University of Oxford
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E02602: Greek graffiti invoking the help of an unnamed Archangel. Found in the 'hermitage of John the Abbot' at Hammam 'Afra in the Wadi al-Hasa, at the southeast coast of the Dead Sea (Jordan/Roman province of Palaestina III). Probably 5th-6th c.

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posted on 2017-03-24, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1

[- -] Φλ(αούιον) + Θεόδωρον ποι-
[μένα -]Η[- ὁ θεὸς τοῦ (?)]
[ὑψί]στο(υ) (?) ἀρχαγγέλου, σῶσον τὸν δοῦ(λόν) [σ]ου [- - -]ιος

3-4. ποι|[μένα Di Segni

'[- - -] Flavios + Theodoros [- - - O God of the] highest (?) Archangel (?), save your servant [- - -]ios!'

Inscription 2

ἐτελιώθη ὁ θε[ο]σεβ[έστατος]
Ἰωάννης ὁ ἡγούμεν[ος ἐν μηνὶ]
Ἀρτημ(ισίῳ) ιη΄ τοῦ ἔτου[ς]

1. or ἐγκλ(ε)ιώθη = ἐγκλείσθη Di Segni || 4. ΠΛΔ photograph

'The most God-fearing Ioannes, the abbot (higoumenos), died (?) on the 18th (day) of the month of Artemisios, the year 334.'

Inscription 3


'Of Iason (?).'

Text: I. Jordanie 4, nos. 101-103 with remarks by L. Di Segni in LA 53 (1993).


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Archangels (unspecified) : S00191 Michael, the Archangel : S00181

Saint Name in Source

ἀρχάγγελος ἀρχάγγελος

Image Caption 1

Photograph of Inscription 1. From: I. Jordanie 4, Pl. XLIV.

Image Caption 2

Transcription of Inscription 1. From: I. Jordanie 4, 130.

Image Caption 3

Photograph of Inscription 2. From: I. Jordanie 4, Pl. XLV.

Image Caption 4

Transcription of Inscription 2. From: I. Jordanie 4, 131.

Image Caption 5

Photograph of Inscription 3. From: I. Jordanie 4, Pl. XLV.

Image Caption 6

Transcription of Inscription 3. From: I. Jordanie 4, 131.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Graffiti Inscriptions - Funerary inscriptions


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Hammam 'Afra

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

Hammam 'Afra Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


The graffiti come from the so-called 'hermitage of John the Abbot', which is a complex of three caves with walls covered by painted (dipinti) and scratched (graffiti) inscriptions. The caves lie in the Wadi al-Hasa, c. 67-70 meters above the water level. The graffiti are written in various languages, including even modern Arabic texts (one of them is dated 1974). Here we present three Greek texts from Cave I, sited close to the entrance to the complex. Inscriptions 1 and 2 were first published by Michele Piccirillo in 1980 (from photographs by Burton MacDonald). The first edition of Inscription 3 and re-editions of both previously known texts were offered by Maurice Sartre in 1993 (also from photographs).


The graffiti are scarcely legible. Inscription 1 might contain a reference to one Theodoros, probably a bishop (termed ποιμήν/'shepherd'), as plausibly argued by Leah Di Segni. She points out that a bishop Theodoros held the see of Arindela in 431 (the site of Arindela has not been identified, but it is likely to have been located to the south of Hammam 'Afra, and the date is close to that of Inscription 2, see below). If Gatier's supposition that in line 5 an archangel is mentioned in the genitive case, followed by the name of a supplicant, we can expect that the God of an Archangel is invoked here. Gatier suggested that the Archangel is described as the 'highest' (ὕψιστος) which echoes the particular role of the Archangel Michael as the leader of the Heavenly Host. Inscription 2 is probably the epitaph for the abbot Ioannes, although the introductory formula is characteristic of building inscriptions rather than funerary texts. Perhaps the term ἐτελιώθη should be corrected to (or understood as an equivalent of) ἐτελείωσε or ἐτελεύτησεν. Line 4 might contain a dating formula which Gatier corrects to <τ>λδ΄ = 334, seemingly computed according to the era of the province of Arabia, which equates to AD 439/440. It is this inscription that has caused the site to be called the 'hermitage of John the Abbot'. Di Segni suggested that Inscriptions 2 and 3 are epitaphs for hermits buried in their cells, the entrances of which were blocked, a custom attested in literary sources. However, the surveyors found no indications of any burials in the hermitage.


Edition: Sartre, M., Inscriptions de la Jordanie, vol. 4: Pétra et la Nabatène méridionale du Wadi al-Hasa au golfe de 'Aqaba (Paris: Librairie orientaliste Paul Geuthner, 1993), no. 101-103. For Inscriptions 1 and 2 see also: MacDonald, B., The Wadi el-Hasa Archaeological Survey (Waterloo, Ont., Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1988), 282-285 (ed. M. Piccirillo). Piccirillo, M., "An epigraphical note", in: Macdonald, B., "The hermitage of John the Abbot at Hammam 'Afra", Liber Annuus 30 (1980), 363-364. Further reading: Di Segni, L., "[Review:] Sartre Maurice, Inscriptions de la Jordanie, Tome IV. Pétra et la Nabatène méridionale du Wadi al-Hasa au golfe de 'Aqaba (Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie, Tome XXI), Librairie Orientaliste Paul Geuthner, Paris 1993, 206 pp., 51 plates", Liber Annuus 43 (1993), 511-512. Reference works: Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 30, 1704-1707.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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