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E01784: Floor-mosaic with a Greek inscription commemorating the paving of an oratory (eukterion) of unnamed 'gloriously triumphant' martyrs, or just possibly the Forty Martyrs of Sebasteia (S00103). Found at El-Bire, to the south east of Hierapolis-Bambyke (north Syria/Cyrrhestica). Probably late antique.

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posted on 2016-08-04, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
ὁ εὐλαβ(έστατος) διάκονος Ἰουλια-
νὸς εὐξάμενος ὑπὲρ τῆς ἰδίας
σωτηρίας ἐψήφωσεν ἐξ
ἰδίων τὸ οἰκτήριον τ[ῶν]
καλλινίκων μ[αρτύρων]

4. οἰκτήριον = εὐκτήριον Mouterde in IGLS 2 de Jerphanion Robert, οἰκτήριον = οἰκ<η>τήριον Canivet apud Donceel-Voûte || 5. μ[αρτύρων] Jalabert & Mouterde in IGLS 1, μ΄ [μαρτύρων] Halkin

'The most pious deacon Ioulianos, having made a vow for his own salvation, paved from his own (revenues) the oratory of the gloriously triumphant [martyrs].'

Text: Donceel-Voûte 1988, 33.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060 Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, ob. early 4th c. : S00103

Saint Name in Source

μάρτυρες μ΄ μάρτυρες

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

Hierapolis Euphratensis El-Bire

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

Hierapolis Euphratensis Thabbora Thabbora El-Bire Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy


A mosaic inscription with depictions of birds and flowers. Black letters on white background. Letter height 0.06-0.07 m. There is no published image and description. Found between 1919 and 1929 at El-Bire, to the south east of modern Manbij/ancient Hierapolis-Bambyke. First published by René Mouterde and Louis Jalabert in 1929, from a copy by Charles Virolleaud. In 1988 [1991] Pauline Donceel-Voûte noted that the mosaic was probably left in situ, as she could not find it in any museum.


The inscription commemorates the paving of an oratory (eukterion), dedicated to some unnamed martyrs, by a deacon Ioulianos. The donor says that he used his own revenues for this undertaking. Unfortunately, we know nothing about the archaeological context of the find. The first editors had no image for publication with their transcription and the site was apparently not visited by later scholars. Line 4 tells us that this martyr shrine was named an eukterion, but this term denoted a number of structures: independent churches and chapels, as well as chambers and chapels adjacent to other buildings. In our inscription the term eukterion is poorly spelt: οἰκτήριον. Most scholars corrected this reading to εὐκτήριον (first, independently, Louis Robert and Guillaume de Jerphanion). However, in an oral communication to Pauline Donceel-Voûte, Pierre Canivet suggested that the word could be read οἰκ<η>τήριον/'house, habitation, dwelling-place'. Nonetheless, Donceel-Voûte rejects this possibility as less probable than the previously established reading. The end of line 5, which contained the word 'martyrs', is almost completely lost. But, since the lacuna is immediately preceded by the epithet καλλινίκων/'of the gloriously triumphant', and by a designation of a shrine, we can safely suppose that the name of the patron saints should be restored there. As the lacuna is very short, it is almost certain that either the martyrs were unnamed (καλλινίκων μ[αρτύρων]) or that, as suggested by François Halkin, the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste are in question (καλλινίκων μ΄[μαρτύρων]/'of the gloriously triumphant 40 [martyrs]). Though some relics of the Forty Martyrs were housed in nearby Apamea-on-the-Orontes (see: E01832), this hypothesis is less convincing, as references to shrines of unnamed martyrs are frequent in Syria.


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), 33. Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 1: Commagène et Cyrrhestique (BAH 12, Paris: P. Geuthner, 1929), no. 252a. Further reading: Ashkenazi, J., "Family rural churches in late antique Palestine and the competition in the ‘field of religious goods’: A socio-historical view", Journal of Ecclesiastical History 68 (2018), 713. Halkin, F., "Inscriptions grecques relatives à l'hagiographie, II, Les deux Phénicies et et les deux Syries", Analecta Bollandiana 67 (1949), 99. Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Les inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 3/2: Antioche (suite). Antiochène: nos. 989-1242 (BAH 51, Paris: P. Geuthner, 1953), 682 (addendum). de Jerphanion, G., "Bibliographie", Mélanges de l'Université Saint-Joseph (Beyrouth, Lebanon) 15 (1930-1931), 308. Moralee, J., 'For salvation's sake': provincial loyalty, personal religion, and epigraphic production in the Roman and late antique Near East (New York; London: Routledge, 2004), chapter 4 note 3 (and other inscriptions). Mouterde, R., "Les découvertes intéressant l'archéologie chrétienne, récemment effectuées en Syrie", in: Atti del III congresso intérnazionale di archeologia cristiana: Ravenna 25-30 Settembre 1932 (Rome: Pontificio Istituto di archeologia cristiana, 1934), 472. Mouterde, R., Jalabert, L., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 2: Chalcidique et Antiochène: nos 257-698 (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1939), 381 (addendum). Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1930), p. 213 (note by L. Robert). Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 7, no. 61.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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