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E03129: Floor-mosaics with Greek inscriptions from a monastery sited c. 10 km to the south of Gaza at modern Umm el-'Amr (possibly ancient Thabatha, Roman province of Palaestina I), invoking the intercession of *Hilarion (anchorite in Palestine and Cyprus, ob. 371, S00099). The site was implausibly argued to have been the tomb of Hilarion. Probably 5th c.

online resource
posted on 2017-06-27, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

Rectangular mosaic panel set in the floor of the nave, in front of the chancel screen of the 'first church' (phase 6a). Dimensions not specified.

εὐχες καὶ πρεσβί-
ες τοῦ ἁγίου πα-
τρὸς ἡμῶν
Ἱλαρίωνος ἐλεη-
θῶμεν, ἀμήν

'Through the prayers and intercessions of our holy father Hilarion may we receive mercy. Amen.'

For a very similar formula, see E01029.

Inscription 2:

Octagonal medallion set in the middle of the floor of the nave of the 'first church' (phase 6a). Dimensions not specified.

μνήσθητι, Κ(ύρι)ε,
τοῦ δούλου σου
Νεστορίου τοῦ
σχολαστικοῦ με-
τὰ πάντος τοῦ
οἴκου αὐτοῦ.

'+ Remember, Lord, your servant Nestorios, the lawyer (scholastikos), with all his household! Amen.'

Inscription 3:

A mosaic panel set at the west end of the chancel of the 'second church' (phase 5). There is no published transcription or photograph.

'Anastasios, the most holy...' (after a French translation published by Elter and Hassoune)

Text: CIIP 3, nos. 2531-2533. Translations: W. Ameling, lightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Hilarion, anachorite in Palestine and Cyprus (ob. 371) : S00099

Saint Name in Source


Image Caption 1

Inscription 1. From: Elter & Hassoune 2004, 368.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 2. From: CIIP 3, 527.

Image Caption 3

The crypt. From: Elter & Hassoune 2004, 367.

Image Caption 4

Plan of the original building. From: Elter & Hassoune 2004, 367.

Image Caption 5

Plan of the 'first church'. From: Elter & Hassoune 2004, 369.

Image Caption 6

Plan of the 'second church' (phase 5a). From: Elter & Hassoune 2004, 373.

Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.) Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea) Archaeological and architectural - Internal cult fixtures (crypts, ciboria, etc.)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Gaza Umm el-'Amr (ancient Thabatha?)

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

Gaza Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis Umm el-'Amr (ancient Thabatha?) Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Construction of cult buildings

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives



The inscriptions come from a monastery situated c. 10 km to the south of Gaza, and excavated in 1997-2002 by Yasser Matar and his team on behalf of the Service of Antiquities of Gaza. The three floor-mosaic panels with Greek inscriptions were found there in a rectangular building later transformed to an apsed church, located in the centre of the complex. Considering the stratigraphy of the site, René Elter and Ayman Hassoune, who published the results of the excavations, distinguish eight subsequent phases in the history of the structure and three major refurbishments ('three churches'). According to René Elter and Ayman Hassoune, the building was originally a rectangle measuring 12 m x 16.5 m. Its character is not clear, almost certainly it was not a church. Elter and Hassoune speculate that it could be Hilarion's monastery. The foundations of the building and the crypt belong to level 7. At some point the structure was re-shaped to a church (11.6 m x 16.5 m), extended to the east with an apse (1.5 m), and the choir was arranged immediately to the east of a subterranean vaulted crypt (phases 6b and 6a). This refurbishment is said to have taken place after the presumed translation of the body of Hilarion, and the conversion of his original cell into his tomb (the crypt). The floor mosaics belong to the later phase of the existence of this 'first church' (6a). Our Inscription 1 lies at the east end of the nave, in front of the chancel screen, near the crypt, and Inscription 2 is situated in the middle of the nave. Inscription 3 belongs to phase 5 (the 'second church') and is situated at the west end of the chancel. It was probably meant to replace Inscription 1 after the major refurbishment of the building. The mosaic inscriptions were first published in 2004 by René Elter and Ayman Hassoune in photographs, and with French translations by Catherine Saliou, the epigraphist of the mission. Based on them, transcriptions were offered by the editors of Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum. In 2005 René Elter and Ayman Hassoune revisited the evidence in a chapter of Catherine Saliou's book on Gaza. A new edition in the third volume of the Corpus Inscriptionum Iudaeae/Palaestinae (2014) is still based on the formerly published photographs and transcriptions. The editor, Walter Ameling, had no access to any image of the third panel, a fragmentary translation of which is given by Elter and Hassoune.


René Elter and Ayman Hassoune base the chronology of the structure on the style and the lettering of floor-mosaics of the 'first church' (levels 6 a and 6b) which, they say, cannot postdate the 5th c. Consequently, the earlier rectangular building and the crypt must be late 4th or early 5th c. Such an early date and the alleged connection of Inscription 1 invoking the intercession of Saint Hillarion with the nearby crypt, led them to the conclusion that the site must have been the Palestinian tomb of Hilarion mentioned by Jerome. According to Jerome's account, Hilarion was originally buried in Cyprus in 371, but after ten months his body was stolen and brought to Maiumas, Gaza's port, by one Hesychios, and buried in an 'ancient monastery'/in antiquo monasterio (E00694). The citizens of Gaza desired Hilarion's body as he spent most of his life there, and left the city at the end of his life only to avoid post mortem veneration. Elter and Hassoune argued that the crypt the excavators had found was actually built under the cell of Hilarion, described in another passage by Jerome as a cellula '4 feet long and 5 feet wide' (EXXXXX: extructa deinceps brevi cellula, quae usque hodie permanet. latitudine pedum quattuor, altitudine pedum quinque, hoc est statura sua humiliore, porro longitudine paulo ampliore quam eius corpus patiebatur, ut sepulcrum potius quam domum crederes). Elter's and Hassoune's interpretation was challenged by Leah Di Segni. She argued that Jerome's description was too vague to be used as a basis to identify our site with that of the tomb of Hilarion. In her opinion Jerome used the term monasterium in the meaning 'cell' (as he does in the Life of Paul), and the cellula where Hilarion's body was allegedly deposited, denotes almost certainly a ground-level structure, not a crypt. Furthermore, the crypt and Inscription 1 are not directly connected: the panel is set in the place usually reserved for the mosaic mentioning the patron saint of the church. The crypt probably housed the body of a donor or important ecclesiastics who served at that shrine. Di Segni's doubts are shared by Walter Ameling who points out that the tomb of Hilarion was probably located somewhere else, at or near Maiumas (as specified by Jerome). The pilgrim of Piacenza says that the distance between Gaza and the resting-place of Hilarion was about 2 miles (E00506). On the other hand, the tomb of Hilarion is depicted on the Mosaic Map of Madaba (E02524, entry no. 13) close to the city of Rafah (our site, Umm el-'Amr, is sited midway between Gaza and Rafah). Despite the rather implausible identification of our site with the tomb of Hilarion, we must, however, stress that Inscription 1 is clearly a sign of local devotion to the saint. It probably commemorates the construction of a church dedicated to him. Di Segni and Ameling probably rightly suggest that our site can be possibly identified with a church of Hilarion at Thabatha, which is attested in the mid-5th c. by the Life of Peter the Iberian (EXXXXX).


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), nos. 2531 and 2533 (with further bibliography). Elter R., Hassoune, A., "", in: C. Saliou (ed.), Gaza dans l’Antiquité Tardive. Archéologie, rhétorique et histoire. Actes du colloque international de Poitiers (6-7 mai 2004) (Salerno: , 2005), 13-40. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 54, 1657 (transcriptions). Elter R., Hassoune, A., "Le monastère de Saint-Hilarion à Umm-el-'Amr (bande de Gaza) (note d'information)", Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (2004) 359-382 (photographs with no transcriptions). Further reading: Di Segni, L., "[Review:] Late-antique Gaza: Hilarion, Choricius, giraffes, mimes and ecphrasis - SALIOUCATHERINE (édité par), GAZA DANS L'ANTIQUITÉ TARDIVE. ARCHÉOLOGIE, RHÉTORIQUE ET HISTOIRE. ACTES DU COLLOQUE INTERNATIONAL DE POITIERS (6-7 mai 2004) (Cardo 2, Études et Textes pour l'Identité Culturelle de l'Antiquité Tardive; Helios editrice, Salerno, 2005). Pp. xvi + 239, figs. ISBN 88-88123-09-1.", The Journal of Roman Archaeology 20 (2007), 647-650. Elter, R., Hassoune, A., "Un exemple de continuité entre les IVe et VIIIe siècles : les cas du monastère de Saint Hilarion à Tell Umm el-'Amr", in: A. Borrut, M. Debié, A. Papaconstantinou, D. Pieri, J.-P. Sodini (eds.), Le Proche-Orient de Justinien aux Abassides : peuplement et dynamiques spatiales : actes du colloque "Continuités de l'occupation entre les périodes byzantine et abbasside au Proche-Orient, VIIe-IXe siècles," Paris, 18-20 octobre 2007 (Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité tardive 19, Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), 187-204. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2006), 476; (2008), 567; (2014), 516.

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