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E01950: Fragmentary and scarcely legible Greek inscription, once implausibly presented as referring to a martyr shrine (martyrion) of *Phokas (martyr of Antioch, S00413), *Bassos (martyr of Syria, S01127), and *Artemios (martyr of Antioch under Julian, S01128). Found at Umm el-Mais near Ḥimṣ/Emesa (northwest Phoenicia). Probably late antique.

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posted on 2016-10-20, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
[μαρτύριον (?) τοῦ] ἁγίου Φοκ(ᾶ) (καὶ) <συμ>μ[αρτύρων (?)] Βάσ<σ>ου κ(αὶ)
[ἔτους . . .ʹ, μη(νὸς)] Γορπ(ιαίου) ηʹ, Ἀρτεμε(ίου) [- - -]
ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ηʹ. ΑΛΡΟΗ[- - -]                                    

'[The martyr shrine (martyrion) (?)] of Saint Phokas and co-martyrs (symmartyres?) Bassos and Artemios. [In the year - - -], on the 8th day [of the month] of Gorpiaios, 8th indiction.'

Text: IGLS 5, no. 2627.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Phocas, bishop and martyr of Sinope, under Trajan : S00052 Phocas, martyr at Antioch, ob. 303/312 : S00413 Bassos, martyr : S00989 Bassos, bishop and martyr under Decius or Valerian : S01127 Artemios, martyr in Antioch on the Orontes : S01128

Saint Name in Source

Φοκᾶς Φοκᾶς Βάσσος Βάσσος Ἀρτέμειος

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

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Ḥimṣ/Emesa Umm el-Mais

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

Ḥimṣ/Emesa Thabbora Thabbora Umm el-Mais Thabbora Thabbora

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Ceremony of dedication

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Relics

Collections of multiple relics


Stone lintel. Decorated with a carving of a cross, possibly within a circle. There is no published description. Recorded by Henri Lammens in the abandoned village of Umm el-Mais and published by him in 1900 as a drawing, without any transcription and interpretation. The drawing was republished and hypothetically transcribed by René Mouterde in 1959.


The inscription was so fragmentary and scarcely legible that its discoverer, Lammens, did not even attempt to offer its transcription. The text published by Mouterde in Les inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie was established based on the imperfect drawing by Lammens and not on the examination of the stone itself. Needless to say, Mouterde's suggestions are very conjectural and must be approached with caution. Mouterde believed that the inscription commemorated the construction of a martyr shrine, possibly named μαρτύριον, dedicated to three martyrs. The first of them would be Phokas, probably the martyr of Antioch on the Orontes (S00052), usually invoked as a protector from snake bites, or much less probably, Phokas, bishop of Sinope and a patron of sailors (S00413). According to Mouterde, the other two figures were named συμμάρτυρες in the text, but he does not explain the exact meaning of this term: whether they are introduced as companions of Phokas, or as martyrs enjoying cult in the same shrine (like, for example σύνναοι θεοί in the pagan Greek religion). The first of them would be Bassos, probably the bishop and martyr under the emperor Decius or Valerian, known to John Chryzostom (S01127, for a homily on his martyrdom, see: PG 50, coll. 719-726 and BHG 271) or/and Bassos, martyred together with a certain Serpaion and venerated on 19 March according to the Syriac Martyrology (see: E01455). The other would be Artemios, martyr of Antioch (S01128). Given the poor state of preservation of the inscription, it is not easy to judge the credibility of these readings and identifications. Also the original drawing by Lammens is slightly different from its reproduction by Mouterde. It is, however, Lammens' drawing which is closer to Mouterde's transcription. Lines 2 and 3 are likely to contain a dating formula, but its most important element, the era year, is apparently lost. Also it is possible that the sequence of letters ΑΡΤΕΜΕ at the end of line 2 might be not the name Artemios, as suggested by Mouterde, but for example the name of the month of Artemisios. Traces of letters, shown in the drawings in line 1 after the name of Bassos, make it not unlikely that his name was followed by that of Serapion. The inscription does not specifically mention that the church possessed a collection of relics of these saints, but the occurrence of several names of martyrs in one building inscription is not a frequent feature. Therefore, one can assume that if Mouterde's transcription is correct, relics of more than one martyr could be kept in our sanctuary.


Edition: Jalabert, L., Mouterde, R., Mondésert, C., Les inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 5: Émésène (BAH 66, Paris: P. Guethner, 1959), no. 2627 (with a drawing). Lammens, H., “Le pays des Nosairis. Itinéraire et notes archéologiques”, Le musée belge: revue de philologie classique 4 (1900), 305, no. 45 (with a drawing).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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