is the regular system), but Denis Feissel rejects this possibility, as this altered dating is never used in Greek sources.


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), 314, note 3. Jarry, J., "Inscriptions arabes, syriaques et grecques du massif du Bélus en Syrie du nord (suite)", Annales islamologiques 9 (1970), 210, no. 56. Further reading: Feissel, D., "L'épigraphie des mosaïques d'églises en Syrie et au Liban", Antiquité Tardive 2 (1994), 290. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1992), 629. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 40, 1750 (by mistake tagged a 'mosaic inscription in the martyrion').

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