Saint NamePhokas, martyr of Antioch : S00413
Saint Name in Sourceܡܪܝ ܦܘܩـܐ
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)
Evidence not before491
Evidence not after496
Activity not before491
Activity not after496
Place of Evidence - RegionSyria with Phoenicia
Syria with Phoenicia
Syria with Phoenicia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcBasufan
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Basufan
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsConstruction of cult buildings
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
SourceCarved on a raised stone plaque, shaped as a tabula ansata (H. 0.38 m; W. 0.81 m), built into the outer south wall of the church at Basufan, between two arched windows and two doorways. The moulding at the left-hand end of the block forms part of the adjacent window, so it is clearly in situ, although, curiously, the text is set out at a right-angle to the block. Letter height: line 1-13: 0.03-0.05 m; lines 14-15: 0.025-0.04 m.
The church is a three-aisled basilica (24 m x 15.4 m) with an apse flanked by two chambers. The shrine is of considerable importance, as it is believed to have been built on the plan of Qalaat Semaan, the sanctuary after which other churches in Jabal Semaan were modelled. Therefore, the date offered by our inscription is considered a terminus ante quem for Qalaat Semaan.
The inscription was first published by Henri Pognon in 1907. Re-visited by the Princeton Archaeological Expedition to Syria and re-published by Enno Littmann in 1934. We reprint the text as published by Littmann, for the slightly different readings of Pognon, see his edition and the comments by Littmann.
DiscussionThe inscription commemorates two phases of the construction of the church, and says that it was dedicated to Saint Phokas, probably the martyr of Antioch. The church is termed here ܐܬܪܐ/'place' which is a counterpart of Greek τόπος, a frequently used denotation of Christian sanctuaries.
Based on a reference to the 'fellows' in line 14, Littmann suggests that the church belonged to a monastery, and points out that a monastery of Phokas is attested in AD 567 at Dārōsjāpā, probably identical with modern el-Buwētāt in Jabal Semaan, by the subscription of an abbot in a Syriac manuscript (see Littmann 1922, 182 and EXXXX).
Dating: The inscription gives two dates computed according to the era of Antioch. The first date, the beginning of the construction, is the year 540 (= AD 491/492). The other, the completion of the church, is the year 544 (= AD 495/496).
Littmann, E., Publications of the Princeton University Archaeological Expeditions to Syria in 1904-5 and 1909, division IV: Semitic Inscriptions, Section B: Syriac Inscriptions (Leiden: Brill, 1934), no. 50.
Pognon, H., Inscriptions sémitiques de la Syrie, de la Mésopotamie et de la région de Mossoul (Paris: Imprimerie nationale; Librairie V. Lecoffre, J. Gabalda, 1907), 60-61.
Littmann, E., "Zur Topographie der Antiochene und Apamene", Zeitschrift für Semitistik und verwandte Gebiete 1 (1922), 182.