Saint NameJohn the Baptist : S00020
Saint Name in SourceἸωάννης ὁ Βαπτιστῆς
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Formal inscriptions (stone, mosaic, etc.)
Evidence not before513
Evidence not after513
Activity not before513
Activity not after513
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Palestine with Sinai
Palestine with Sinai
Syria with Phoenicia
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcPaneas
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Paneas
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsVow
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesWomen
SourceThe inscription is carved within a rectangular frame on a basalt ashlar block, closely filling its entire front face. Dimensions: H. 0.56 m; W. 0.71 m; Th. 0.30 m. Letter height 0.03 m. Lining between the lines of letters.
Found during surveys organised by the Israel Antiquities Authority between 1978 and 1988 (the 'Byzantine Expedition' at Golan). First published with a photograph by Robert Gregg in 1996. When recorded, the stone was reused in the base of the central pier of Room 170, in a building within Quarter VIIIE.
DiscussionThe inscription commemorates the construction of a martyr shrine (martyrion) dedicated to John the Baptist.
The founder is a former soldier, Flavios Naamon, of clarissimus rank. The inscription says that he built the shrine as a vow for his and his family's prosperity, possibly also as an act of thanksgiving for completing his service. For an unnamed martyrion, built at nearby Jueîzeh, probably also by a former soldier of the same rank, Flavios Balbion, giving thanks for his advanced age, and probably also protection during service, see: E04470. This Flavios Balbion, was perhaps also involved in the present construction, for it is supposed that our inscription comes from a building in Quarter IIC, where a relief of John, another dedicatory inscription of Favios Balbion, and an inscription with reportedly the same dating formula were found, see: E04523. That building was dubbed a 'martyrion' by the surveyors, even though it is termed hagios topos / 'holy place' in the Balbion inscription. This interpretation was, however, questioned by Leah Di Segni and Moshe Hartal (see below).
Dating: The last line of the inscription contains a date. This was originally read by Gregg as the 4th indiction, the year 688 of an era which he identified as the Seleucid era, and converted as 1 October AD 377 - 30 September 378. He noticed, however, that this date does not match the 4th indiction year which ended in September 377. Therefore, he corrected the indicton year to ε΄ = 5. Based on this date, it has been suggested that relics of John were brought to Ramsâniyye after the destruction of the shrine of John at Sebaste under the emperor Julian (361-363).
Such an early date is, however, unlikely for the construction of precisely a 'martyr' shrine dedicated to John the Baptist, and the Seleucid era was not used in this region. Furthermore, Denis Feissel in his comments in the Bulletin épigraphique doubted that a soldier would have been given the rank of clarissimus before the 6th c. In 2005 Leah Di Segni and Moshe Hartal offered a new dating for the stone. Di Segni examined the last line and argued that the era year was διφ΄ = 514 (not χπη΄ = 688), almost certainly calculated according to the era of nearby Caesarea Philippi/Paneas. If so, this would give us a date of AD 511/512, which is still the 5th, not the 4th indiction. Di Segni suggests that the era year could have been mistaken and the martyrion was built in the year 513 = AD 510/511 (strictly speaking in 511, as the month of Panemos roughly corresponds to June). Fisher 2015, 311 still opts for a date in 377/378.
Having surveyed other objects in the town, Hartal argues that the allegedly dated inscription from the 'martyrion' of Balbion at Ramsâniyye in fact bears no date, and that possible links of our stone with that structure are much less clear than had been suggested by Gregg. See also E04523.
Nonetheless, an early 6th c. date is still possible. The building could be in fact have been constructed under the influence of, or even by, Ghassanid/Jafnid Arabs, as in the 6th c. this region was the heartland of their settlement.
Dauphin, C., Brock, S., Gregg, R., Beeston, A.F.L., "Païens, juifs, judéo-chrétiens, chrétiens et musulmans en Gaulanitide: les inscriptions de Na’arân, Kafr Naffakh, Farj et Ramthâniyye", Proche-Orient Chrétien 46 (1996), no. 25.
Fisher, G., "Arabs and martyria", in: G. Fisher an others, Arabs and Empires before Islam (Oxford: OUP, 2015), 311.
check: Dauphin, C., "Pélerinage ghassanide au sanctuaire byzantin de saint Jean-Baptiste à Er-Ramthaniyye en Gaulanitide", in: E. Dassmann, J. Engemann (eds.), Akten des XII. Internationalen Kongresses für christliche Archäologie (Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum Supplement 20, Münster: Aschendorffsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 1995), 667–673.
Hartal, M., Land of the Ituraeans. Archaeology and History of Northern Golan in the Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Periods (Qazrin: , 2005), 321-322.
Urman, D., Dar, S., Hartal, M., Ayalon, E., Rafid on the Golan. A Profile of a Late Roman and Byzantine Village (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2006), 288.
Bulletin épigraphique (1998), 517.
Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 772.
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 46, 1987; 55, 1719.