Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity 2004

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Section VIII: Christian prayers and invocations

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Document Contents
Temple-Church: Prayers
Bishop's Palace: prayers
Theatre: prayers
City Walls: prayers
Theatre Baths: prayers
Prayers: no location
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Inscriptions in this section

113 | 114 | 115 | 116 | 117 | 118 | 119 | 120 | 121 | 122 | 123 | 124 | 125 | 126 | 127 | 241 | 128 | 129 | 130 | 131 | 132 | 133 | 134 | 135 | 136 | 139 | 140 | 141 | 142 | 143 | 144 | 145 | 146 | 247

[Republished elsewhere: 137.i republished as PPA 46.D.13 , 137.ii republished as PPA 46.D.16 , 137.iii republished as PPA 46.E.2 , 137.iv republished as PPA 46.E.26 , 137.v republished as PPA 46.G.8 , 138 republished as PPA 46.X.15]

VIII.1 The texts published here are largely those which appear to be 'private' Christian inscriptions cut informally by individuals, although 113-16, 139 and 140 may perhaps have a more 'public' character. Texts 113-116 present a prayer described as εὐχή, a word which can mean both prayer and vow; in pagan and Christian inscriptions it most commonly describes the dedication of some votive offering. The use of the nominative is uncommon in pagan texts;1  this, and the phrase ὑπὲρ εὐχῆς are the regular usages of the word in Jewish and Christian inscriptions.2  These texts should, therefore, all be taken as recording some kind of votive offering; none appears to have been inscribed on a significant object, and the offering was presumably, therefore, a donation to the building within which each inscription originally stood. The inscriptions do not, however, appear to be incorporated within an architectural ensemble, as do the texts described above as donors' inscriptions (section VII). Texts 113 and 114, both in the Temple-Church, probably record donations to the church: 114 can perhaps be associated with work on the column under which it is inscribed, but 113, although prominent, seems arbitrarily placed, with no relationship to the general decoration of the church. 115 and 116 have no context, but both are apparently cut on ordinary blocks of masonry (unless the holes cut in 115 are original — see below). It appears, therefore, that such texts cannot be included among the public building inscriptions — those incorporated in the architectural features of a building, as are 92—110 --or among the private prayers and invocations cut informally in the Temple-Church and elsewhere (117—146). It is most likely that they record donations to the buildings in which they stood, but that the inscribing of the text was ordered by the donor himself, and was probably seen as itself forming part of the votive offering.

VIII.2 116 is perhaps the earliest of these texts, and is not certainly Christian. The script suggests a date in the fourth or fifth century. Damochares is a name otherwise attested at Aphrodisias (VI.3, IX.26), and this man may well have been a local citizen: his post of cursor, messenger, was probably on the staff of the governor of Caria.3  He probably assumed the nomen, Flavius, as a mark of official standing; this usage is definitely attested of a cursor by the fifth century.4  The simple formula, εὐχή with a genitive, is very unlikely to be pagan, but in view of the absence of any Christian motif, it could possibly be Jewish; the area where it was excavated has produced Jewish material as well as architectural elements apparently from a Christian church.

VIII.3 Asterius' inscription, 113, should probably be dated to the late fifth or early sixth century; it was presumably not cut until the Temple had been converted to a church — it may record a donation associated with the conversion. In my previous publication I argued that the erasure of the crosses was evidence of continuing pagan activity: but it could of course date from the Turkish period, since the wall seems always to have been exposed. Asterius gives his profession as pandouros, player of the lute, πανδοῦρα, an instrument which became increasingly popular during the Roman period.5  The profession is among those listed by K. Mentzou, quoting, most revealingly, the life of St Theodoulos the Stylite; when God is testing the saint, he tells him that he will inherit the Kingdom with Cornelius the pandouros from the city of Damascus.6  Theodoulos is horrified at being associated with a man from the theatre, τοῦ ἀπὸ σκήνης; and he is even more horrified when he goes to Damascus and finds Cornelius at the Hippodrome, holding his instrument with one hand, and with the other, a bareheaded prostitute. Cornelius had probably been providing entertainment in the intervals between races.7  The idea that playing the pandoura is disreputable is confirmed by the behaviour of St Symeon Salos, when he picks one up in a tavern and goes to play it in the street.8 

VIII.4 Against this background it is remarkable that, as well as the pious inscriptions of Asterius, we have two Christian epitaphs of pandoura-players: a pandouros at Seleuceia-ad-Calycadnum in Cilicia and a pandouristes at Gerasa.9  This seems to suggest that the profession was not in practice seen as so incompatible with Christianity as the story of Theodoulos would imply. It is, however, worth asking whether these Christian pandoura-players were perhaps not so much involved in the sinful world of public entertainments as in providing music for church functions; such an explanation would fit better with their naming of their profession in specifically Christian contexts. There was considerable debate during the early Byzantine period as to whether instruments should be used at church services, and it appears likely that they sometimes were.10  If this interpretation is correct, then Asterius and the other pandoura players may be describing themselves in terms of their ecclesiastical functions, and may have had nothing to do with performing in taverns or at public entertainments.

VIII.5 Text 114 is not easy to construe; it appears to record the prayer of Theodore, who is described by his relationship to a deaconess. A second interpretation, that this is the prayer of a woman whose ecclesiastical position is described but whose name is written after that of her male relative (husband or father), seems less likely. A third possibility is that the deaconess's name was Theodoru . . . ete: but I have not been able to identify any such name. The office of deaconess is widely attested, especially in the eastern church.11  The epithet used of the deaconess, and in 115 of the lector Theodore, εὐλαβέστατος, is regularly employed by church officials from the mid-fifth century;12  it is also a term of praise regularly applied to women.13 

VIII.6 Both 114 and 115 are in an unemphatic script, which would fit a fifth- or sixth-century date, but which continues to be found well into the middle Byzantine period. 115 is probably also from a church. The holes in the stone, although probably from later reuse, do not impinge on the inscription, and may have been intended to hold a votive object dedicated by Theodore. Theodore has the soubriquet Bell, κώδων, which suggests a loud clear voice very appropriate to his function as chief lector; his patronymic probably came at the beginning of line 2. Readers, lectores, were one of the most widespread of the minor orders of clergy.14  The title of πρωταναγνώστης, first reader, is also found in an inscription at Sardis, and the editors suggest that it should imply the existence of a particularly large church staff.15  It has since been found again, however, at the relatively obscure site of Malos in Phrygia;16  so perhaps it indicates, not a large ecclesiastical establishment, but simply the late Roman and Byzantine tendency towards hierarchical organization even within small groups. Theodore's other office of superintendent is also used of ecclesiastical officials at Hierapolis and Gerasa;17  it is not clear exactly what responsibilities are involved.

Temple-Church: Prayers

VIII.7 The majority of the texts in this section, nos. 117-133, come, not surprisingly, from the Temple-Church. It is indicative of the different functions of temple and church that there are no clearly identifiable pre-Christian graffiti from the Temple (although 126 and 128 may be pre-Christian), and that pagan temples do not generally have many private graffiti in their interior, since the public had only limited access to them. Congregational Christian worship, however, provided ample opportunities for inscribing prayers and other graffiti within churches: the graffiti of St Sophia in Constantinople are the most notable example of this practice.

VIII.8 The texts presented as 117 and 118 are grouped around two elegant crosses sculpted on each of the doorposts of the main west door into the atrium of the Temple-Church. The crosses themselves were probably part of the official Christian decoration of the church. The inscriptions, however, appear to be private prayers and invocations by individuals, except perhaps for 118. ii. This invocation of the Ascension — for which I have found no parallel — appears closely associated with the sculpted cross, and so should perhaps be seen as an official, rather than a private, inscription. Theophilus in 117.i appears to be proud of his profession as a butcher; for evidence of the existence of a guild of butchers, see PPA 46.J.13.

VIII.9 Several very informal texts were cut on elements in the atrium — 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124. They fragments vary in the care with which they have been inscribed; 123 may be a fragment from a formal inscription — perhaps the end of a name. 119 appears not to have been completed. In 120 the stone is complete at the right: it seems most likely that the writer intended ὑποδς for ὑποδιάκονος, but did not allow enough space.18 

VIII.10 There are other, less intelligible graffiti in the atrium and narthex of the Temple-Church; there are two lines of writing, preceded by a cross, on a block at the north end of the wall between the narthex and the church, of which I have been able to decipher only a few letters.19  In the entrance from the narthex to the south aisle, the inner face of the southern door-post is covered with an abundance of tiny letters cut with a very fine tool, together with an ornamental design apparently drawn with calipers; the stone is badly weathered, and I have been unable to extract anything comprehensible.20 

VIII.11 Inscriptions 125-133 come from the area of the main church. 126, 127, 128 and 241 are written on the bases of the columns in the north and south aisles, as was 115. 126 and 128 are not certainly Christian; the builders in 128, under the supervision of a man whose name is lost, might have worked on the building, and recorded their presence there at any time in its history. But by far the majority of the graffiti and apparently informal inscriptions found in the Temple-Church are identifiably Christian. In the north aisle, nos. 125, 126, 127 and 241 are all written on the upper face of the plinth.

VIII.12 The inscriptions recorded as 129 seem to have a semi-official character; the stone on which they were inscribed was probably the door-post of an entrance in the south wall of the church, and the inscriptions are therefore comparable with those at the west door, 117 and 118. The first text, 129.i, is a dodecasyllabic verse closely paralleled in a poem inscribed on a column by the entrance to the south aisle of the Basilica of St John at Ephesus: φόβῳ πρόσελθε πύλην τοῦ Θεολόγου;21  this text, and others like it were carefully analysed by Clive Foss, who showed that the language suggests a date in the early ninth century.22  129.ii is a common Christian formula, which appears again at 134.vi (see VIII.14). 129.iii is an elaborate version of a standard Christian prayer formula (compare 134.i).

VIII.13 Of the other texts presented here, most seem simply to record names, although some take the form of simple prayers. 132 and 133 are fragments from balustrades of some kind, with a very large number of small graffiti cut on the upper face. These names and prayers may have been cut here either because the balustrades surrounded areas of particular sanctity, or rather because they were particularly easily accessible, standing probably at waist height. Similarly, there are enormous numbers of graffiti of all periods cut on the upper edges of the balcony parapets in St Sophia at Constantinople. In some of these texts the name Michael, which appears frequently, is perhaps not a worshipper's name, but an invocation of the archangel, the patron saint of this church (see VII.7).

Bishop's Palace: prayers

VIII.14 The texts in 134 are apparently all 'private', either names or private prayers. For the common Christian formula at 134.i, in which the supplicant describes himself as a sinner, ἁμαρτωλός, compare 129. iii. The acclamation Jesus Christ is victorious expressed schematically in 134.vi, is also found in the Temple-Church (129.ii), and a variant is discussed below (139.ii). This phrase, modelled on secular acclamations of victory, is found very widely, with some variations, and is usually set out in this way.23  The presence of all these prayers and invocations suggests that this column originally stood in a consecrated building — perhaps a private chapel within the 'Bishop's Palace' complex where it was found. This complex, which lies just west of the Odeon/ Bouleuterion, and is characterized by a large triconch reception hall, was apparently an important residence in late antiquity, which fell out of use in the late seventh century; it was later redeveloped apparently as the palace of the bishop, when it seems to have included a chapel.24 

Theatre: prayers

VIII.15 There are several Christian prayers and invocations in the Theatre (see plan). 135 was cut on the stage buildings, among graffiti of other kinds. 136 is on a block found in the theatre, but not necessarily from there. It is reasonable to assume that these prayers were carved while the Theatre was still in use, among the many other graffiti found there. That is certainly true of the Christian prayers cut on the seats of the Theatre. Those were originally published as Aphrodisias in Late Antiquity 137 and 138; they were republished with the remainder of the theatre seat inscriptions in PPA and have not been included here:

ALAPPA 137.i46.D.13 137.ii46.D.16 137.iii46.E.2 137.iv46.E.26 137.v46.G.8 13846.X.15

In the sixth century the buildings on the stage were adapted, and a small shrine seems to have been established, decorated with frescoes and archangels;25  but there is no reason to associate any of these prayers with that development, although they must be dated before the early seventh century, when the theatre suffered considerable damage, apparently in an earthquake, and fell out of use.26 

City Walls: prayers

VIII.16 Texts 139, 140 and 141 were found in the city walls (see plan). It is by no means certain that all these texts were inscribed in their present positions in the walls; but those recorded as 139 certainly were. Since they were positioned in the entrance to the small passageway beside the main arch of the East Gate, they were probably prophylactic Christian invocations intended to contribute to the defences of the city. It is therefore very likely that they were cut at the same time as the name Stauropolis was inserted in the inscription over the North East gate, probably in the first half of the seventh century; the prophylactic intentions of that change have been discussed (at VI.49).27  The two texts here record two traditional types of Christian acclamation/ invocation. Φῶς, Ζωή is found again at Aphrodisias (144) and widely elsewhere.28  It is not unusual for this acclamation to be arranged round a cross.29  Χριστὲ νίκα is a variant in the abundant and widespread tradition of nika inscriptions. Alan Cameron showed that while both νίκα (imperative) and νικᾷ (third person present indicative) can be identified in such texts νικᾷ is the more common form.30  Since all the other nika inscriptions found at Aphrodisias have the present indicative (see Index 5, s.v.), the imperative here has special force, making the sentiment particularly appropriate for a prophylactic inscription.

VIII.17 140 is inscribed on a damaged block. It is quite possible that the inscription originally stood elsewhere, and was re-used in building the wall because it had been damaged in its original position. But the text is in large letters, legible from the ground, and it may have been intended for its present position. The phrase εἷς θεός is also found at Aphrodisias in the initial acclamation of the series honouring Albinus (83. i), where its function is to assert right belief (see VII.xx), in this text, however, it is being used as an invocation, apparently with the protective function assigned to it by Peterson in his study of the formula (Peterson cites this text, from Grégoire, 78 no. 3). The standard phrase is here reinforced by ὁ μονός.31  If the stone was inscribed and then re-used in the original construction of the city wall, this inscription cannot be later than the first half of the fourth century, an acceptable date for the use of this formula. If, on the other hand, it was inscribed in its present position, this was presumably done at the time of the building of the walls, and the man for whom the prayer is made must have been involved in their construction. It is possible that the man prayed for is in fact Flavius Constantius (see List of Governors), the governor whose responsibility for building the walls, probably in the 360s, is recorded in the inscription over the North East gate (22), only a few hundred yards away from this text (see plan). There his name is spelt Κωστάντιον with the first nu omitted, as here in Κωστάντεν. The name here seems to have been compressed by a stone-cutter who had misjudged the space available: it perhaps stands for Κωνστάντιον rather than Κωνσταντεῖνον. If so, then this inscription records, not a private prayer, but a public acclamation of the builder of the walls.

VIII.18 It is not possible to determine the exact purpose of 141. Texier suggested, for ll. 2-3, κὲ νίκα κὲ αὔριον κὲ πιστεύσω an interpretation accepted, with considerable reservations, by subsequent editors. Texier is not a particularly reliable authority for inscriptions, and it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions from this copy; but proper names would be more in keeping with this kind of text. ΝΙΑ might conceal one, and the last line should perhaps read κὲ Αὐρελι πιστευτῷ, or some other turn of phrase with πιστός (see Peterson, 334). In this case God (reading Θεέ with Grégoire, rather than the Θεοτόκε of the other editors) is asked to help the world (Grégoire compares IGLS 537 βωήθισον τοῦ κόσμου) and also a number of individuals. Σέμερον is odd, but not impossible; but perhaps it too conceals a name.

Theatre Baths: prayers

VIII.19 142 and 143 were inscribed in a completely secular location — the portico to the east of the Theatre baths, where other graffiti of the Christian period have been found (191, 192, and 193: see plan). Perhaps it was to provide an appropriate context for his prayer that the suppliant in 142, who may have run one of the little shops which apparently occupied this colonnade in the later period, included the representation of a Christian shrine drawn in remarkable detail. A similar design, although drawn with less detail, has been found accompanying a prayer at Ephesus (I.Eph. 1367). The phrase invoking God who is above the heavens, evokes the language of the Psalms, without being a direct quotation: thus ἡ μεγαλοπρέπειά σοῦ ὑπεράνω τῶν οὐρανῶν (Ps. 8. 1); μέγα ἐπάνω τῶν οὐράνων τὸ ἔλεός σου (107. 4); ὁ δὲ θεὸς ἡμῶν ἐν τῷ οὐράνῳ καὶ ἐν τῇ γῇ (113. II). I have been unable to find any parallels for the names of the suppliant, insofar as I have been able to decipher them; the second epithet, although presented as 'also' (so, normally, for a second name) may in fact be his profession, as a barber (compare 191, in the same portico). The formula in 143, proclaiming the victory of the cross, is widely paralleled.32 

Prayers: no location

VIII.20 For the invocation Φῶς, Ζωή in 144, see VIII.16. The abbreviation ΧΜΓ in 144,145 and 254 recurs in 187. It is widely found in Christian inscriptions and papyri between the fourth and the seventh centuries, with a few examples apparently as early as the late third century.33  The proper resolution of the abbreviation has been hotly debated. Tjäder favours the resolution Χριστὸν Μαρία γεννᾷ Mary bore Christ, as did L. Robert.34  This interpretation appears to be supported by an inscription from Bulgaria, Μαρία Χριστὸν γενᾷ; 35  it appears, however, to be contradicted by a text from Sinai, Κύριε Ἰεσοῦ Μαρίᾳ γεννηθείς published by B. Lifschitz.36  Lifschitz claimed 'l'interprétation du savant suédois a été ébranlée, sinon détruite' by this discovery; but this appears too extravagant a claim. It seems better to take these discrepancies as indicating that this widely used signum was variously understood during the long period of its use.37  What does appear to be established is that it was generally understood as an assertion of Mary's motherhood of Christ, and therefore will have acquired increasing force and relevance during the theological debates of the fourth and fifth centuries.

VIII.21 What is not clear is the function of these inscriptions in these locations. 144 does not appear to be associated with the text on the face of the block on which it was found, 36. This block, which was a base for a statue of Anthemius, the Praetorian Prefect between 405 and 414, appears to have been re-used in the front wall of a new collecting-pool in the middle years of the fifth century; see discussion at IV.4. It is impossible to say at which stage this text was cut. 145 and 254 are each inscribed on the very top of a statue head, on the hair, and can have been cut only before the statue was put up or after it had collapsed; since the inscription is quite carefully cut, the former is more likely. It seems therefore easiest to interpret them as invocations by the sculptors, perhaps for God's blessing on their work; it does not seem necessary to assume pagan/Christian tensions, as Cumont and Grégoire assumed in the discussion of 145; see the discussion by Smith of 254. But I have not been able to discover a proper parallel for such an invocation by a craftsman; and it is perhaps surprising that the sculptors do not name themselves in their prayers.

VIII.22 The invocation in 146 could date from any time from the fifth century onwards. It is the only invocation of the Theotokos so far found at the site. 247, which records the name George, is from an unknown location — it may be an invocation by a donor, or a simple prayer.

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1 layout text For examples see BE 1973.297 and references.
2 layout text DACL VIII. 688-9.
3 layout text Jones, LRE, 593.
4 layout text J. G. Keenan, ZPapEpig 11 (1973), 48 and 59 n. 116.
5 layout text G. Wille, Musica Romana (Amsterdam, 1967), 216.
6 layout text Mentzou, Symbolaii, 67-8; AASS Maii vi, 761-3.
7 layout text Cameron, CF, 213.
8 layout text Vit. Sym. Sal., ed. L. Ryden, 153, 1. 18; I am grateful to Denis Feissel for his observations on these passages
9 layout text MAMA 3, 24; Gerasa, 354.
10 layout text Wille, op. cit., 388-91.
11 layout text Jones, LRE, 906, with n. 84; A. Christophilopoulos, Θέματα βυζαντινοῦ ἐκκλησιαστικοῦ δικαίου (Athens, 1957), 18-22, with a full bibliography.
12 layout text Hornickel, Rangprädikate, s.v., and Besevliev, 223, with bibliography.
13 layout text Lampe, s.v..
14 layout text For another reader at Aphrodisias see 91, and for the order in general, see Jones, LRE, 906 with n. 84, and the bibliography at Besevliev, 109.
15 layout text Sardis VII.1, 188.
16 layout text C. H. Haspels, The Highlands of Phrygia (Princeton, 1971), no. 54.
17 layout text Altertümer von Hierapolis, no. 24; Gerasa no. 304.
18 layout text See Avi-Yonah, Abbreviations.
19 layout text Cited as PHI 804.
20 layout text Cited as PHI 805.
21 layout text I.Eph. 4311
22 layout text Foss, Ephesus, 115, and the references there.
23 layout text See Index s.v. νικᾷ; Peterson, 152 ff.; Cameron, Porphyrius, 73 ff.
24 layout text See the forthcoming study by Michelle Berenfeld, to whom I am very grateful for information.
25 layout text .Published by Cormack (1991).
26 layout text Cormack (1981), 107.
27 layout text For protective inscriptions on city walls see also Claude, Byz. Stadt, 139 ff.
28 layout text See for the fundamental study. Peterson, 37-41, and for further examples, B. Lifschitz, RevBibl (1970) 77-9, no. 17 and commentary, and IGLS 2245, with references there
29 layout text e.g. MAMA 4, 99, Cabrol, DACL, art. Fermoir.
30 layout text Porphyrius, 76 ff..
31 layout text e.g. IGLS 1509; BE 4. 1946/47.204.
32 layout text A. Frolow, in BSl 17 (1956), 98- 113, and IGLS , see IGLS 1984 with commentary, 2647, 2661, 2835, with commentary, and compare PPA.
33 layout text The fullest discussion is that of J.O. Tjäder, in Eranos (1970), 148-90, with a good — although not exhaustive — bibliography; see also A. Blanchard, in Proc. XIV Int. Congr. Papyrol., Oxford (Oxford, 1975), 19-24; S. R. Llewelyn, The Christian symbol XMG: an acrostic or an isopsephism?, New Documents illustrating early Christianity 8 (1998), 156-68.
34 layout text Hellenica 11-12, 309-11, not cited by Tjäder.
35 layout text Besevliev no. 156
36 layout text Euphrosyne n.s. 6 (1973/4), 43.
37 layout text so Tjäder, op. cit., 169-70; Blanchard, op. cit.; and G. Robinson, Tyche 1 (1986), 175-7.





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