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E02964: Floor-mosaic with a fragmentary Greek inscription, possibly referring to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033). Found at Ozem, 15km to the east of Askalon (Roman province of Palaestina I). Probably 5th-6th c.

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posted on 2017-06-10, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Κύριε
Ἰεσοῦ, βοή[θ]-
ισον τῇ δο[ύλῃ]
σου αρκέλ[λᾳ]
ΤΙ̣Ε[- - -]ΝΕ[- - -]
ΑΓ[- - -]
ΑΙΜ[- - -]
ΠΑΡΘ[- - -]

3. Ναρκέλ[λᾳ] mosaic || 4. ΤΙ̣Ε[- - -]Η̣Ε[- - -] or ΤΙΕ or ΤΙΘ and ΗΕ or ΗΘ Ameling || 4-8. [ὅ]|τι ἔ[κτισε]ν (?) ἐ[κλ(ησίαν) (?)] | ἁγ[ία - - - κ]|αὶ Μα[ρίας]| παρθέ[νου] Di Segni, possible restoration of lines 6-8 (by Y. Meimaris): ἁγ(ίας) | ΑΙ(---) Μ(αρίας) | Παρθέ(νου)

'Lord Jesus, help your servant Markella [- - -].'

Text: CIIP 3, no. 2424, lightly adapted with readings by L. Di Segni 2012.

History

Evidence ID

E02964

Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Christ : S00033

Saint Name in Source

Μαρία

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)

Language

  • Greek

Evidence not before

400

Evidence not after

600

Activity not before

400

Activity not after

600

Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Askalon Ozem

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

Askalon Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis Ozem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Prayer/supplication/invocation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women

Source

Round mosaic panel. H. 0.1 m; W. 0.1 m. Set in the floor of the north aisle of a small church. Now in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem. The church was excavated in 1956 by Ram Gofna with permission of the Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums. The excavators found remnants of a three-aisled basilica. Its floor-mosaics were decorated with floral motifs and depictions of animals. A notable element is a mosaic panel showing a cross flanked by the inscription Α Ω Ἰ(ησοῦς) Χ(ριστός) and two animals, arguably identified as lions. The church housed six mosaic inscriptions. Five of them were in the nave, while one (which we discuss here) was embedded in the floor of the north aisle. The mosaics of the nave mention donors, including a monk and a reader/lector, and the date of the completion of the church (CIIP 3, no. 2427), which is sadly lost. Ameling in CIIP did not find a plausible interpretation for the lost passage, and doubted that a year of a local era was mentioned there. Di Segni 2012, 153 argues that one could restore the date as either the year δλ[φ]΄ = 534 or δλ[χ]΄ = 634 of the era of Ascalon, which correspond respectively to AD 430/431 and AD 530/531. The inscription from the north aisle was first published by Yiannis Meimaris in 1986, but his edition contains just a transcription with scarcely any comments. In 1987 the panel was briefly described by Ruth and Asher Ovadiah (with no transcription). A proper edition was offered by Leah Di Segni in 2012 and by Walter Ameling in the third volume of the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae in 2014.

Discussion

The inscription invokes the help of Jesus to a certain Markella, probably one of the donors. Both Meimaris and the Ovadiahs, who discussed this mosaic in the 1980s, assumed that the damaged lines 6-8 contained a reference to Mary, Mother of Christ: ἁγ(ίας) | ΑΙ(---) Μ(αρίας) | Παρθέ(νου)/'Of the Holy (- - -) Mary, the Virgin'. Di Segni (2012, 157) argues that the church was dedicated to two holy entities: the Holy Trinity or Christ, and the Virgin Mary. She suggests several different very hypothetical restorations, e.g. [ὅ]|τι ἔ[κτισε]ν (?) ἐ[κλ(ησίαν) (?)] | ἁγ[ίας Τριάδος κ]|αὶ Μα[ρίας]| παρθέ[νου]/'for she (i.e. Markella) founded [a holy church (?) of the Holy Trinity] and of the Virgin Mary.' Di Segni connects the presumed early date of the construction of the church (AD 430/431) with the possibility that Mary (if it was really her who appeared in lines 5-6) is described here just the 'Virgin'/parthenos and not Theotokos, since she is unlikely to be given that epithet in texts predating the council of Chalceon 431. Ameling rejects Meimaris' (and therefore also Di Segni's) restoration as contradicting the layout of the extant letters and supposes that the final lines could contain a prayer (but this is less convincing than Di Segni's interpretation). Line 6 could mention a person ἐν ἁγίοις/'among saints', which is a funerary formula often seen in inscriptions. Line 7 could contain the term ἀ<ε>ίμνηστος/'ever-remembered' and line 8 παρθ[ένος or ἀ<ε>ι]παρθ[ένος, which could refer to a nun (see E03010). Dating: the church and its mosaics were tentatively dated to the 5th or 6th c. by the excavators. See above for a tentative restoration of the inscription with a dating formula.

Bibliography

Edition: Ameling, W., Ecker, A., Hoyland, R. (eds.), Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae, vol. 3: South Coast, 2161-2648: A Multi-Lingual Corpus of the Inscriptions from Alexander to Muhammad (Berlin - Boston, Massachusetts: De Gruyter, 2014), no. 2424 (with further bibliography). Di Segni, L., "Greek inscriptions in the Church at Ozem in the southern Shephela", in: L.D. Chrupcała (ed.), Christ is here! Studies in Biblical and Christian Archaeology in Memory of Michele Piccirillo, ofm (SBF Collectio Maior 52, Milan: Edizioni Terra Santa, 2012), 153-158. 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), 86, no. 544. Further reading: Feig, N., "A Byzantine church at Ozem", in: L.D. Chrupcała (ed.), Christ is here! Studies in Biblical and Christian Archaeology in Memory of Michele Piccirillo, ofm (SBF Collectio Maior 52, Milan: Edizioni Terra Santa, 2012), 151-152. Feig, N., "A Byzantine church in Oẓem: Its architecture and regional context", in: J. Patrich, O. Peleg-Barkat, E. Ben-Yosef (eds.), Arise, Walk through the Land. Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Land of Israel in Memory of Yizhar Hirschfeld on the Tenth Anniversary of his Demise (Jerusalem: Old City Press, 2016), 265–272. Habas, L., "The mosaic floors of the church at Oẓem", in: J. Patrich, O. Peleg-Barkat, E. Ben-Yosef (eds.), Arise, Walk through the Land. Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Land of Israel in Memory of Yizhar Hirschfeld on the Tenth Anniversary of his Demise (Jerusalem: Old City Press, 2016), 273–290. Ovadiah, R. & A., Hellenistic, Roman and Early Byzantine Mosaic Pavements in Israel (Rome: "L'Erma" di Bretschneider, 1987), 117, no. 199. Reference works: Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 62, 1644.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

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