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E01898: Greek building inscription for a village tower, invoking the help of *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Found at Tamak, to the east of Apamea on the Orontes and Ḥamāh/Amathe (central Syria). Dated 540/541.

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posted on 2016-10-06, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Text 1:

+ ἔτους βνωʹ, [ἰν]δ(ικτιῶνος) + δʹ.

'In the year 852, + 4th indiction.'

Text 2:

+ ἁγία Μαρία βοήθι Σεργίου.

'+ Holy Mary, help Sergios!'

Text 3:

Ἰάνου (?) λιθοξοῦ τὸ ἔργον. φ(ύλα)ξ(ον) (?) [Κ(ύρι)ε (?)], Λ + Γ (?).

The work of the stone-mason Ioannes (?). [Lord (?)], help! Λ + Γ (= ΧΜΓ?)

Text 4:

Δ + Δ (= Α + Ω?)

Text: IGLS 4, no. 1957.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)


  • 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

Apamea on the Orontes Ḥamāh Tamak

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

Apamea on the Orontes Thabbora Thabbora Ḥamāh Thabbora Thabbora Tamak Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Towns, villages, districts and fortresses

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people Merchants and artisans


A stone (possibly a lintel), placed above the south doorway of a tower, situated at the gateway of the village of Tamak. There is no published description. The inscription has a complex layout: see the enclosed image. The text is carved over four fields. Text 1 and Text 2 are divided by an inverted tabula ansata (with ansae directed upwards and downwards, instead of to the right and to the left of the frame). First published with a drawing in 1905 by Hans Lucas, from a squeeze by Max von Oppenheim. Republished by René Mouterde in 1955, based on the earlier edition.


The dating formula, which is given in the upper left-hand section of the inscription certainly commemorates the construction of our tower. The year 852 is computed according to the Seleucid era and corresponds to AD 540/541, which is coherent with the 4th indiction year, also mentioned in the text. The left-hand side of the inscription is also occupied by an invocation of Mary on behalf of a certain Sergios, probably the founder of the tower. It is not the only case when the name of Mary is associated with towers and fortifications (cf. E01885; E01886; E01887; E01891; E01895). This interesting practice probably derives from the metaphorical description of Mary as the Tower of David and the Ivory Tower. The expressions were originally used in the Song of Solomon and were known in our region, as evidenced, for example, by an inscription from Nawa (see: IGLS 4, no. 1948). Text 3 names the stone-mason who constructed the tower or just executed our inscription.


Edition: Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Mondésert, Cl., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 4: Laodicée, Apamène (BAH 61, Paris: Librairie orientalise Paul Geuthner, 1955), no. 1957. Lucas, H., "Griechische und lateinische Inschriften aus Syrien, Mesopotamien und Kleinasien", Byzantinische Zeitschrift 14 (1905), 29, no. 19 (from a copy by von Oppenheim). Further reading: Peña, I., Lieux de pèlerinage en Syrie (Milan: Franciscan Printing Press, 2000), 13.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity