Inscriptions found in Byzantine-era church in Israel


Near Lake Tiberias was a city of Greek origin overlooking the Sea of ​​Galilee, Hippos, today an archaeological site where there are notably traces of a Christian presence until around the beginning of the XNUMXth century AD. . The researchers have just discovered inscriptions there in a small neighborhood church that give a somewhat more precise overview of local religious life in Late Antiquity.

Abandoned after its destruction by an earthquake in 749, Hippos had seen Christianity spread through its streets and houses under Roman rule succeeding the Greek. It was under the reign of Constantine I, the first Christian Roman emperor, that the Greek city of Constantinople, the new capital of the empire, saw Christianity spread to Hippos where it had hitherto been discreet.

Names of inhabitants of the city and indications on the mastery of Greek

Archaeologists revealed at the end of November to have found inscriptions during excavations this summer in the Martyrion of Theodoros, one of seven churches so far discovered. They were cleaning mosaics marked by time and soot when they noticed what appeared to be a text.

“Suddenly, two concentric black lines appeared in front of the main gate of the church, we understood that there was probably an inscription there”, testifies Jessica Rentz, doctoral student at the Catholic University of America. Seven inscriptions were found, counting the last four, an incredible number according to doctor Arleta Kowalewska, co-director of the excavation project at Hippos.

These inscriptions have the particularity of indicating the names of people from the city, a rare discovery according to archaeologists. One of them, which appears on a mosaic placed prominently in the entrance hall of the church, reveals the name of Megas, the "most holy bishop", who sponsored the main mosaic "for the rest peaceful of Eusebiοs and Iobiοs, his brothers, in the year 620″. It is not, however, a year of our era, as the people of Hippo counted the dates from the record of the victory of the Roman general Pompey over the Hasmoneans in 64 BC. The mosaic was thus posed in 556.

One of the inscriptions in the side chapel reads: “Offering in favor of salvation and relief for Urania and Theodoros. Lord God, accept! Amen! At the time of indiction 4 and the year 619”. The indiction was a Roman fiscal period of 15 years. It seems that the couple chose this private chapel in the church for their last earthly stay.

The various inscriptions include spelling and grammatical errors indicating that Greek was no longer a widely spoken language in the city, as previously revealed. the discovery of three inscriptions in the building in 2019. However, it remained the language of the Church, which explains why it was used in this context.

Jean Sarpedon

Image credit: Creative Commons / Wikimedia

In the section Culture >

Recent news >