Khirbet Aristobulias - Church

Inscription number: 
Selected bibliography: 
252-253, fig. 4 (ph.) (ed. pr.)
313-315, figs. 11, 16 (phs., dr.)
327-330 (dr.)
21, no. 17
Abbreviation for Journals and Series
Epigraphical corpora: 

SEG 53 (2003): 1842; 62 (2012): 1668

Inscription type: 

In the mosaic carpet of the nave, at the foot of the bema.

Physical description : 

Mosaic inscription. The tabula ansata enclosing the script occupies the eastern end of the carpet, and is separated from the geometrical field by a black, pink and white border. The letters and frame of the tabula ansata are of black tesserae; there is a geometric decoration in black, pink and white around the handles. The rectangular frame measures 143×60 cm, not including the handles. The inscription is set in five lines, without separating lines. The letters, an average 15 cm high, belong to the oval alphabet and show several characteristics of a late date, e.g., the flattened base of the beta, of the ligated diphthong OU, and of some of the omicrons; the omega formed of two separate halves; the rho with an open and curling loop; the nu with a knotted bar, and the cursive alpha and zeta. The spelling is vulgar, with iotacism and the exchange of long and short vowels. The text opens and closes with a cross.


       ☩ Ἐπὴ τοῦ ὡσιωτάτου Γεωργίου δια-

       kόvoυ καὶ Σαμουήλου λαμπροτ(άτου)

       καὶ Αββεσο(μβου) Ζαχαρίου ἐγένετο τό π(ᾶν)

4     ἔργον τῖς ψιφώ̣σ̣ε̣ω̣ς ταύτης

       ἐν μι(νὶ) Ἰουν̣[ίῳ, ἔτ(ους) Ἐλευθερο]πόλε(ως) βφʹ
. ☩


Under the most saintly deacon George, and the most illustrious Samuel, and Abbesombos <or Abbeos> (son) of Zacharias, all the work of this mosaic was done, in the month of June, [in the year of Eleuthero]polis 502.


L.3  ΑΒΒΕΣΟ or ΑΒΒΕΟΣ, in which case the name should perhaps be read Αββεος.


The date is reckoned by the era of Eleutheropolis (Beth Guvrin), in whose territory Aristobulias was located. The restoration of the city name exactly fills the gap, and is not in doubt. The era of Eleutheropolis started in January 200 or autumn 1992; therefore June 502 fell in 701 CE. The use of the Julian calendar in this era is not unusual. The church was apparently erected at this time, for the mosaic floor with the inscription was the original pavement of the building.

The mention of the deacon shows that the church had no priest. No bishop is mentioned, and perhaps there was no longer one in Beth Guvrin. Samuel the “most illustrious” was probably the village chief: interestingly, his status is still expressed with a Greek honorific, the ancient title clarissimus, once reserved for governors, highranking civil servants and municipal magistrates, later depreciated and granted also to minor local officials, and now meaningless in the new order brought about by the Muslim conquest. About the third name there is some doubt. As the omicron is superimposed on the sigma, it is not quite certain whether we should read ΑΒΒΕΟΣ or ΑΒΒΕΣΟ. Normally we would read the lower letter first, but ΑΒΒΕΣΟ cannot stand alone as a proper name, and there is no visible abbreviation mark. However, the overwritten letter is in itself a mark of abbreviation: cf. λαμπροτ(άτου) with overwritten tau in l. 2. Therefore we can read Αββεσο(μβου), genitive of Αββεσο(μβος), one of several variants of an Arabic name which seems to have been popular in Judea, the Negev and southern Jordan. However, Αββεος is also a possibility: it would be a variant of Αββας, Αββος, the Greek transcription of the Arabic name Abba.

Given date: 
June 701

Dedicatory building inscription within a tabula ansata, in the mosaic carpet of the nave, June 701.

the work was done
Definitions of building/part of building: 
psephosis,psephotheteia (mosaic)
Ecclesiastical titles: 
Epithets of clergy/monks: 
most saintly (hosiotatos)
Titles/epithets of patrons/dedicators: 
Personal names: 
Abbesombos / Abbeos, Georgius, Samuel, Zacharias
Epigraphical Abbreviations: 
horizontal strokes, overhanging letters, ΟΥ in ligature