Saint NameThalelaios, martyr of Aigai (Cilicia, southeast Asia Minor) under the emperor Numerianus, ob. 284 : S01137
Thalelaios, monk in Syria, ob. middle of the 5th c. : S00375
Saint Name in SourceΘαλέλεος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Evidence not before491
Evidence not after518
Activity not before491
Activity not after518
Place of Evidence - RegionSyria with Phoenicia
Syria with Phoenicia
Syria with Phoenicia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcAntioch on the Orontes
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Antioch on the Orontes
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsAwarding privileges to cult centres
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesMonarchs and their family
Ecclesiastics - bishops
SourceA small limestone column with a large cubic 'capital' and remnants of a base. H. 1.37 m; W. 0.48 m; Th. 0.42 m. Letter height 0.05-0.06 m. The first six lines are engraved on the face of the cube, the rest is on the shaft of the column, below the capital. Lines 7-12 are weathered and scarcely legible.
Recorded c. 800 m to the south of the east basilica at Kafr 'Aqab, near a path leading to the church. First published in 2012 by Denis Feissel (from a copy on tracing paper/'calque', a photograph, and a description by Bertrand Riba) in an epigraphic appendix to the report of a survey conducted at the site in 2008 and 2010 by Riba (with permission of the Directorate-General for Antiquities and Museums in Syria and within a larger archaeological project focused on Jabal Wastani, supervised by Widad Khoury). Commented on by Feissel and Riba.
DiscussionThe inscription apparently marked the boundaries of two ecclesiastical establishments: 'the all-holy church' and a sanctuary dedicated to a certain Saint Thalelaios. The editors suppose that these are the two basilicas whose ruins are situated in the southeast outskirts of the village. They identify the 'all-holy church' as the so-called south basilica (which probably played the role of the village church) and the shrine of Thalelaios as the so-called east basilica (which they consider a pilgrim sanctuary). The east church is larger and is also the main subject of Riba's report. It is a three-aisled structure (32.80 m x 19.07 m), probably built in the 6th c. The aisles are separated by pillars. At the east end of the nave there is a closed choir with a large apse. Both aisles have chambers at their east ends, also equipped with apses. The choir is accessible through a doorway from the north chamber, which allows one to suppose that it played the role of a diakonikon. Riba hypothesises that the south chamber could have housed a martyr's cult, but he notes that there is actually no clear evidence for this supposition apart from the usual placement of martyr shrines in the territory of Antioch. Also, the chamber lacks the arched doorway, typical of this kind of martyr chapel in north Syria. The basilica was placed within a larger ecclesiastical complex, perhaps designed to manage the influx of pilgrims and including a cistern, some buildings (probably dwellings) and a courtyard.
Feissel notes that the phrasing of our boundary stone inscription closely resembles that of E01926 from Ḥamāh/Amathe (central Syria). The dating formula of our boundary stone contains the name of the emperor Anastasius (491-518). After the emperor, an archbishop, almost certainly a patriarch of Antioch, was mentioned. Unfortunately, his name is lost. Given the timeframe of the reign of Anastasius this could be Palladius (490-498), Flavian II (498-512), or Severus (512-518).
As for the identity of the patron saint, Riba and Feissel note that a certain ascetic Thalelaios is mentioned by Theodoret of Cyrrhus in the mid-5th c., see E00446. This man of Cilician origin lived a hermit's life near the city of Gabala. After a period of regular ascetism he was enclosed in a cell and subsequently in a cilinder made of planks. Gabala was, however, sited on the Syrian coast, to the east of Apamea on the Orontes, and quite far from Kafr 'Aqab. Therefore, the editors suggest that our Thalelaios is rather the Cilician martyr praised by Severus of Antioch in one of his homilies (EXXXXX: HC 110, Brière, PO, t. 25, p. 782.). In 517 Severus journeyed to Aigai in Cilicia to meet the newly appointed magister militum Hypatios. While there, he preached two homilies, one of them devoted to Thalelaios, martyr of Aigai under the emperor Numerianus (284). Severus credited Thalelaios' tomb with numerous miraculous healings. Consequently, Riba hypothesises that, as Severus was known for frequently interfering with village churches, he could have contributed to the establishment of the cult of Thalelaios in Kafr 'Aqab. The transmission of the cult of this Cilician martyr to Jabal Wastani is otherwise hardly explicable.
Feissel and Riba did not manage to establish an understandable text for lines 1 and 7-8, mostly because the stone is weathered and the photograph is not easy to read. We suggest that line 1 might have contained the word ἔνορια ('territory') like the boundary stone from Amaseia in north-east Asia Minor (E00976). In lines 7-8 one could expect some set phrases referring to the generosity of 6th c. emperors, for example: ἐκ φιλοτιμίας τοῦ φιλοχρίστου δεσπότου ἡμῶν Φλαουίου Ἀναστασίου Αὐγούστου / 'by the efforts of our Christ-loving lord Flavios Anastasios Augustus' (cf. IGLS 13,1, nos. 9130, 9135).
Riba, B., Feissel, D., "L’église de l’Est et les inscriptions du village du Kafr ʿAqab (Gebel Wastani, Syrie du Nord)", Syria 89 (2012), 213-233.
Bulletin épigraphique (2013), 443.
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 62, 1587.