Saint NameKosmas and Damianos, brothers, physician martyrs of Syria : S00385
Saint Name in Sourceܡܪ ܕܐܡܝܢـܐ ܘܡܪ ܩܘܙܡـܐ ܒܪܗ
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Inscriptions - Funerary inscriptions
Evidence not before400
Evidence not after700
Activity not before400
Activity not after700
Place of Evidence - RegionSyria with Phoenicia
Syria with Phoenicia
Syria with Phoenicia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcBeroia
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Beroia
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - unspecified
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
SourceStone lintel. Decorated with mouldings and a carving of a cross within a circle, to the right of which the inscription is carved. Dimensions: Line 1: W. 0.66 m; Line 2: W. 0.68 m; Line 3: 0.24 m. Letter height 0.0175 - 0.04 m.
Recorded by the Princeton Archaeological Expedition to Syria: in situ, in a wall of a small, partly buried, building, probably 'over the entrance to the second storey of a colonnade'. First published by Enno Littmann in 1934.
DiscussionThe inscription is somewhat puzzling. It refers to two deceased people: a certain mār Damianos, and mār Kosmas introduced as a son of the former.
Enno Littmann, the editor, suggested two interpretations. His first impression was that the two men may have been Saints *Kosmas and Damianos, the physicians and martyrs of Syria. The Greek tradition presents them as brothers, which is in contrast with our inscription, where the two characters are father and son, but Littmann pointed out that in the Syriac version of their Life, presumed to have been earlier than the Greek accounts, the kinship of the holy couple was not defined. Furthermore, the Syriac version does not describe them as martyrs, and our inscription too may suggest a peaceful death of the two. Littmann concludes that the author of the inscription 'may have been a physician and invoked the help of the physician saints'.
Littmann admits, however, that he had consulted the text with Hans Lietzmann, who was sceptical about the identification of the people mentioned as saints. In his opinion, the inscription is a funerary one, commemorating an ordinary man called Damianos, and his son Kosmas (both presumably named after the saints). Lietzmann suggested that they bore the title mār, because they were monks. This alternative interpretation was included in his comments by Littmann. He, however, rightly noted that the presence of this kind of a funerary inscription on a building sited next to the centre of the village, would be difficult to explain.
In our opinion, as yet there is no easy answer to the above controversy, a problem compounded by the fact that we cannot be certain about the reliability of Littmann's reading of this text (e.g. the drawing shows the form ܡܪܝ/'my lord', an epithet often given to saints, rather than just ܡܪ/'lord', argued by Littmann, etc.). See also the comments on a Greek inscription found in the same town: E01797. On balance, even if the inscription was in situ (and therefore on a building in the middle of the village), then it need not refer to Saints Kosmas and Damianos. It may merely record the dedication of a religious structure as a vow for their repose.
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. 61.