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E03512: Greek inscription with a metric epitaph for Nanas, a prophetess (S01735), possibly a Montanist, recording her peculiar intercessory power in lifetime. Found in the Tembris Valley (area of Kotyaion, Phrygia, west central Asia Minor). Probably 3rd-4th c.

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posted on 2017-08-02, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
Νανας Ἑρμογένου
εὐχῆς καὶ λιτανίης [τὸν]
προσευνητὸν ἄνακτα
ὕμνοις καὶ κολακίης
τὸν ἀθάνατον ἐδυσώπι·
(4) εὐχομένη πανήμερον
παννύχιον θεοῦ φόβον
εἶχεν ἀπ’ ἀρχῖς· vacat
ἀνγελικὴν ἐπισκοπὴν
(8) καὶ φωνὴν εἶχε μέγιστον
Νανας ηὐλλογημένη
ἧς κημητήρ[ιον - - -]
ΜΑΕΙΤΟΛΠΗ[- - -] σύ-
(12) νευνον πολὺ φίλτατον ἄν-
δραν ἦλθε μετὰ [ - - -]
ἐπὶ χθονὶ που[λυβοτείρῃ]
νοῦς ἔργον [- - -]
(16) ἀντεποίησε [- - -]
ποθέοντες [- - - ἐτιμ]ήσ-
ατο μέγιστον [- - -]
εἰς ὑπόμνημα [- - -]

4. προσευνητὸν lapis, προσ<κ>υνητὸν Haspels (following Woodward) Tabbernee, προσκυνητὸν Hirschmann, προσευνητὸν = προσαινητὸν or προσκυνητὸν or προσευχητόν Merkelbach & Stauber, προσευνητὸν Poirier || 6. ἐδυσώπι̣ Haspels || 9. ἀρ̣χῖς Haspels || 11. μεγίστον = μεγίστων Merkelbach & Stauber, μέγιτσον Haspels Poirier Hirschmann || 14. ΜΑΕΙΤΟΛΠΗ[- - -] Tabbernee, ΜΑΕΙΤΟ [- - -] Haspels Merkelbach & Stauber || 16. μετ̣[ὰ Haspels || 17. πο̣[υλυβοτείρῃ] Haspels (following Woodward and Ruijgh) || 22. ὑπομνημ̣[α] Haspels

'(Here lies) the prophetess Nanas, daughter of Hermogenes. With prayers and intercessions (she besought) the Lord, who is to be praised; with hymns and adulations she implored the immortal one; praying all day and night long she possessed the fear of God from the beginning. Angelic visitations (or: angelic protection; or: insight into the angelic issues) and speech she had in greatest measure: Nanas, the blessed one, whose 'sleeping place' (i.e. tomb) [- - -] a 'sleeping companion,' the much-loved husband, has gone together with [her - - -] into the all-nourishing earth, a matter [calling for a sad] mind [- - -] he (or: she), in turn, prepared [- - -] Those who long after her have honoured her greatly [- - -] (erecting this stele) as a memorial.'

Text: Tabbernee 1997, no. 68. Translation: W. Tabbernee, lightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Nanas, a prophetess of the Tembris Valley (Phrygia, central Asia Minor) : S01735

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Funerary inscriptions Literary - Poems


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Kotyaion Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Other specified miracle

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Relatives of the saint Heretics Angels Demons


Bluish marble stele. Broken on top, the edges are crumbled away. Preserved dimensions: H. 0.9 m; W. 0.31 m (top), 0.47 m (bottom); Th. 0.16 m. Dimensions of the inscribed field: H. 0.46 m; W. 0.36-0.44 m; letter height 0.015-0.03 m. The stone is deprived of depictions except for a wreath, carved above the inscription. Found at Akoluk in the Tembris Valley, near ancient Kotyaion, in the courtyard of a house, by Emilie Haspels who took a photograph and a copy. First published by Hapsels in 1971 with the assistance of A.M. Woodward, P. Lemerle, and C.J. Ruijgh. The inscription has been extensively commented on by scholars dealing with 'non-orthodox' Christian movements of Anatolia, and with the status of women in ancient Christianity.


The inscription is the epitaph for Nanas, daughter of Hermogenes, styled prophetess (προφήτισσα). The heading is inscribed by a different hand from the rest of the text. Lines 1-12 contain a eulogy for the woman, composed, according to Merkelbach and Stauber, in rhythmical prose with parallelismus membrorum, which resembles the works of Meliton of Sardis. Ruijgh, who commented on the metre in the first edition, described it, on the other hand, as an unusual composition of several metres, deriving from the Aeolic-choriambic family: pherecratean in lines 3-6, choriambic dimeter A in lines 7-8, adonean in line 9. The epitaph says that the deceased woman was an extraordinary person, having access to divine mysteries through angelic visions/visitations (but note, that the phrase ἀνγελικὴ ἐπισκοπή can also be understood as angelic protection). She had the great voice/speech (φωνὴν εἶχε μεγίστον), which implies that she could preach on her visions herself. She was also considered an efficient intercessor. It has been disputed whether Nanas was a Christian (mainstream or Montanist), Jew or a follower of a syncretic movement, and no definite conclusions have been reached. For a recent discussion, see: Poirier 2004; Hirschmann 2004. Here we can say that Nanas was certainly highly esteemed by her community (as we can infer from the latter part of her epitaph, saying that she received a distinguished burial) and seems to have played the role of a local holy woman. Perhaps she resembled the Montanist prophetesses described by Tertullian in De exhortatione castitatis 10 (et visiones vident, et ponentes faciem deorsum etiam voces audiunt manifestas tam salutares quam et occultas / 'they see visions; and, turning their face downward, they even hear manifest voices, as salutary as they are withal secret' – trans. S. Thelwall) and in De anima 9 (est hodie soror apud nos revelationum charismata sortita, quas in ecclesia inter dominica sollemnia per ecstasin in spiritu patitur; conversatur cum angelis, aliquando etiam cum domino, et videt et audit sacramenta et quorundam corda dinoscit et medicinas desiderantibus sumit. / 'We have now amongst us a sister whose lot it has been to be favoured with sundry gifts of revelation, which she experiences in the Spirit by ecstatic vision amidst the sacred rites of the Lord's day in the church: she converses with angels, and sometimes even with the Lord; she both sees and hears mysterious communications; some men's hearts she understands, and to them who are in need she distributes remedies' – trans. P. Holmes). Though Nanas, according to her epitaph, apparently had a husband, it does not speak against her special position in the Christian community, as some Montanist prophetesses were indeed married, still claiming that they were pure virgins.


Edition: Inscriptiones Christianae Graecae database, no. 1635 (see Tabbernee, W. (ed.), Montanist Inscriptions and Testimonia: Epigraphic Sources for Illustrating the History of Montanism (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1997), no. 68. Merkelbach, R., Stauber, J., Steinepigramme aus dem griechischen Osten, vol. 3 (Stuttgart: Teubner, 2001) no. 16/41/15. Haspels, E.C., The Highlands of Phrygia (Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1971), no. 107. Further reading: Destephen, S., Prosopographie du Diocèse d'Asie (325-641) (Prosopographie chrétienne du Bas-Empire 3, Paris: Association des amis du centre d'histoire et civilisation de Byzance, 2008), s.v. Nanas. Hirschmann, V., "Nach Art der Engel – die phrygische Prophetin Nanas’, Epigraphica Anatolica 37 (2004), 160-168. Markschies, Ch., Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen: Prolegomena zu einer Geschichte der antiken christlichen Theologie (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 115-116. Mitchell, S., Anatolia. Land, Men and Gods in Asia Minor, vol. 2: The Rise of the Church (Oxford: Clarnedon Press, 199), 47. Poirier, J., "The Montanist nature of the Nanas inscription (Steinepigramme 16/41/15)", Epigraphica Anatolica 37 (2004), 151-159. Tabbernee, W. (ed.), Montanist Inscriptions and Testimonia: Epigraphic Sources for Illustrating the History of Montanism (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1997), pp. 419-425. Trevett, Ch., "Angelic visitation and speech she had: Nanas of Kotiaeion", [in:] P. Allen, W. Mayer & L. Cross (eds.), Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church, vol. 2 (Everton Park, Queensland: Centre for Early Christian Studies, 1999), 259-277. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (1972), 473 (lines 1-12). Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 43, 943; 58, 1932.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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