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E03570: Floor-mosaics with Greek inscriptions invoking the help of *Michael (the Archangel, S00181). Found in the northern church at Lower Herodion to the south of Jerusalem and Bethlehem (Roman province of Palaestina I). Probably 6th c.

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posted on 16.08.2017, 00:00 by pnowakowski
Inscription 1:

Rectangular mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata. H. 0.71 m; W. 1.75 m. Letter height 0.035-0.10 m. Irregular lettering. Lining. Set in the floor of the nave, below the east border of the main carpet mosaic.

Κ(ύρι)ε 'Υ(ησοῦ)ς Χ(ριστὸ)ς κὲ ἅγιε Μιχαήλ, πρόσδεξε τὴν καρπο-
φωρίαν τõν δούλον σου τõν τέκνον Ιουλεσα Σα-
φρικα καὶ Ἀναὴλ ἀδελφῶν κὲ τὺς αὐτõν κὲ Σαλα-
έου κὲ τõν τέκνον αὐτοῦ κὲ Ἀβραὰμ κὲ τõν τέκν-
ον αὐτοῦ κὲ Ζανᾶς κὲ Νώνας κὲ Ζανα θυγάτηρ Νόνας

1. Κ(ύρι)ε Ὑ(ιό)ς (?) Di Segni || 1-2. Ιουλεσα Σαφρικα Di Segni, Ἰουλεσας Ἀφρικα Avi Yonah

'O Lord, Jesus Christ, and Saint Michael, accept the offering of Thy servants, the children of Ioulesas, the brothers of Saphrika and Anael and those who are theirs (i.e. members of their households), and of Salaeos and his children, and of Abraam and his children, and of Zana and Nonna, and Zana, daughter of Nonna!'

Text: Di Segni 1990, no. 1. Translation: L. Di Segni, lightly modified.

Inscription 2:

Rectangular mosaic panel framed by a tabula ansata with ivy leaves in ansae. H. 0.65 m; W. 1.50 m. Letter height c. 0.08 m. Irregular lettering. Lining. Set in the floor of the easternmost room annexed to the north aisle.

+ ἅγιε Μιχαήλ, πρόσδε-
ξε τὴν καρποφορίαν
τοῦ δούλου σου Ἀναὴλ +
κ(αὶ) τ(ῶν) διαφερόντον αὐτοῦ
Σαπρίκαν καὶ Μάμαν· ἀμήν

'+ Saint Michael, accept the offering of thy servant Anael + and those of his (i.e. members of his household), Saprika and Mamas! Amen.'

Text: Di Segni 1990, no. 2. Translation: L. Di Segni, lightly modified.

Inscription 3:

Rectangular mosaic panel containing a cross with a Greek inscription written to the right and to the left of its arms. The frame is shaped like a door. H. 1.40 m; W. 1.05 m. Letter height c. 0.07 m. Lining. Set in the floor of the narthex, in front of the entrance to the nave, but facing west. It was, therefore, meant to be read by people leaving the church.

+ αὕτη ἡ πύλη
τοῦ Κ(υρίο)υ εἰ- σελεύ-
σοντε ἐν αὐτῇ
δίκαι- οι +

Κ(ύρι)ε 'Υ(ησοῦ)ς Χ(ριστό)ς, μνήσθητι
τον δο- ύλον σο-
υ Ἀνα- ὴλ καὶ
Σαπρί- κα +

5. Κ(ύρι)ε Ὑ(ιό)ς (?) Di Segni

'+ This is the gate of the Lord, the righteous shall enter into it. O Lord, Jesus Christ, remember Thy servant Anael, and Saprika! +'

Text: Di Segni 1990, no. 3. Translation: L. Di Segni, lightly modified.

History

Evidence ID

E03570

Saint Name

Michael, the Archangel : S00181

Saint Name in Source

Μιχαήλ

Image Caption 1

Inscription 1. From: Netzer, Birger & Peled 1987, 33.

Image Caption 2

Inscription 2. From: Netzer, Birger & Peled 1987, 36.

Image Caption 3

Inscription 3. From: Di Segni 1990, 183.

Image Caption 4

Plan of the church. From: Netzer, Birger & Peled 1987, 33.

Image Caption 5

Overview of the church. From: Netzer, Birger & Peled 1987, 34.

Type of Evidence

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

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

500

Evidence not after

600

Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai Palestine with Sinai Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Jerusalem Bethlehem Herodion

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

Jerusalem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis Bethlehem Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis Herodion 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 Children Other lay individuals/ people

Source

The inscriptions come from the northern basilica at Lower Herodion, the first of three churches found at the site. The churches were built over ruins of a complex of Herodian buildings (including a palace, a fortress, and a mausoleum). The northern basilica lies to the north of the Bethlehem-Tekoa road. It was excavated in 1973 and 1978 by Ehud Netzer and his team, on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the archaeology officer of Judea and Samaria, and the Israel Exploration Society. The church (8.5 m x 13.1 m) had three aisles and a squarish presbyterium, probably with a reliquary slot, flanked by two chambers, and a narthex (1.8 m wide). The south chamber had a basin (probably a baptismal font). Three more rooms were annexed to the north aisle, the easternmost of which could have had an apse. The floors of the church were decorated with geometric motifs with no images of animals or figural depictions. A total of three inscribed mosaic panels were found: below the east border of the carpet mosaic of the nave; in the narthex, in front of the entrance to the nave; and in the east section of the easternmost room annexed to the north aisle. The first proper edition was offered by Leah Di Segni in 1990, but the contents of the inscriptions had been known and cited earlier, and photographs were actually first published in 1987 in a report of the excavations by Ehud Netzer, Rivka Birger, and A. Peled. Inscription 1 was mentioned by Yiannis Meimaris in 1986, and by Michael Avi-Yonah in his corpus of the mosaic pavements of Israel in 1987. Di Segni says that she also had access to a preliminary transcription made by Avi Yonah from a photograph published in The Jerusalem Post. Di Segni's edition was re-published with no changes in 2014, in the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum with comments by Denis Feissel and by Andrew Madden.

Discussion

The inscriptions ask Michael the Archangel, here unusually termed ἅγιος/'holy', 'saint', to accept the offering made to him and God. Inscription 1 mentions several groups of donors. Saphrika (a variant of Saprika) and Anael are introduced as children of Ioulesas. There has been a controversy about the precise forms of their names (Avi Yonah argued that they were actually Aphrika and Anael, children of Ioulesa), but Di Segni's interpretation seems the most plausible. Remarkably, the female name Saphrika appears here before the male name Anael, and it is implied that the woman is the head of her own family/household. The inscription also records one Salaeos with his children, Abraam with his children, and three women, apparently a grandmother (Zana), mother (Nonna), and granddaughter (Zana). Di Segni calls them 'a husbandless family (...) a little dynasty of grandmother, mother, and daughter'. The actual relationship among these groups is not clear, but Di Segni suggests that we have here 'chiefs of families' belonging to the same (Arab/Semitic?) clan, and that the basilica was their private shrine. Inscription 2, set in a separate room, invoked only Michael, on behalf of Anael, probably the person known from Inscription 1. Saprika is interpreted by Di Segni as Anael's wife, rather than his sister from the previous text, and Mamas as his son. Inscription 3 begins with a popular quotation of Psalm 117(118).20, and records Anael and Saprika, according to Di Segni a married couple known from Inscription 2. As no child is mentioned, Di Segni argues that this panel predates that of the north annex. One can, however, wonder, whether Inscription 3 could record the siblings from Inscription 1, as the different spelling of the woman's name (Saphrika vs Saprika) would have been a common phonetic alteration. Dating: Based on similar finds, Di Segni placed the mosaics in the early 6th c. (possibly in the 530s). Alternative interpretations: Di Segni builds an extensive theory on the fact that in Inscription 1 and 3 Christ's abbreviated name is spelt ΚΕ ΥC ΧC, not ΚΕ ΙC ΧC. She suggest that Christ was addressed here as Ὑιός/'son', and that this is a sign of the non-orthodox views of the donors. She considers a number of possibilities, and concludes that the expression 'Christ, the Son' was used by the so-called Gnostic Marcosians (presumably a branch of the Valentinians), as reported by the 2nd c. author Irenaeus. She also notes that 'in Gnostic Jewish-Christian thought the Greek letter Υ was equivalent to the Hebrew waw, episemon of God' (p. 180), and reaches the conclusion that the founders could have been of Jewish-Christian background, and that they could have chosen Michael as the patron saint for the church, due to the Gnostic and Jewish-Christian predilection for angelology. Based on Di Segni's comments on the isopsephical interpretation of the expression Ὑιὸς Χρειστός/'Christ, the son', Stéphane Verhelst offered an extended and very complicated isopsephic interpretation of Inscription 1, referring to a very hypothetical isopsephic system, allegedly attested in Eleutheropolis. Her reasoning was, however, decisively rejected by the editors of the Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum. Both these interpretation unnecessarily argue against the most simple and plausible explanation: that the name of Christ was misspelt, and should be expanded as: Υ(ησοῦ)ς Χ(ριστὸ)ς.

Bibliography

Edition: Di Segni, L., "The Greek inscriptions in the northern and eastern churches at Herodion", in: G.-C. Bottini, L. Di Segni, E. Alliata (eds.), Christian Archaeology in the Holy Land: New Discoveries. Essays in Honour of Virgilio C. Corbo (SBF Collectio Maior 36, Jerusalem: Franciscan Print. Press, 1990), 177-190. Netzer, E., Birger, R., Peled, A., "The churches of Herodium", Qadmoniot 20 (1987), 32-44 [in Hebrew]. Further reading: Di Segni, L., "Expressions of prayer in late antique inscriptions in the provinces of Palaestina and Arabia", in: B. Bitton-Ashkelony, D. Krueger (eds.), Prayer and Worship in Eastern Christianities, 5th to 11th Centuries (London – New York: Routledge, 2017), 66. Madden A.M., Corpus of Byzantine Church Mosaic Pavements in Israel and the Palestinian Territories (Leuven - Walpole, MA: Peeters, 2014), 74-76, no. 94. 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), 43, no. 231; 142, no. 732. Netzer, E., "The Byzantine churches of Herodion", in: G.-C. Bottini, L. Di Segni, E. Alliata (eds.), Christian Archaeology in the Holy Land: New Discoveries. Essays in Honour of Virgilio C. Corbo (SBF Collectio Maior 36, Jerusalem: Franciscan Print. Press, 1990), 166-71. Netzer E., Birger-Calderon R., Feller A. "The churches of Herodium", in: Y. Tsafrir (ed.), Ancient Churches Revealed (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1993), 219–232. Ovadiah, R. & A., Hellenistic, Roman and Early Byzantine Mosaic Pavements in Israel (Rome: "L'Erma" di Bretschneider, 1987), 70, no. 96 and Pl. LXXXII. Verhelst, S., "L'Isopséphie "réduite" à 'Aïn Fattir et l'Hérodion (église-nord): une hypothèse vérifiée", La Revue biblique 104 (1997), 223-236. Reference works: Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 761. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 37, 1489; 40, 1470-1471; 47, 2049. For the site, see also: http://herodium.org/home/

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