University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E02377: Greek painted inscriptions (dipinti) from the northeast chamber of the church of *Kosmas and Damianos (brothers, physicians martyrs of Syria, S00385) of the 'complex of *John the Baptist' in Gerasa/Jerash (Roman province of Arabia), invoking the help of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259), probably of Kosmas and Damianos, and an unspecified *Zechariah (probably the father of John the Baptist, S00597, or the Old Testament prophet, S00283). After 533.

online resource
posted on 2017-02-14, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski

̣ἅ̣γιε Γεώργι, ἐλήησον Θεό-
̣δωρον τõν Σόφρους Ἰάννα κ(αὶ)
[τ]̣ὸ̣ν υ[ἱ]ὸν αὐτοῦ μετὰ παν-
[τὸς ο]ἴκου αὐτοῦ· ἅγιοι μα̣κ-
[άριοι (?) - - - - - - - - - - -]

2. τὸν Σόφρους Welles (after Jones)

'Saint George, have mercy upon Theodoros of the clan Sophres (?), son of Ioannes (?), and his son together with his whole household! Saints and [blessed (?) - - -]'


[. . .]̣Ε̣Ω. . . . . . . .̣Ι̣Ο[. . . . .]
[- -]φέρεται τοὺς ἐ̣λ̣ε̣ή[μο]-
[νας μ]ετὰ καλοῦ σὺν τῷ ̣ν[. . .]
[. . . .]̣Ν̣ΤΩΝ Α̣Λ[- - - - -]

'[- - -] it is said (?) that the merciful ones with beautiful [- - -]'


[- - -]. . . .[- - -]
[- -]ου Σόφρους [- - -]
[- - -] Φιλοκάλ̣η [- - -]
[- -]̣ΤΟ̣Υ̣Λ[- -]


[- - -] ̣ἅγ(ιε) Γεώργι Κ[- - -]

'[- - -] Saint George, [- - -]'


[- -] ̣κ(αὶ) ̣Ζαχαρία κ(αὶ) ἅγ(ιων) Κο[σμᾶ - - -]

[- -] and of Zacharias, and of Saints Kosmas [and Damianos (?) - - -]


[ἅγιοι Κοσμᾶ καὶ Δαμιαν]έ, σώσατε Κ[- - -]

[- -]Ε σώσατε Κ[- - -] Welles

'[Saints Kosmas and Damianos], help K[- - -]!'

Text: I. Gerasa, nos. 317-321.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, martyr in Nicomedia or Diospolis, ob. c. 303 : S00259 Kosmas and Damianos, brothers, physician martyrs in Syria, ob. 285/287 : S00385 Zechariah, Old Testament Prophet : S00283 Zechariah, father of John the Baptist : S00597

Saint Name in Source

Γεώργιος Κοσμᾶς καὶ Δαμιανός Ζαχαρίας Ζαχαρίας

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Graffiti Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region


Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Gerasa/Jerash Sakkaia / Maximianopolis Σακκαια Sakkaia Saccaea Eaccaea Maximianopolis Shaqqa Schaqqa Shakka

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people Women Foreigners (including Barbarians)


The inscriptions are painted in red on the white plaster of blocks from the northeast chamber ('sacristy') of the church of Kosmas and Damianos. For a description of the complex, see E02367. The first three texts are on a pilaster. Letter height: 0.05-0.065 m. Fine lettering. The texts seems to be written by different hands. First published by Charles Welles in 1938, based on copies made by A.H.M. Jones during the excavations of the site in 1929.


Graffiti and dipinti are common in places of the cult of saints. They were usually requested by pilgrims visiting the sanctuaries, and executed by the staff of the shrines. Our texts invoke not only Kosmas and Damianos, the holy physicians venerated in the church where they were found, but also the martyr George to whom another church in the same complex was dedicated. Text E mentions one Zechariah who is also likely to be a saint; if so, this is probably the father of John the Baptist, though it is possible that it is the Old Testament prophet. As the lettering of the inscriptions is fine, we suppose that they were made by the staff of the shrine or by professional scribes. The room with our dipinti is considerably larger than the other chambers flanking apses in this complex, and in other churches. It may have been used for incubation, with the dipinti referring to people practising this rite, as we know that incubation did occur in the cult of Kosmas and Damianos in Constantinople. There is, however, no direct evidence for this practice in our case, and we should note that George is also invoked in the texts. The interpretation of several of the texts in this small collection is problematic. Regarding them, we offer some new readings compared with the edition by Welles. Welles and Jones found line 2 of Inscription A puzzling. They read it Θεό|δωρον τὸν Σόφρους Ἰάννα and suggested that Σόφρους 'may be a heteroclitic genitive from Σώφρων or a similar name, in which case Iannas was presumably meant [to denote] the father, unless it be merely the Semitic name of Sophron (i.e. Σόφρους τοῦ καὶ Ἰάννα).' They also considered a less plausible possibility, that we have here the name of an office, e.g. σωφρ(ονιστ)οῦ. We suggest that the dubious word is the name of the tribe or clan of the supplicant, and that the article preceding it should be understood as genitive plural (and not accusative singular), e.g.: Θεό|δωρον τõν Σόφρους Ἰάννα/'Theodoros of the clan of Sophres (?), son of Ioannes.' A number of similar tribal identity markers are discussed by Maurice Sartre and Annie Sartre-Fauriat in the recent volumes of the Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (13; 15). Perhaps the same clannish affiliation appears in Text C. It is very possible that pilgrims who came from remote villages, sought to precisely describe their local identity. As for Text F, we find it plausible that the names of Saint Kosmas and Damianos should be restored before the imperative form σώσατε/'save!', as this imperative is in plural (thus we need at least two addresses) and is preceded by Ε, which can be the ending of the vocative form of the name Damianos. Dating: The inscriptions must postdate the completion of the church of Kosmas and Damianos in 533.


Edition: Welles, C.B., 'The inscriptions', in: Kraeling, C.H. (ed.), Gerasa, city of the Decapolis (New Haven: American School of Oriental Research, 1938), nos. 317-322 and Pl. CXXXIIIa-f.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager