+ Φλ. Ἀλα- μνούνδαρος
πανεύφ- ημος πατρίκι(ιος)
καὶ φύλαρχ- ος εὐχαρι[σ]-
τõν τὸν δεσ- πότην θεὼ̣ν
καὶ τὸν ἅγιον Σ[αβι]̣νιανὸν ὑπὲρ
̣σωτηρίας αὐ̣τ[οῦ κ(αὶ) τῶ]ν ἐνδοξ(οτάτων) αὐ̣τ[οῦ]
̣τέκνων τ̣ὸ ̣ἅ[γιον μαρτύριο]ν ἔκτισεν +
5. τὸν ἅγιον Ἰ[ουλ]ιανόν Wetzstein || 7. τ[ὸν πύργο]ν Waddington, Sartre, Shahîd. We follow the text as published by Gatier and do not list all readings suggested by different editors.
'+ Flavios Alamoundaros, patrician of paneuphemos rank, and phylarch, giving thanks to the Lord (despotes) God, and to Saint Sabinianos, as a vow for the salvation of himself and of his most glorious (enoxotatoi) children, built this holy martyr shrine (martyrion). +'
Text: Gatier 2015, 203-204. Translation: P. Nowakowski.
Saint NamePaulus, Tatta, and their sons: Sabinianus, Maximus, Rufus, and Eugenius, martyrs of Damascus : S01422
Saint Name in SourceΣαβινιανός
Image Caption 1Photograph by J. Aliquot. From: Gatier 2015, 203.
Image Caption 2Drawing by C. Vidua. From: Vidua 1828, Tab. XXVII.
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before569
Evidence not after582
Activity not before569
Activity not after582
Place of Evidence - RegionSyria with Phoenicia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcAl-Burj
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Al-Burj
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - unspecified
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesChildren
SourceBasalt block. H. 0.78 m; W. 1.55 m; Th. 0.47 m. Letter height 0.05-0.07 m. The inscription is carved on both sides of a cross in low-relief within a circle.
First recorded by Carolo Vidua, an Italian explorer who travelled in the Levant in 1821, and published by him in 1828. Vidua says that he saw the stone in ruins where sarcophagi and a tower were distinguishable. He offered a poor drawing which became the basis for the edition of the inscription in the Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum and in the series Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinentes. The inscription was revisited by Johann Gottfried Wetzstein, Prussian consul in Damascus and Orientalist, and published by him in 1863/1864. Wetzstein wrote that the stone was reused in a tower, probably built of spolia, and that it was not set over the main gateway. Wetzstein's edition was then used by Waddington 1870, Sartre 1982, and Shahîd 1995. Since 1963 the lintel has been kept in the garden of the National Museum of Damascus (inv. 15113). The editions by Jean-Paul Rey-Coquais (2009) and Pierre-Louis Gatier (2015) are based on re-examination of the stone and a new photograph taken by Julien Aliquot. The condition of the stone has deteriorated since Wetzstein's expedition and some letters he read are no longer legible.
DiscussionThe inscription commemorates the construction of a building dedicated to God and a saint whose name is partially lost, by one Flavios Alamoundaros of paneuphemos rank and patrikios, in gratitude for his own and his children's salvation.
The founder is certainly Al-Mundhir (III), son of al-Ḥārith, and grandson of Jabala, Ghassanid/Jafnid leader from 569 to c. 581, as he was the only person of that name bestowed with the senior rank of paneuphemos and the honorific title patrikios by the Roman authorities in 569/570. In our inscription he, remarkably, uses also the Roman gentile name Flavios.
The middle of the lower part of the inscription is lost, and the name of the saint addressed (which unquestionably ended in ...ianos), as well as the designation of the building have been differently restored. Wetzstein believed that the saint was *Ioulianos, a martyr of Anazarbos in Cilicia (S00305), whose major shrine was located at Antioch and who was popular in the region. However, in the photograph we can see clearly that the name of the saint begins with sigma. Therefore, Gatier suggests that the shrine could have been dedicated to *Sabinianos, martyr of Damascus (S01422), normally venerated together with his parents Paulos and Tatta, and his brothers: Maximos, Rufos, and Eugenios. Gatier adds that a monastery of one Sabinianus was situated to the south of Damascus at Gasimea/Gašimīn, and is mentioned in the letter of the abbots (archimandrites) of Arabia dated 569/570. It is certainly interesting to see that Ghassanid/Jafnid leaders were involved in the cult of martyrs other than *Sergios of Rusafa who was unquestionably the principal beneficiary of their donations.
The lost name of the building was originally restored as πύργος/'tower' by Waddington, and this restoration was accepted by Sartre and Shahîd. But Gatier rightly points out that Waddington based his supposition on the fact that the block was found in a tower, but did not take into consideration that it was probably there as re-used building material. It is, therefore, very unlikely that the commemorated construction refers to this building. Given the preserved contents of the line, the most reasonable assumption is that al-Mundhir founded a martyr shrine (μαρτύριον), probably housing relics of the saint whom he invoked. It is an open question whether we can identify ruins of one of the local churches with that shrine. Gatier rejects the supposition of Hoyland that this could be the 'monastery of the white tower', mentioned in the letter of the archimandrites.
Dating: the date of the lintel must fall within the period when al-Mundhir held the honorific titles of paneuphemos and patrikios, i.e. between 569 and 582.
Gatier, P.-L., "Les Jafnides dans l'épigraphie grecque au VIe siècle", in: D. Genequand, Ch. Robin (eds.), Les Jafnides : des rois arabes au service de Byzance : VIe siècle de l'ère chrétienne: actes du colloque de Paris, 24-25 novembre 2008 (Paris: Éditions De Boccard, 2015), 203-205 (with further bibliography).
Rey-Coquais, J.-P., "Le prince arabe chrétien al-Mundir", in: J.-B., Yon, P.-L. Gatier (eds.), Choix d'inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Guide archéologique de l’IFPO 6, Beirut: Presses de l’IFPO, 2009), 80-81.
Shahîd, I., Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century, vol. 1, part 1: Political and Military History (Washington, D.C: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1995), 495-501.
Sartre, M., Trois études sur l'Arabie romaine et byzantine (Bruxelles: Revue d'études latines, 1982), 182.
Waddington, W.H., Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie (Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, Libraires-Éditeurs, 1870), no. 2562c.
Wetzstein, J.G., "Ausgewählte griechische und latinische Inschriften, gesammelt auf Reisen in den Trachonen und um das Haurangebirge", Philologische und Historische Abhandlungen des königlischen Akademie des Wissenschaften zu Berlin (1863) , 315-316, no. 173.
Inscriptiones Graecae ad Res Romanas Pertinentes III, no. 1095.
Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum, no. 4517.
Vidua, C., Inscriptiones antiquae a comite Carolo Vidua in Turcico itinere collectae (Paris: Lutetiae Parisiorum, 1828), 31-32 and Tab. XXVII.
Bevan, G., Fisher, G., Genequand, D., "The late antique church at Tall al-'Umayrī East: New evidence for the Jafnid family and the cult of St. Sergius in northern Jordan", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 373 (2015), 63.
Bevan, G., Fisher, G., and others "Arabs and Christianity", in: G. Fisher an others, Arabs and Empires before Islam (Oxford: OUP, 2015), 327, 347.
Hoyland, R., "Late Roman Provincia Arabia, monophysite monks and Arab tribes: A problem of centre and periphery", Semitica et classicia 2 (2009), 120.
Shahîd, I., "Ghasan", in: Encyclopédie de l'Islam (2nd ed.), vol. 2 (Leiden: Brill, Paris: G.-P. Maisonneuve & Larose, 1965), 1045.
Piccirillo, M., L'Arabie chrétienne (Paris: , 2002), 209.
Bulletin épigraphique (2015), 688.