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E02396: Floor-mosaics with Greek and Christian-Palestinian Aramaic inscriptions commemorating the restoration and paving of an unnamed martyr shrine (martyrion). Found at Khirbat al-Kursi in the suburbs of Philadelphia/Amman (Roman province of Arabia/Jordan). Probably late 6th or early 7th c.

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posted on 2017-02-20, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Greek inscriptions:

Inscription 1:

Rectangular mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata. Set in the floor of the hall (nave), in front of the presbyterium. Red letters (the last word of each line is rather pinkish), letter height 0.07 m.

+ Χ(ριστ)̣έ, βο[ήθι] Ἀναστα[σίου] μετὰ τῆς ̣γ̣υνευός· ἀμήν.
+ χά̣ρ̣ιτι τῖς [Ἁγί]̣ας Τριάδ(ος) ἀ[νενεώθη] κ(αὶ) ἐψεφώθι τὸ μαρτύριο(ν)
τοῦτω ἐπ[ὶ τοῦ] ὡσ[ιω]τάτω [κ(αὶ) φιλο]χρίστου [Θω]μᾶ ἐπισκώ(που)
σπο(υ)δε͂ς κ(αὶ) [ἐπιμελείᾳ τῶν εὐλαβεσ]τάτον π[ρεσ]β(υτέρων) ̣Σ[ο]μμ̣α̣σ̣ε-
ου κ(αὶ) Θεωδό[ρου - - -]ου. χρόνον πρότ[ης ἰ]νδ(ικτιῶνος) [- - -]

4. κ(αὶ) [ἐπιμελείᾳ κ(αὶ)- - -]τα τõν π[ρεσ]β(υτέρων) Piccirillo || ἰ]νδ(ικτίονος) Piccirillo

'+ O Christ, help Anastasios with his wife! Amen. + Through the grace of the Holy Trinity was restored and paved this martyr shrine (martyrion) under the most venerable and Christ-loving bishop Thomas, by the zeal and under the supervision of the most reverent presbyters Sommaseos and Theodoros [- - -]. In the times of the first indiction [- - -].'

Inscription 2:

Small framed squarish panel. Set in the floor of the hall (nave) in front of the presbyterium, to the right of Inscription 1, next to the south wall of the chapel. Red letters, letter height 0.08 m.

+ Χρ(ιστέ), β<ο>ήθι
S Ἰωάννου

1. ΒΣΗΘΙ mosaic || 3. ΠΡΟΣΒΥΙΗΡ mosaic || 4. S = abbreviation of προσβυ<τ>ήρ(ου) SEG, S = abbreviation of καί Piccirillo

'+ O Christ, help the presbyter Ioannes, and (?) the monk Ioannes!'

Text: Piccirillo & 'Amr 1998, nos. 1-2 with lightly modified transcription in SEG 38, 1660-1661. Translation: M. Piccirillo, 'A. J. 'Amr, lightly adapted.

Christian-Palestinian-Aramaic inscriptions:

Inscription 3:

Set in the floor of the presbyterium, at the south half of the east border of the carpet mosaic. Red letters.

] ܡܪ ܝܣܘܤ ܐܬܪܚܡ ܥܠ ܫܘܡܫ [+]

'[+] Lord Jesus, have mercy upon Shumash [- - -]!'

Text and translation: Puech 1988, 385.

Inscription 4:

Set in the floor of the presbyterium, at the north half of the east border of the carpet mosaic. Black letters.

] ܡܪ (?) ܝ]ܣܘܤ ܡܫܚܐ ܐܬܪܚܡ ܥܠ ܫܘܡܫ (?) +]

[+ (?) Lord (?) Je]sus Christ, have mercy upon Shumash [- - -]

Text and translation: Puech 1988, 386.

Inscription 5:

Set in the floor of the hall (nave) in front of the presbyterium, to the left of Inscription 1, next to the north wall of the chapel. Black letters on white background.

ܒܢܝ ܫ]ܘܡܫ]
ܡܪܐ/ܢ [ܥ]ܠܝܗܘܢ
'Shu[msh]a(ios?) [and Yohann]es (?) [sons of Sh]ūmash, [Lord, have] mercy on them!'

Text and translation: Puech 1988, 388.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060

Image Caption 1

Photograph of Inscription 1. From: Piccirillo 1988, Pl. 50.

Image Caption 2

Drawing of Inscription 1. From: Piccirillo 1988, 366.

Image Caption 3

Photograph of Inscription 2. From: Piccirillo 1988, Pl. 51.

Image Caption 4

Drawing of Inscription 2. From: Piccirillo 1988, 367.

Image Caption 5

Photograph of Inscription 3. From: Piccirillo 1988, Pl. 52.

Image Caption 6

Photograph of Inscription 4. From: Piccirillo 1988, Pl. 52.

Image Caption 7

Photograph of Inscription 5. From: Piccirillo 1988, Pl. 51.

Image Caption 8

Plan of the site. From: Piccirillo 1998, Pl. 45.

Image Caption 9

Plan of the chapel. From: Piccirillo 1998, 363.

Image Caption 10

Photograph of the chapel. From: Piccirillo 1998, Pl. 46.

Image Caption 11

Soldier and lioness. From: Piccirillo 1998, Pl. 48.

Image Caption 12

Details of the mosaic carpet of the hall. From: Piccirillo 1998, Pl. 48.

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


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 - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Women Other lay individuals/ people


Floor-mosaic panels from the chapel at Khirbat al-Kursi/Khirbet el-Kursi in the west suburbs of Philadelphia/Amman, c. 1 km to the north of the junction Jabal-Amman - Wadi al-Sir and Na'ur - Suweylah. The archaeological research at the site was begun in 1983 by the University of Jordan, under the supervision of 'Abd al-Jalil 'Amr. The chapel was recorded in 1987, in the area F, to the east of a winepress. The chapel (as well as the winepress) apparently belonged to a monastic complex and was situated in its south sector. Little more than mere foundations and floors is preserved, but the west wall is still 1 m high. The chapel (7.80 m x 5.80 m) had one hall and a raised chancel, at the level of one step. The hall was accessible through a doorway in the southwest corner (later blocked) and in the north wall. Plastered benches were set against the walls. Pillars of a chancel screen, probably from this chapel, were found in another building. The excavators established that the chapel was in use for a considerably long time and the mosaic floor was several times restored. It was saved from any iconoclastic interference. The presbyterium has a rectangular mosaic carpet consisting of geometric motifs, mostly octagons, squares and leaves, framed by a border of arcades. The Aramaic inscriptions (3 and 4) run along the east border. The hall has a richly decorated carpet framed by acanthus volutes. In four corners of the interior there are depictions of vases and vine sprouts grow out of them. They form circles containing images of animals: birds (ducks, peacocks, etc.; some with ribbons) and gazelles. Other images include a soldier with a spear and rounded shield, wearing a mantle and a short tunic, and facing a bleeding lioness (a hunting scene), flowers and fruits. The quality of the mosaic is not high. The Greek inscriptions and the Aramaic inscription 5 are set in the same carpet, against the step of the presbyterium. The inscriptions were cleaned and restored with the aid of the members of the Mount Nebo expedition. They were edited by Michele Piccirillo (Greek) and Émile Puech (Aramaic) in 1998.


The inscriptions mention donors who contributed to the restoration and (re)paving of the chapel, here named martyr shrine (martyrion). Unfortunately, it is not said which martyrs (if any) were venerated there. It is true that the term martyrion was sometimes used to denote places of cult of figures other than martyrs, or commemorative sanctuaries, but normally one can expect that such building housed some (not necessarily corporeal) relics. The spelling of our texts is very poor. Inscription 1 says that the chapel was built probably from the offering of a certain Anastasios and his unnamed wife. The work was supervised by presbyters: Sommaseos, Theodoros, and perhaps one more person. Sommaseos is certainly a Greek transcription of the Aramaic name Shumash, so the person bearing the latter name and mentioned in Inscription 4, 5, and 6 is probably Sommaseos of Inscription 1. As for Inscription 2, Piccirillo read the sign 'S' at the beginning of line 4 as the abbreviation of the conjunction καί and suggested that the text mentioned two people: Ioannes the presbyter and Ioannes the monk, the latter being probably the abbot of our monastery. This supposition is of course conjectural, and one could expect an abbot to be called 'hegoumeons', and not simply 'monk'. The editors of SEG prefer to read the sign as the abbreviation mark of the former word (presbyter), and thus we might have here a reference to a single person: the presbyter Ioannes, son of the monk Ioannes. Dating: Inscription 1 contains a date computed according to the indiction year cycle, which itself cannot be converted. Bishop Thomas mentioned in the dating formula in line 3 is probably the bishop of Philadelphia who appears also in an undated inscription from the chapel of Sweyfiyeh (I. Jordanie 2, no. 7). The presence of the Trinitarian formula at the beginning of line 1 may point at a late 6th c. date, as such formulas were then introduced as obligatory ones in documents by the emperors: Maurice, Phocas, and Heraclius. Based on the pottery sherds the excavators dated the abandonment of the chapel to the Umayyad period. Having analysed the style of our mosaics and those of Sweyfiyeh, they ascribed them to the late 6th - early 7th c.


Edition: Piccirillo, M., 'Amr, 'A.-J., "A chapel at Khirbet El-Kursi-Amman", Liber Annuus 38 (1988), 361-382. Puech, É., "Les inscriptions christo-palestiniennes de Khirbet el-Kursi - Amman", Liber Annuus 38 (1988), 383-389. Further reading: 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), 288-290, no. 109. Reference works: Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 881. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 38, 1660-1661.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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