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E02845: Wall painting with labelled depictions of three saints, possibly *Ares, Promos, and Elias (Egyptian martyrs of Ascalon, S00196). The identity of Ares was perhaps changed at a later date to that of *Sergios (soldier and martyr of Rusafa, S00023). Found in Caesarea Maritima (Roman province of Palaestina I), close to the site of the presumed 'chapel St. Paul'. Late 6th - early 7th c.

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posted on 2017-05-25, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Wall painting showing three male figures in the posture of orants. The editor arguably identifies their garments as those of bishops. The figures are flanked by two trees and stand among flowers. The scene is enclosed in a red frame. Dimensions of the painting: H. 0.97 m; W. 2.8 m. Thickness of the frame: 0.045 m. The painting is situated on the south wall of vault 11 of the praetorium of Caesarea, in Area CC, to the north of the so-called 'Paul's chapel' (for a description of this, see: $E02853). The function of the room where the painting was foun, is not clear. Based on the saintly character of the decorations, Joseph Patrich suggested that it could have been used for some religious or charitable activities. First published by Tamar Avner in 1999. Later commented on by Leah Di Segni, Joseph Patrich, and Walter Ameling.


The labels are written over the saints' heads and some of them are divided by their nimbi. Those on both sides of the nimbi are in red paint. Above them one can see letters in green paint, probably added in a later phase. Letter height c. 0.05 m.

The labels were originally read and published by Avner together with the first edition of the painting. She read the first saint's name as [+ Ἰωάν]νης/'John' (whom she identified as the Baptist, based on a superimposed green Π, possibly from Πρόδρομος, the 'Forerunner'); the name of the middle figure as [+ ....]μος (and restored the name as Zosimos, Anthimos, or Maximos); and the name of the last character as [+ - - -]ας, probably Elias, based on the superimposed green letters ΗΑΙC.

After a re-examination of the paintings, Leah Di Segni suggested in a letter to the editors of the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum that the red and green labels should be treated separately and that the names of the saints were re-painted. Furthermore, the name of the first figure was apparently changed during this 'restoration'. According to Di Segni the names read as follows:

Presumed first phase:

1(a) Ἀ[ρή]της / Aretes (= Ares)

2(a) [Πρό]μος / Promos

3(a) [Ἠλί]ας / Elias

Presumed second phase:

1(b) Σ[έρ]γης / Sergios

2(b) Π[ρό]μος / Promos

3(b) Ἠλίας {ΑΣ} / Elias

Text: CIIP 2, no. 1165 and SEG 50, 1474.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Arēs, Promos and Ēlias, martyrs in Palestine, ob. 309 : S00196 Sergios, martyr in Syria, ob. 303-311 : S00023

Saint Name in Source

Ἀρήτης, Πρόμος, Ἠλίας Σέργιος

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Wall paintings and mosaics Images and objects


  • 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

Caesarea Maritima

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

Caesarea Maritima Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Use of Images

  • Public display of an image


Ares, Promos, and Elias, who possibly appear here, were Egyptian Christians who, according to the account of Eusebius of Caesarea (see E00390), undertook a journey to Cilicia, to console there Christians condemned to death in the mines. The party was, however, captured in Askalon, and the three protagonists suffered death: Ares was burned alive, while Promos and Elias died by the sword. Other members of the party were severely crippled, and thus are not enumerated by Eusebius, as they merited only the status of 'confessors', not fully fledged martyrs. Di Segni's identification of the saints is considered tempting by Ameling who, however, remains sceptical. Di Segni's theory assumes that the name of the first of the three was, for reasons unknown, spelt 'Aretes' instead of 'Ares' (as transmitted by Eusebius). Possibly the personal names of the three martyrs were not in wide circulation, as they were usually venerated collectively as 'The Egyptians', as documented by the Pilgrim of Piacenza (see E00504); so the name of Ares could have been prone to corruption. Further explanations are offered by Di Segni in the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum (61, 1423). She notes that the form 'Aretes' does appear in the 'Georgian calendar of Jerusalem' which records a feast of the three saints on 14 December (Garritte 1958, 408-409), but actually it is the French translations where the name is spelt 'Aretis' in the genitive, and not the original text, cf. also our E03461 with the Georgian version of the Lectionary of Jerusalem. Di Segni adds that the saint is sometimes omitted in early martyrologies and suggests that 'probably the name was illegible when the restoration occurred in Phase B, and since Aretes had been forgotten the more popular martyr Sergios took his place'. Interestingly, the Georgian calendar in its entry for 14 December associates the feast of the three martyrs with that of *Philemon and Apollonios, martyrs of Antinoopolis in Egypt (S00386), probably added to the original text of the calendar in the Sinai manuscript in red letters. A painting of Saint Philemon was plausibly identified in another room in our complex by Walter Ameling (see E02856). The association of two saints in the calendar perhaps shows that in our case too we are dealing with scenes showing both the group of Aretas and the group of Philemon. Although in Eusebius' text there is no clear link between Caesarea and the Three Egyptian Martyrs, one can probably argue for one. Having been captured in Askalon, they are said to have been taken to the governor Firmilianus who presumably resided in the province's capital, i.e. Caesarea. For a sanctuary of the Three Egyptians in Askalon, as described by the Pilgrim of Piacenza, see E00504, and for a depiction of the shrine on the Mosaic Map of Madaba: E02524. Dating: the painting has been stylistically dated to the late 6th/early 7th c. (Avner associated these figures with images from the Rabbula Gospel, dated 586).


Edition: Ameling, W., Cotton, H.M., Eck, W., and others, Corpus inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad, vol. 2: Caesarea and the Middle Coast 1121-2160 (Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2011), no. 1165. Avner, T., "Early Byzantine Wall-paintings from Caesarea", in: K.G. Holum, A. Raban, J. Patrich (eds.), Caesarea Papers, vol. 2: Herod's Temple, the Provincial Governor's Praetorium and Granaries, the Later Harbor, a Gold Coin Hoard, and Other Studies (Portsmouth: R.I., Journal of Roman Archaeology, 1999), 108-128 and figs. 1-5. New readings by Di Segni will be published in the series J. Patrich (ed.), Archaeological Excavations at Caesarea Maritima Areas CC, KK, NN. Final Reports (or already published in 2008???). Further reading: Irshai, O., "The Dark Side of the Moon: Eusebius of Caesarea between Theological Polemics and Struggles for Prestige", Cathedra 122 (2006), 66. Patrich, J., "", Qadmoniot 35 (2002), 75. Patrich, J., "", in: E. Stern and others (eds.), The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 5 (2008), 1678. For the Georgian calendar of Jerusalem, see Garitte, G. (ed.), Le calendrier palestino-géorgien du Sinaiticus 34 (Xe siècle) (Subsidia hagiographica, 30, Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1958. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2002), 474. Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 712. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 49, 2057; 50, 1474; 61, 1423.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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