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E02174: Greek building inscription for a memorial shrine (martyrion) of *Elijah (probably the Old Testament prophet, S00217), constructed by an homonymous donor. Found at Al-Jāj, to the southeast of Lubbein, between Bostra and Aere (Roman province of Arabia). Probably 5th-7th c.

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posted on 2016-12-22, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
(christogram) Ἠλίας Καιαμωυ τῶν
[Χ]αειωυ ἠκωδώμεσεν
τοῦτων μαρτίρ<ι>ον ἅγις

2. [Χ]αειωυ Sartre Littmann, [Δ]αιεου Waddington

'Elias, son of Kaiamos, of the (clan? of) Chaeios (?) built this memorial shrine (martyrion) of Saint Elijah.'

Text: IGLS 15/1, no. 274.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Elijah, Old Testament prophet : S00217 Elijah (unspecified) : S00667

Saint Name in Source

Ἠλίας Ἠλίας

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

Arabia Arabia Arabia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Aere Bosra Al-Jāj

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

Aere Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Bosra Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Al-Jāj Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Bequests, donations, gifts and offerings


Stone lintel. Dimensions of the left-hand part, as recorded by David Magie: H. 0.25 m; W. 0.645-0.785 m. Crude lettering. Letter height 0.04-0.045 m (lines 1-3); 0.03-0.035 m (line 4). The whole lintel was seen and copied by William Waddington in 1861 in an abandoned village, reportedly in situ above the doorway of a small ancient church converted into a mosque. The building, he said, was perfectly preserved. The site was revisited by the Princeton Archaeological Expedition to Syria in 1909. The village was by that time again inhabited. A new copy and drawing of the inscription were made by David Magie, but sadly the stone then lay on the ground, in the southwest corner of the ruins. It appears that the fallen lintel was broken into several fragments, of which only two, from its the left-hand section, were retrievable. Annie Sartre-Fauriat and Maurcie Sartre also revisited the site, but they were unable to find any remnants of the inscription, so their edition is based on the copies by Waddington and Magie.


The inscription was very poorly carved and spelt, but it is clear that it commemorated the construction of a memorial shrine (martyrion) dedicated to Saint Elijah (Greek: Elias) by an homonymous person, a certain Elias. The donor is described as a son of Kaiamos, and probably a member of a local tribe or clan. Waddington restored this clan's name as Daeios, but the Sartres prefer the reading Chaeios, noting, however, that such a name has not so far been attested elsewhere and that the restoration is based solely on the imperfect copies of the surveyors who saw the lintel. We can assume that the shrine was built by a Semitic community with little knowledge of Greek. The shrine is termed a martyrion, normally meaning a 'martyr shrine', but here it is more appropriate to translate the word as 'memorial shrine', as the venerated saint is probably the Old Testament Prophet who did not die a martyr's death (according to the biblical story he was actually lifted up to Heaven on a chariot of fire). This is not an exceptional case, as martyria were sometimes dedicated to holy figures that were not martyrs. Such buildings served as places where the memory of these saints was preserved and their cult flourished (for a martyrion of *Mary, Mother of Christ, see: E01627). Another possibility is that our Elijah was a local martyr, or an Egyptian martyred in Palestine in 308 and known to Eusebius of Caesarea (see: S00668), but this is much less likely, as other inscriptions from the region show that the cult of Elijah, clearly the prophet, was widespread in our region (see E02086 and E02116, and compare a church/naos of the prophet Isaiah: E02048). Dating: The inscription and the martyr shrine it commemorates are undatable on the basis of the published evidence.


Edition: Sartre-Fauriat, A., Sartre, M., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 15/1: Le plateau du Trachôn et ses bordures (BAH 204, Beyrouth: Institut Français du Proche-Orient, 2014), no. 274. Littmann, E., Magie, D., 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), 402, no. 791. Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2436. Further reading: Macadam, H.I., Studies in the History of the Roman Province of Arabia. The Northern Sector (Oxford: B.A.R, 1986), 141. Moors, St.M., De Decapolis. Steden en Dorpen in de romeinse provinces Syria en Arabia (Doctoral thesis: Rijksuniversiteit te Leiden, 1992), 348. Trombley, F.R., Hellenic Religion and Christianization c. 370-529, vol. 2, (Leiden - New York - Cologne: Brill, 1994), 366 (English translation). Sartre, M., "Tribus et clans dans le Hauran antique", Syria 59 (1982), 84.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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