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E02079: Greek building inscription for a memorial (martyrion?), probably a church, completed with the help of the God of *Sergios and *Bakchos (soldiers and martyrs of Rusafa and Barbalissos, S00023; S00079). Found at Umm es-Surab, to the southeast of Bostra (Roman province of Arabia). Dated 489.

online resource
posted on 2016-12-06, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
+ Κ(ύριε) φ(ύλαξον). ̣Ἀμερας καὶ Κύρος υἱοὶ Οὐλπιανο(ῦ)
[ἐξετέλεσαν σὺν θεῷ] τοῦ ἁγίου Σερ-
γίου καὶ [τ]οῦ ἁγίου Βάχχου τόδε τὸ
μ̣α̣ρ̣τ̣ύ̣ρ̣̣ιο̣ν Γορπέ(ου) κʹ ἐν [ἔ]τι τπ̣δ΄

4. μάρτυριον Feissel and Gatier in BE, μ̣ν̣η̣μ̣ε̣ῖ̣ο̣ν Bader || Γορπέ(ου) κʹ Bader, Γορπ(ιαίου) εκʹ Piccirillo Littmann & Stuart

We follow the text published by Nabil Bader in 2009. For a number of other, mostly implausible, readings, see the apparatus in his edition.

'+ Lord, protect! Ameras and Kyros, sons of Oulpianos, [completed] this memorial (martyrion?) [with the God] of Saint Sergios and of Saint Bakchos. On the 20th (day) of the month of Gorpiaios, in the year 384.'

Text: I. Jordanie 5,1, no. 61 with altered reading of line 4 by D. Feissel and P.-L. Gatier.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023 Bakchos, martyr in Barbalissos (Syria), ob. c. 303-311 : S00079

Saint Name in Source

Σέργιος Βάχχος

Image Caption 1

Photograph of the lintel. From: I. Jordanie 5/1, 62.

Image Caption 2

Photograph of the doorway. From: Piccirillo 1981, Tav. 43.

Image Caption 3

Photograph of the church. From: Piccirillo 1981, Tav. 43.

Image Caption 4

Drawing of the lintel. From: Piccirillo 1981, 53.

Image Caption 5

Drawing of the lintel. From: Littmann & Stuart 1921, 57.

Image Caption 6

Drawing of the lintel. From: Dussaud & Macler 1902, 688.

Image Caption 7

Plan of the church. From: Michel 2001, 188.

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

Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Bosra Umm es-Surab

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

Bosra Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Umm es-Surab Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Ceremony of dedication

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Anniversary of church/altar dedication

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Saint aiding or preventing the construction of a cult building

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


Basalt lintel of the main, west doorway of the largest of the three known churches of the village. The church is a three-aisled basilica with one apse and a colonnaded porch. Holy water basins were found near the doorway. Dimensions of the lintel: H. 0.325 m; W. 2.49 m; Th. 0.42 m. Dimensions of the inscribed field (framed by a tabula ansata): H. 0.23 m; W. 1.23 m. Letter height 0.04-0.05 m. Weathered face. Decorated with carvings of crosses at both ends. Each cross has four orbs in the sectors delimited by its branches. The inscribed central sector of the lintel is raised in relief, and shaped perhaps to resemble a sarcophagus. The stone was found in situ in 1901 by René Dussaud and Frédéric Macler during their survey in south Syria, and published by them with a drawing in their report in 1902. These scholars managed to read only the right-hand end of the inscription, so they offered no transcription except a part of the dating formula (which they read correctly). In 1909 Rudolf-Ernst Brünnow and Alfred von Domaszewski included Dussaud's and Macler's transcription of the dating formula in their chronological tables for the province of Arabia. At that time the site was revisited by the Princeton Expedition to Syria, and in 1921 its members, Enno Littmann and Duane Reed Stuart, published a much better drawing and a complete transcriptions of the text. In 1981 Michele Piccirillo published a drawing, a photograph and an Italian translation of the inscription, actually making no changes to the edition from the Princeton Expedition series. The most recent edition is by Nabil Bader in the series Inscriptions de la Jordanie (with a photograph, based on a new examination of the stone). For a fragmentary inscription from the courtyard of this church, see: E02083.


The inscription commemorates the construction of a mnemeion (according to Bader and Littmann) or a martyrion (according to Feissel and Gatier) with the help of the God of the martyrs Sergios and Bakchos. Interestingly, the two saints are mentioned together, while normally Saint Sergios was venerated alone in the East. Bader notes that the word mnemeion appears in Syria and in Asia Minor in several meanings: first of all it can denote a tomb, but in a wider sense it could be applied to large stone structures. Littmann supposed that here the term was used as a synonym for martyrion (a martyr shrine or a memorial shrine), presumably dedicated to the two saints: 'a memorial, an elaborate cenotaph, as it were, or possibly sacred relics of the saints may have been preserved there.' That we are dealing with a church dedicated to the saints is also suggested by the shape of the building where the inscription was found. Bader and Littmann believed that the phrase 'of Saint Sergios and of Saint Bakchos' referred to the mnemeion/martyrion itself ('the memorial of Saints Sergios and Saint Bakchos'). We suggest that the names of the saints refer to the name of God, likely to appear in the lost fragment of line 2. For a similar invocation, see E02078. There has been general agreement that the inscription dates to the 380s of the era of the province of Arabia (i.e. AD 480s). Former editors managed to read only two signs of that era year: τπ. It was Enno Littmann who suggested that the complete date was probably τπδ΄, i.e. the 384th year of the era of the province of Arabia, which together with the month of Gorpiaios corresponds to AD 489. Bader accepts this reading. As for the exact day of the completion of the shrine, Bader suggests that it was the 20th day of the month of Gorpiaios and that the letter ε preceding the letter κ (= 20) was a part of the misspelt name of the month. Earlier editors (including Littmann) considered this ε as a part of the day-date, written backwards (which is common in Syria): εκ΄ = 25th. However, the number of the year is not given in inverse order, so there is no need to suggest that the day-date was written from right to left.


Edition: Bader, N. (ed.), Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 21: Inscriptions de la Jordanie, part 5: La Jordanie du Nord-Est, fasc. 1(Beirut: Institut français du Proche-Orient, 2009), no. 61. Piccirillo, M., Chiese e mosaici della Giordania settentrionale (Jerusalem: Franciscan Print. Press, 1981), 52-53. Littmann, E., Stuart, D.R., (eds.), Publications of the Princeton University Archaeological Expeditions to Syria in 1904-5 and 1909, Division III: Greek and Latin Inscriptions, Section A: Southern Syria (Leiden: Brill, 1921), 57, no. 51. Brünnow, R.E., von Domaszewski, A., Die Provincia Arabia: auf Grund zweier in den Jahren 1897 und 1898 unternommenen Reisen und der Berichte früherer Reisender, vol. 3 (Strassburg: Trübner, 1909), 347. Dussaud, R., Macler, F., "Rapport sur une mission scientifique dans les régions désertiques de la Syrie moyenne", Nouvelles archives des missions scientifiques et littéraires 10 (1902), 688, no. 141. Further reading: Key Fowden, E., The Barbarian Plain: St. Sergius between Rome and Iran (Berkeley, Calif.; London: University of California Press, 1999), 104, 108-109. Michel, A., Les églises d'époque byzantine et umayyade de Jordanie (provinces d'Arabie et de Palestine), Ve-VIIIe siècle: typologie architecturale et aménagements liturgiques (avec catalogue des monuments; préface de Noël Duval; premessa di Michele Piccirillo) (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 2, Turnhout: Brepols, 2001), 187, no. 51. Sartre-Fauriat, A., "Georges, Serge, Élie et quelques autres saints connus et inédits de la province d'Arabie", in: Fr. Prévot (ed.), Romanité et cité chrétienne. Permances et mutations. Intégration et exclusion du Ier au VIe siècle. Mélanges en l'honneur d'Yvette Duval (Paris: De Boccard, 2000), 303, note 59. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2010), 612. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 50, 1518; 59, 1721.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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