Saint NameConstantine the Great, emperor, ob. 337 : S00186
Konstantinos (unspecified) : S01746
Saint Name in SourceΚωνσταντῖνος
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after700
Activity not before500
Activity not after700
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcJerusalem
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Jerusalem
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsConstruction of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesMerchants and artisans
SourceTrapezoidal beam of Cedar of Lebanon. Dimensions: H. 0.11 m (back), 0.75 m (front); W. 0.51 m; Th. 0.08-0.012 m. Letter height 0.015-0.03 m.
The inscription is in black paint. Only the left-hand part of the text is preserved. Poor spelling and syntax.
When recorded, the inscription was reused in the Al-Aqsa Mosque (for another Greek inscription on wood from this mosque, see E02734). Now in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. First published by Moshe Schwabe in 1949. A new edition by Leah Di Segni was based on a re-examination of the object in July 2010. It was significantly reinterpreted by Denis Feissel in Bulletin épigraphique (2012), 474.
DiscussionThe meaning of the inscription is very unclear. According to Di Segni's hypothetical interpretation, the last line could contain remnants of the name Konstantinos (..tinou), and might possibly refer to a church dedicated to a Saint Konstantinos, where the beam could have been displayed. See the comments in CIIP 1/2, no. 1021 for the full elaboration of this hypothesis.
As for the first part of the inscription, Di Segni suggests that it begins with the name of a craftsman, Elias who is presumably described by a corrupted form of an ethnic referring to the region of Gebalene (between Petra and Tafile).
The interpretation of lines 2-3 is based entirely on the understanding of the term κάβος as a Greek counterpart of the Hebrew qab, a measure of dry volume, e.g. wheat or barley, normally equalling c. 2.2 litres, but sometimes used in a wider sense (as an unspecified portion or 1/10). Schwabe supposed that the inscription contained a record of food supplies by a merchant (our Elias), selling it to workers. Di Segni, however, notes that the verb κάμνω from line 1 is never used in reference to the production/distribution of food. In her opinion Elias is a contractor, and lines 2-3 contain a reminiscence of a great famine 'in which one third (τρῖς κάβος) of the world died'. The latter phrase, she says, appears in a number of Greek epitaphs from Feinan in Palaestina Tertia, published by Meimaris and Kritikakou (which themselves echo Revelation 9:18: 'By these three was the third part of men killed'). As one of those epitaphs is dated 592, Di Segni hypothetically ascribes this date also to our beam.
In our opinion, Di Segni's interpretation is extremely doubtful. The epitaphs from Feinan do not mention the term κάβος. Moreover, a reference to the calamity is explicable in an epitaph recording the circumstance of one's death, but is harder to explain in an (informal?) building inscription (if our inscription is such a text). Could it be used as a peculiar dating formula? Although it is possible (for a reference to the bubonic plague in a building inscription from Izra/Zorava in Arabia, see E02116), it would be a very unusual case. Similarly, the supposition that the last part of the inscription mentions a Saint Konstantinos is very fragile.
Our doubts are shared and even more explicitly expressed by Denis Feissel who offers a very different restoration of the text in Bulletin épigraphique (2012), 474. He rejects any possible references to Saint Konstantinos and points out that the inscription is actually complete but needs a different division of words: in lines 3-4 he confidently reads the term ὁλοκόττινος, that is 'equal to one nomisma/solidus'. According to Feissel we have here a text carved by an artisan who says that he worked during a period of famine when three kaboi of wheat (= 12 modii as the Hebrew qab equals to 4 modii) costed one solidus (while the normal price was 30 modii per one solidus). Feissel cites evidence for periods of famine when the price of wheat raised to the level of even 4 modii per one solidus.
Cotton, H.M., Di Segni, L., Eck, W., Isaac, B., Kushnir-Stein, A., Misgav, H., Price, J.J., Yardeni, A. and others (eds.), Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad, vol. 1, part 2: Jerusalem, nos. 705-1120 (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2012), no. 1021.
Bieberstein, K., Bloedhorn, H., Grundzüge der Baugeschichte vom Chalkolithikum bis zur Frühzeit der osmanischen Herrschaft (TAVO Beiheft B 100, 1-3; Wiesbaden 1994), vol. 3, 62.
Schwabe, M., "Note on the graffiti shown in Plate XLVIII", in: R. Hamilton (ed.), The Structural History of the Aqsa Mosque: A Record of Archaeological Gleanings from the Repairs of 1938-1942 (Jerusalem: Published for the Govt. of Palestine by Oxford University Press, London, 1949), 93-94.
Meimaris, Y., Kritikakou, K., Inscriptions from Palaestina Tertia, vol. 1b: The Greek inscriptions from Ghor Es-Safi (Byzantine Zoora) (Supplement) (Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation, 2008), Khirbet Qazone and Feinan, 149-150.
Milik, J.T., "Notes d'épigraphie et de topographie palestiniennes", Revue biblique 67 (1960), 360-361, nos. 5-6, 575-576, no. 61.
Bulletin épigraphique (2012), 474.