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E02246: Greek inscription invoking the help of the God of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259) for an Arab (Ghassanid/Jafnid) phylarch. Found at Sammā', to the north of Bostra (Roman province of Arabia). Probably 6th c.

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posted on 2017-01-12, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
+ Κύ(ριε) ὁ θε- + φύλαξε
ὸς τ{ο}οῦ τὼν ἐνδο-
ἁγίου Γε- ξ(ότατον) φύλαρχ(ον)
ωργίου, Αβοου Χιριβ

'+ O Lord, the God of Saint George, + protect the most glorious (endoxotatos) phylarch Aboou Chirib (Abū-Karib)!'

Text: IGLS 13/2, no. 9843.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, martyr in Nicomedia or Diospolis, ob. c. 303 : S00259

Saint Name in Source


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 Sammā'

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

Bosra Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka Sammā' Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Aristocrats Officials


High quality stone lintel, at both ends decorated with elaborate low-relief carvings of crosses framed by chevrons and squares with loops, and with a low-relief cross within a circle in the middle of the inscribed face. H. 0.35 m; W. 1.60 m. Seen and photographed by Maurice Sartre in 1986. First published by him in 1993 and republished in 2011. The lintel was set in the facade of a church at the top of the village, in modern times dedicated to Saint Elijah.


The inscription contains a simple invocation, but given the fact that it was inscribed on a lintel, one can presume that it was meant to commemorate the construction of a church dedicated to Saint George. The editor associates the formula of this invocation with the 8th verse of Psalm 120/121 ('The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in') often carved above doorways in Syria, but in our opinion this is not correct, as the inscription is aimed at the acquisition of help for a specific person and not for all residents and visitors of a household. The highlight of this text is certainly the figure of the supplicant - an Arab phylarch whose name is rendered in Greek as Aboou Chirib. Sartre suggests that this transcriptions corresponds to the Arab name Abū Karib, which is rendered in Greek as Αβοχαραβος/Abocharabos by Procopius. As the title of endoxotatos /gloriosissimus was borne by Arab phylarchs mostly in the 6th c. as a sign of their high dignity (equal to that of duces of the province of Arabia), we can presume that the inscription dates to that period. Based on this supposition Sartre wonders whether our phylarch can be identical with the Abocharabos (see: PLRE 3, s.v. Abocharabus) known to Procopius and probably to John Malalas, a phylarch of Palestine in 529 and a brother of al-Ḥārith (V), son of Jabala, a Ghassanid/Jafnid chieftain, and uncle of al-Mundhir (III). It is also possible that this phylarch was involved in the suppression of the 529 revolt of the Samaritans. For other sources mentioning Abū Karib, a papyrus from Petra in Palaestina III, dated 574, where he appears in an arbitration (E03663), and a Syriac manuscript from the territory of Palmyra, see two recent papers by Fergus Millar (2013), and Pierre-Louis Gatier (2015, 211-212). The truth is, however, that we cannot prove that he is the person mentioned in our text. According to Sartre the inscription is an invocation, executed by the inhabitants of the village when the phylarch was passing by that place. In our opinion the high quality of the lintel suggests rather the foundation inscription of a church (see above).


Editions: Sartre, M., and Sartre-Fauriat, A. (eds.), Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, vol. 13/2: Bostra (Supplément) et la plaine de la Nuqrah (BAH 194, Beirut: Institut français du Proche-Orient, 2011), no. 9837. Sartre, M., "Deux phylarques arabes dans l'Arabie byzantine", Le Muséon 106 (1993), 151-153. Further reading: Bevan, G., Fisher, G., and Genequand, D., "The late antique church at Tall al-'Umayrī East: New evidence for the Jafnid family and the cult of St. Sergius in northern Jordan", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 373 (2015), 58. Bevan, G., Fisher, G., and others "Arabs and Christianity", in: G. Fisher an others, Arabs and Empires before Islam (Oxford: OUP, 2015), 324. Gatier, P.-L., "Les Jafnides dans l'épigraphie grecque au VIe siècle", in: D. Genequand, Ch., Robin (eds.), Les Jafnides : des rois arabes au service de Byzance : VIe siècle de l'ère chrétienne : actes du colloque de Paris, 24-25 novembre 2008 (Paris: Éditions De Boccard, 2015), 211-212. Millar, F., "A Syriac codex from near Palmyra and the 'Ghassanid' Abokarib", Hugoye. Journal of Syriac Studies 16 (2013), 15-35. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1994), 662; (2015), 688. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 43, 1089. L'Année épigraphique (1993), 1638.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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