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E02382: Floor-mosaics with Greek inscriptions commemorating the restoration of a church, probably dedicated to *Varos (probably the soldier and martyr of Egypt, S01212) or *Varos (martyr in Egypt imported to Palestine by Cleopatra, 02514). Found at Khilda in the western suburbs of Amman/Philadelphia (Roman province of Arabia). Dated 687.

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posted on 2017-02-16, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

Mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata with 'spades' in the anasae. Set at the east of the north hall, in front of the chancel screen. Dimensions not specified.

+ ἐπὶ τοῦ ὡσ(ιωτάτου) [(καὶ) ἁ]γιω(τάτσυ) Γεωργίου ἐπη-
σκόπου ἀνενεώθη (καὶ) ἐτελε-
όθη τὸ πᾶν ἔργον τοῦ ἁγίου τό-
που διὰ σπο<υ>δῆς Γεωργίου Ἰω(άννου) (καὶ) Ἰω(άννου)
πρ(εσβυτέρου) (καὶ) πάντες τõν αὐ(τõν) οἰκõν, ἔτ(ους) ψν΄ +

'Under the most venerable [and] most holy bishop Georgios, the whole building of the holy place was restored and completed by the zeal of Georgios, son of Ioannes, and of the presbyter Ioannes, and of all (the members of) their households. In the year 750.'

Inscription 2:

Framed mosaic panel located at the west end of the north aisle. Dimensions not specified.

+ ὑπὲρ ἀ[φ]έσ[εως τῶν ἁμα]ρτιõν Ἰω(άννου) πρ(εσβυτέρου) +
+ Κ(ύρι)ε ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁ[γίου Ὀάρου, ἐλέ]ισον Στεφ-
άνο(υ) (καὶ) Σαμουή[λου - -]· ἀμήν +

'+ As a vow for the remissions of sins of the presbyter Ioannes. + O Lord, God of [Saint Varos], have mercy upon Stephanos and Samouel [- - -]. Amen. +'

Inscription 3:

Fragmentary mosaic panel shaped as a medallion. Situated in the middle of the south aisle. Dimensions not specified. The text is above a depiction of an amphora.

+ Κ(ύριε ὁ) Θ(εὸ)ς [τοῦ ἁγί]-
ου Ὀάρου, [μν]ήσ[θη]-
τι τοῦ δούλου σου Ἰωά-
ννου πρ(εσβυτέρου) (καὶ) Γεωργ{ι}ίου Ἰω-
άννου (καὶ) πάντες τοῦ

'+ O Lord, God of Saint Varos (Oaros), remember your servant, the presbyter Ioannes, and Georgios, son of Ioannes, and all (members) of his household.'

Text: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, 551-553 with lightly altered readings from SEG 44, 1416-1419.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Varos, soldier and martyr in Egypt under Galerius (ob. c. 307) : S01212 Varos and Kleopatra, martyrs of Palestine : S02514

Saint Name in Source

Ὀάρος Οάρος

Image Caption 1

Drawing of Inscription 1. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, 551.

Image Caption 2

Photograph of Inscription 1. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, Pl. 36.

Image Caption 3

Drawing of Inscription 2. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, 552.

Image Caption 4

Photograph of Inscription 2. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, Pl. 36.

Image Caption 5

Drawing of Inscription 3. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, 553.

Image Caption 6

Photograph of Inscription 3. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, Pl. 37.

Image Caption 7

Relief showing Daniel. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, Pl. 40.

Image Caption 8

Plan of the newer church. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, 548.

Image Caption 9

Photograph of the newer church (north hall). From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, Pl. 32.

Image Caption 10

Mosaics from the north hall. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, Pl. 33.

Image Caption 11

Remnants of the altar in the north aisle and presumed reliquary socket. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, Pl. 34.

Image Caption 12

Medallion with the image of 'Earth'. From: Najjar & Sa'id 1994, Pl. 35.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Archaeological and architectural - Extant reliquaries and related fixtures Archaeological and architectural - Altars with relics


  • 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)

Philadelphia/Amman 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

Children Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people Ecclesiastics - bishops

Cult Activities - Relics

Reliquary – institutionally owned


The site was examined in the winter of 1994/1995 by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. The archaeologists recorded the presence of a two-aisled church, built over an earlier one. 1) The later church had two adjacent aisles aligned East-West (c. 8.5 m x 12.00 m), separated by pillars, with apses at their east ends and richly decorated mosaic pavements. The north section of the building's walls was quite well preserved (preserved H.: up to 2.50 m). The doorways in the west wall lead to a paved atrium (6.00 m x 8.50 m). The editors note that the south part of the south hall was not recorded, as it had been destroyed before the excavations started. Nonetheless, they say that it is very unlikely that the excavated halls were actually the north and central aisle of a three-aisled basilica. In note 3 they produce a number of arguments against this possibility, including, for instance, the fact that the altar was placed in the north aisle, and the existence of a similar 'two-aisled' church in Hufa al Wastiyah. The altar table probably lay on two massive rectangular stone blocks and a reliquary was probably kept between them. The church collapsed probably during an earthquake in the late 8th c., but was perhaps abandoned some times before the disaster. The ruins were resettled and refurbished in the Mameluk period (c. 12-13th c.). The mosaic floors were covered by clay, soil, and rubble after the collapse of the church, but before this event they were partially damaged in a period of iconoclasm. The north hall contained a mosaic in its apse: a vase with vine shoots growing out of it, and surrounding the altar. The vase is flanked by gazelles. The mosaic carpet in the north aisle contains a panel with a tabula ansata enclosing Inscription 1, situated in front of the chancel screen. The core of the carpet shows a cup flanked by two peacocks; a personification of the Earth (a crowned woman holding flowers) within a medallion, labelled ἡ γῖ; a lion and a zebu flanking a palm tree (which is a reference to Psalm 65,25: 'And the lion will eat [straw] like the ox'); and a rectangular panel with Inscription 2. The mosaics in the south aisle are almost completely lost. In the middle, remnants of a mosaic panel were found with a depiction of an amphora below six lines of the text. A mensa marble fragment, carved in low relief with a depiction of the Old Testament prophet Daniel in the posture of an orant, was found in the church. 2) The excavations in the south apse, and the shape of the chancel screen steps, revealed the existence of an earlier church beneath the preserved one. Remnants of another apse and mosaic were found 20 cm below the floor level. The inscriptions were published in 1994 by the authors of the report: Mohammad Najjar and Fatima Sa'id. The editors, however, say that they discussed the text with a number of experts in mosaic inscriptions: 'Many names have to be mentioned: Father Michele Piccirillo, Robert Schick, Konstantinos Politis, Yiannis Meimaris, Basemah Hamarneh, Leah Di Segni.'


All three inscriptions refer to the later church. Inscription 1 commemorates its restoration in the 750th year of the Pompeian era, widely used in the region. The date can be converted to AD 687 and is the sole certain point in the chronology of the complex. The date falls in the Umayyad period and the editors note that a number of churches are known to have been restored in that time: the church of the Virgin *Mary in Madaba (E02477, AD 767), the church of Quwaysmah/Philadelphia (AD 717/718), the acropolis church of Ma'in (AD 719/720); the church of Saint *Lot at at 'Ayn Abata (E02664, AD 692); the church of St. Stephen at Umm al-Rasas (E02131, AD 718); the chapel of *Mary at 'Ayn al-Kanisah/Mount Nebo (E02563; AD 762). In addition, the pottery sherds from the north apse of our church were dated to the mid-8th c. As the inscription mentions just a refurbishment, the construction of the second church is likely to date to the early 7th or late 6th c., and of the first church to an even earlier period. Inscriptions 2 and 3 contain invocations of the God of Saint Oaros (= Varos/Lat. Varus). The name of the saint in Inscription 2 is actually lost, but is plausibly reconstructed on the basis of Inscription 3. The editors plausibly identify him as Varos/Varus, a martyr of Egypt under the emperor Galerius, reputedly buried at Sire/Sirim near Mount Tabor in Palestine (see Meimaris 1986, 136). It is not explicit in the inscriptions that the church was dedicated to Varos, but it is very likely. For a piece of a chancel screen or altar with an inscription naming a saint Varos, probably found in the region of Hebron, see E03578.


Edition: Najjar, M., Sa'id, F., 'A new Umayyad church at Khilda - Amman', Liber Annuus 44 (1994), 547-560 and Pl. 31-40. Further reading: Di Segni, L., "The use of chronological systems in sixth-eight centuries Palestine", Aram 18-19 (2006-2007), 120. 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), 283-286, no. 106. Meimaris, Y., Sacred names, saints, martyrs and church officials in the Greek inscriptions and papyri pertaining to the Christian Church of Palestine (Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation, Center for Greek and Roman Antiquity, 1986), 136. Reference works: Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 881bis. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 44, 1416-1419.

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