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Marking Religious and Ethnic Boundaries: Cases from the Ancient Golan Heights.

In the aftermath of the 1967 "Six Days' War," 254 ancient inscribed stones were found in forty-four towns and villages of the Golan Heights--241 in Greek, 12 in Hebrew or Aramaic, and 1 in Latin. These stones, along with numerous

architectural fragments, served as the basis of the 1996 book by myself and Dan Urman, Jews, Pagans, and Christians in the Golan Heights--a study of settlement patterns of people of the three religions in this region in the early centuries of the common era.(1) The area of the Golan heights, roughly the size of Rhode Island, was in antiquity a place of agriculture and, for the most part, small communities. Though historians of religions in the late Roman period have long been aware of the "quartering" of cities, and of the locations of particular religious groups in this or that section of urban areas, we have had little information concerning the ways in which Hellenes, Jews, and Christians took up residence in relation to each other in those rural settings featuring numerous towns and hamlets--most presumably too small to have "zones" for ethnic and religious groups. The surviving artifacts of a number of the Golan sites gave the opportunity for a case study. Part 1 of this article centers on evidence for the locations and possible interactions of members of these religious groups in the Golan from the third to the seventh centuries and entails a summary of findings in the earlier work, while part 2 takes up several lingering questions about religious identity and ways of "marking" it within Golan countryside communities. Both sections can be placed under a rubric of "boundary drawing and religion."


Orientation to the region and its past can be gained through a brief geographical and historical sketch. The Golan was part of the territory east of the Jordan River developed by Hellenistic successors of Alexander the Great and was, we think, of predominantly Gentile or non-Jewish population. That changed briefly in the 80s B.C.E. when Alexander Jannaeus won the Golan for the Jewish kingdom of the Hasmoneans. Roman control was established by Augustus, who put the area under Herod's administration in 20 B.C.E. Herod's family held sway over the Golan well into the first century C.E. (from Josephus we have good information about many of these events, and recent scholars have supplied helpful commentary on shifts in government and politics affecting the region in Josephus's day and beyond).(2) After the Roman suppression of the Jewish revolt in the 60s and 70s, many Jews sought refuge to the north of Jerusalem--in the Galilee, and in its sister territory to the east, Gaulanitis, or Golan. Again, after the Bar-Kochba Jewish rebellion in 135, an increase in Jewish population occurred in the Golan, which still, we suppose, had a Gentile majority. Imperial decisions dictated the provincial affiliation and administration of Gaulanitis from the third century on. Most of what we moderns consider the Golan Heights belonged to Palaestina Secunda, but the northwestern part, including the district of Caesarea Philippi, was included in Phoenicia Libanensis (a province since Septimius Severus [192-211]). In the Hellenistic, Roman, and early Byzantine periods, this region featured two municipal territories: Caesarea Philippi (also known as Paneas and, later, Banias) in the north and Hippus (Susita), with its territory, to the south. The clima (or "region") of Gaulanitis, located between the two, was a collection of towns and villages without a dominant population center.(3)

In the fifth and sixth centuries, unable to maintain permanent garrisons along the borders of the Syrian desert--borders disputed by the Byzantines and the Sassanid Persians--Byzantine emperors (Anastasius from 491 to 518, and then Justinian in 529 and following) contracted with a nomadic Arab people, the Ghassanids, to defend the eastern marches against the Persians (specifically, the Lakhmids, who were vassals of the Sassanians). The Byzantine rulers' employment of the Ghassanids holds interest for our study in that this people, who converted to Christianity (Monophysite, not Chalcedonian) sometime in the sixth century, lived, now semisedentary, just to the east of the Golan, beyond the Wadi Er-Ruqqad, and perhaps in some villages within the area from which our inscriptions come. Their presence in the region is preserved in a toponym--the eastern-central village of Mumsiyye/El-Ghassaniyye. The Ghassanids' alliance with Byzantine rulers suffered periodic strains in a set of turns that included the arrest in 581 of al-Mundir, son of the Ghassanid chief al-Harith; yet there remained a Ghassanid leader, Jabala ibn al-Ayham, with his troops, in the Byzantine forces in the early seventh century.(4) The Persians invaded and passed through the Golan region in 613-14 C.E., with their general Shahrbaraz entering and despoiling Palestine (though sparing in Bethlehem the Church of the Nativity, the door mosaic of which depicted presumed fellow "Easterners," the magi). Chroniclers reported wide-scale slaughter (sixty thousand) and enslavement of Christians in Jerusalem. Relics, including the "true cross," went as trophies to the Christian queen of Persia.(5) In 627 the Byzantine emperor Heraclius defeated the Persians and their king, Chosroes II, at Nineveh and with full pomp returned the cross to Jerusalem.(6) Another historical benchmark, not simply for the Golan, but for the Mediterranean basin, dates from 20 August 636, in the Golan plateau and in the Yarmuk River valley. There the Muslim armed forces won an early and decisive battle over Byzantine militia, forecasting the end of the Byzantine, the beginning of the Arab period in the Middle East.(7)

Most of the inscriptions and architectural fragments found some thirty years ago in the Golan contain no dates and cannot be correlated to specific "moments" in the sweep of the region's Roman-Byzantine history capsulized above. For the earliest securely datable inscription, any one of the five Golan boundary markers giving the names of Diocletian and his colleagues in the tetrarchy can serve; these notices were erected in connection with tax reform and collection measures in 297 C.E. The stone seen in photograph 1 (on page 524) is from the town of Fiq in the southern district of Hippus, and contains the opening portion of the usual formula, which we can complete, though the names of the towns are lost: "Diocletian and Maximian, Augusti, and Constantius and Maximian, most worthy [Caesars, ordered that this stone demarking the boundaries of N. and N. be erected]."

A dedicatory inscription from Surman is, if I have correctly identified it, the latest among the datable artifacts in the Golan collection. It contains an abbreviation for [Delta][element of]??[Pi][Omichron][Tau][Omega][Nu] ("rulers") in the plural, which corresponds to several similar stones from Syria honoring the emperor Heraclius and his son of the same name. Labeled the "new Constantines," father and son ruled together from 613-41 and were in power at the time of the Battle of Yarmuk. The surviving portions of the two lines read: "for the salvation of the rulers of me [-- -] | [... Praej]ecticius (?), themselves God-protected, and also ..."(8)

A number of the materials recovered are quite likely to predate and postdate the inscriptions that give us our earliest and latest chronological indicators. Within the collection, for example, are some inscriptions and statuary of indefinite age. Several epitaphs and an image of the goddess Nemesis seem to come from the first century, and a fragmentary inscription (treated below) apparently refers to an empress of the late second-early third centuries. Among the Jewish and Christian artifacts are some pieces that may well be later than the early seventh century.

The broad objective of our book, Jews, Pagans, and Christians in the Golan Heights, was to make the region's Greek and other inscriptions available for inspection and assessment--and for inclusion with other historical materials from the eastern Roman Empire and, more specifically, from the region of Syria-Palestine. We also wished to place data from the inscriptions and decorated architectural pieces alongside other archaeological materials uncovered in the Golan that shed light on (a) the region's synagogues and Jewish life, (b) evidence of Hellenism (or, to use the Christian derogatory term, "paganism") detectable in Golan villages, and (c) the extent and character of Christianity observable during this period. As the work of analysis unfolded, and evidence thickened and became more comp[ex, interest sharpened in the possibility of ascertaining in what locations and in what patterns of settlement Jews, Hellenes, and Christians lived in the Golan region. In what sort of proximity to each other did these three religious groups of Golan inhabitants reside in the third to seventh centuries and with what kinds of likely contacts and interactions? This last topic had already been taken up by archaeologists, producing a sharp discussion, about which there will be more to report below. It will be useful, first, to give an impression of the kinds of data gathered from the Golan sites. Photos and descriptions that follow are of representative artifacts recovered in five of the Golan sites: El-'Al (eastward from Hippus/Susita in the south), `Ein Nashot (close to the Jordan River, north of the Sea of Galilee), El-Kursi (just above Hippus, near the Sea of Galilee), Ramsaniyye (eastern-central Gaulanitis), and Fiq (a town only a few kilometers from Hippus).


El-'Al is a ruin covering about one hundred dunams (or twenty-five acres), which yielded pottery traces from Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine (that is, until 640 C.E., by standard Near Eastern archaeological-historical periodization), early Arab, medieval (crusader), and Ottoman periods. The photographs are of (a) an archway and door, in situ, (b) an altar shaft--a remnant of polytheist religious practice--with the image of a (plump) eagle on this side (and an unidentifiable divine or human form on another), (c) a statue of a female figure, likewise a "pagan" product, (d) a capital free of any identifying symbol (it might well have had a menorah or a cross incised on it, as is the case with many Golan building elements), and (e) a large block, or a door lintel fragment, with an incomplete inscription at the base on the left-hand side.

We should pause over the last item, which reads: [--] [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and should extend with the words [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], or "... Augusta, mother [of the camps]." Which empress? Augustus had willed to Livia the title Augusta, and the honor continued (for instance, in the cases of Julia, Titus's daughter, the elder and younger Faustina, and Julia Mamaea). Faustina the younger seems to have been the first to be called "mother of the camps" when she accompanied Marcus Aurelius on a campaign against the Quadi in the early 170s. Though we cannot be sure to whom our inscription refers, Julia Domna is an excellent candidate. She served both Septimius Severus and Caracalla in an administrative capacity from 193 to 216 and sometimes resided in Antioch (three inscriptions from Syria name her).(9) If this identification is correct, the inscription dates from approximately a century earlier than the tetrarchs' tax-reform notices. El-'Al is unique among the fourty-four Golan sites from which we have inscriptions in that there are no traces of Jewish or Christian life to be found among the nineteen epigraphs and five architectural and sculptural elements recovered. The town, which we know to have been at some point a military garrison or outpost, gives certain evidence only of "pagan," or polytheist, inhabitants.


`Ein Nashot tells a different story. The ancient site was about twenty dunams in area. In 1978 a square hall (eleven by twelve meters, with triple-tiered benches along extant walls) was found and excavated. It turned out to be a synagogue, in the ruins of which was found a piece of plaster bearing a Hebrew inscription: "Amen. Amen. Selah. Shalom." Of the many interesting objects recovered in `Ein Nashot, two are here pictured as photographs 8 and 9:a sarcophagus cover bearing an Aramaic inscription reading, "Shimon, son of Abun. Twenty-six years old" (the decoration at one end of the lid is either a menorah or a "tree of life"), and another sarcophagus lid, this one giving its information in Greek: "Joses, son of Zanneos, seventy years old." Joses very probably was a Jew, though onomastics does not "clinch" this, the name Joses occurring also in plainly Christian epigraphs.

On the basis of data so far available, a Jewish population in this village is certain. There are no identifiable traces of Hellene or Christian inhabitants of the place. `Ein Nashot is one of three sites among the forty-four that seem to have had an exclusively Jewish population.(10)


In 1970 the blade of a road grader collided with a buried ancient wall, and the ensuing excavation unearthed an early Byzantine Christian establishment. El-Kursi is thought to be Gergesa, the site of Jesus' encounter with "Legion" the demoniac. We know from literary sources that the place early attracted Christian pilgrims. In the third century Origen was among them; he described in his Commentary on John this "ancient city in the vicinity of the lake which is now called Tiberias ... [with] a cliff lying beside this lake from which they point out the swine were cast down by the demons."(11) The church unearthed at Kursi was part of a complex of buildings that housed monks and pilgrims. The cluster of buildings stood below a hilltop on which were found the remains of a small chapel abutting a sizeable boulder--presumably the launching point of the swine! The mosaic floor in the nave of the church below featured images of birds, though the scenes were defaced at some point by iconoclasts. Within the baptistry a mosaic floor inscription was found. It reads: "Under the most God-beloved Stephanos, presbyter and superior, the mosaic decoration of the baptistry took place, in the month of December (of the) fourth indiction, in the first consulship of Maurice, our pious and Christ-loving king." The fourth indiction during the imperial reign of Maurice was 586/7; the church and complex must date to the sixth, or perhaps the fifth century (with baptistry decoration later).

El-Kursi is unusual among the Golan sites yielding Greek or other inscriptions in that it is an ecclesiastical complex set apart from a village. At the pilgrimage site proper, the only known occupants were Christians, hosts to pious visitors. But the immediate area was not exclusively Christian. We have Talmudic testimony to Jewish inhabitants of the site in the Roman and Byzantine periods, and a building thought to have been a synagogue has been identified on the shore, at Tell Khirbet el-Kursi Building fragments decorated with incised menoroth were discovered there.(12)


We turn now to the village of Ramsaniyye (roughly ten acres in area) at the eastern edge of Gaulanitis, on the ridge and sides of a high basalt mound. The nineteenth-century railway surveyor and Holy Land enthusiast Gottlieb Schumacher first gave notice of a building with circular apses and underground crypts and also several inscribed stones to be seen in Ramsaniyye. Schumacher reported finding a stone door lintel bearing the two-word inscription TOUTO NIKA with a cross between and two others on each side of the words, yielding the phrase famous from Constantine's dream life and preparation for battle against Maxentius at the Milvian bridge, "This (sign) conquers!"(13) A well-executed incised stone block discovered in the village speaks of the building it decorated as a "holy place"--reno doubt a church or chapel. The inscription is set around the image of a palm, and begins with another popular Christian formula: "Chi-Rho. Lord accept the offering of (the) illustrious Balbionus, who at his own expense and labor made this holly place. And Lord help Maximus the builder, who also wrote this."

A prize among the Ramsaniyye artifacts is an eleven-line inscription (the stone, badly worn, is not pictured) attesting to a martyrium built in 376 C.E. It reads: "Chi-Rho. Flavius Naaman, most illustrious ordinarius of a division of the Ka ... completing ... [his] service ... built the martyrium of Saint John the Baptist for the salvation and perpetuity of Okdias, his most noble wife, and Thekla, his most modest daughter, in the month of Panemos, the fourth indiction, in the year 688 [376/7 C.E.; the calendar of the Seleucid era begins in 312 C.E.]."(14) A stone block comes from the same building. It features the superscription, "Saint John," with low-relief sculpting of grapevine and stylized halo, and was the mount for an icon of John (with the attachment point for the painting still visible).

The basalt stone lintel pictured below features three crosses with smaller crosses and grape clusters beneath their arms, and a doubly inverted A[Omega] above the arms of the cross at the right. Presumably this decoration stood over the entrance of the martyrium of Saint John. A date is scratched (barely visibly) into the stone's upper right edge: 685 (373 C.E.).(15)

Taken together with other cross-adorned building elements and inscriptions, these data from Ramsaniyye make it manifest that Christians occupied the village in the late Roman and early Byzantine periods--indeed, there are no clear indications of other religious groups. Claudine Dauphin, who conducted inspections of the buildings in Ramsaniyye, believes teat this village served as a location for monastics associated with the Arab tribal group, the Ghassanids. She hypothesizes that these Ghassanids were Christianized (as Monophysite, or Jacobite believers) in the fifth and sixth centuries, when they hired out as border protectors for the Byzantines.(16) If Dauphin is right, this village contained, at least in the fifth and sixth centuries, Christians and expressions of Christianity notably different from those found, for example, at Kursi It is difficult, however, given the character of our evidence, to demonstrate that Ghassanid Christians constituted the major group in the eastern Golan in the early Byzantine period. More certain and, I think, every bit as historically noteworthy, is the existence of a Christian community, perhaps under monastic guidance, in eastern Gaulanitis, only forty years after the death of Constantine.


The Golan town of Fiq was identified by the fourth-century Christian historian Eusebius as the Aphek, or Apheka, mentioned in the book of Joshua. Mishnaic and Talmudic writings note Jewish habitation of the place, and much later (ninth century C.E.), the Arab chronicler al-Baladhuri lists Aphek among villages and fortresses conquered by the Arabs in 638. Yaqut in the eleventh century mentions Aphek in his geography and complains that the people call the city "Fiq."(17) Three inscriptions give glimpses of Christian life in the town. The first is fragmentary, but its single word [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("bless") links it with numerous door lintel inscriptions from Syria--those adapting Psalm 120:8: "Bless our entering and departing." In fifth- and sixthcentury Christian buildings these inscribed portals often invoked God as "Lord" or, less frequently, as the "Trinity."(18)

A basalt block (photograph 15) contains a church or chapel dedication, which reads: "Under the most pious Bishop Gerontius and Kassisos, presbyter, and Joanes, deacon, and ... [this was erected]." The name of Gerontius is not uncommon, and we know of bishops and an archimandrite of this name in the, fourth and fifth centuries, but no Bishop Gerontius of Aphek appears in lists of those attending church synods or in other literary sources. The use of the S sign as an abbreviation mark in the Greek suggests that the carving dates to the fifth century.(19)

An epitaph (photograph 16) tells of a deaconess in Fiq: "Be of good courage, Nanna, deaconess."

Christians were not the only inhabitants of Fiq. If I add mention of a column decorated with a menorah and inscribed, in Aramaic, "I am Jehudah the cantor," and an architrave that features a mask-representation of the deity Zeus-Ammon (there is also a burial marker proclaiming, "only the gods are immortal"), the religious diversity of Fiq will be clear enough: Jews, polytheists, and Christians lived there during the four-hundred-year period "covered" by the antique artifacts studied. As a city with mixed population, Fiq is one of the sites that attests more than one religious group, in various combinations of two or all three--Jews, Hellenes, and Christians.

Data of the kind selected from the five sites and briefly presented above informed our 1996 study's conclusions about settlement patterns throughout the Golan. In general terms, the collected epigraphicai evidence adds weight to the impressions of earlier surveyors of the Golan that "Roman" (Schumacher's designation), Jewish, and Christian inhabitants had occupied many of the region's towns and villages. Further, far from declining into a kind of dormancy after the period in which Josephus wrote, Gaulanitis and the two city territories of Caesarea Philippi/Paneas and Hippus seem to have enjoyed a population spurt in the late Roman and early Byzantine eras, helped by the olive oil market. Eight synagogues, for example, were constructed in the fifth to sixth centuries, and several towns reveal more than one Christian church. There is no hard evidence of a decline in Hellenic polytheism during this period, even though no shrines or temples of later construction have come to light. (Such constructions would have been against imperial law by the late fourth century, but so was building of synagogues; the legislation appears to have been ineffectual.)

Of particular interest is the light these inscriptions, architectural elements, and sculptures cast on how Jews, Hellenes, and Christians of the Golan lived out their respective "group identities" in geographical and social terms. Two decades ago an exchange of views occurred on just this topic. Zvi Ma'oz, an archaeologist in the Golan Heights, published a map indicating what he thought to have been a Jewish sector just above the Sea of Galilee;, a zone extending eastward across the Jordan from the Galilee. He wrote, "Jewish settlement in the Byzantine period was concentrated exclusively in this area, which contains no pagan or Christian villages, while the eastern plains of `Upper Golan' are devoid of any sign of Jewish settlement and yielded only Christian remains. The division is sharp and without exception."(20) Ma'oz did not rule out culture contact between Jews and Christians; rather, he asserted that a "stable and rather conservative Jewish character" prevailed in lhe area he saw as bounded.

A very different argument was advanced by Claudine Dauphin in 1982-83. On the basis of her survey of twenty sites, she contended that Byzantine Gaulanitis was a place of "Jewish-Christian cohabitation" capable of being seen as a "melting pot of religions and societies."(21) Important to her case was (1) evidence of both Jews and Christians in Na'ran (a community squarely in the cluster of towns and villages in the area Ma'oz had marked off as occupied by Jews only) and (2) the clear indication of a sizable Jewish community in Farj--a village "far outside the area believed [by Ma'oz] to have been occupied by Jews."(22)

The conflicting judgments of Ma'oz and Dauphin were advanced without benefit of investigation of the Greek and other inscriptions of the region. The map entitled "Jews, Pagans, and Christians in the Golan: New Evidence of Settlement Patterns" gives the results of epigraphical and architectural data, affording a more detailed picture of where Jews, "pagans," and Christians were settled in the Golan's countryside, and whether there seem to have been lines of social demarcation--boundaries based on religion and ethnicity.(23)

Certain realities quickly come into focus. Ma'oz's projection of division between Jews and Christians proves to be incorrect. Jews did not limit their residence to the area he proposed, nor were Christians excluded from that zone and its villages. Further, Jews did reside in villages of the eastern Golan, not only in Farj, where they lived, it seems, alongside Christians, but also in Butmiyye, about four kilometers away, where no indications of pagan or Christian co-residents have come to light. Also, in the northeast of the plateau, near the sizeable town of Quneitra, Jews lived in Bab el-Hawa and Surman. A tally of the results shows that sixteen of the forty-four villages and towns yield evidence of religiously mixed population. On the other hand, present data could support suggestions of exclusivity (or avoidance) at a number of sites--eighteen of the forty-four. (Data from the remaining ten of the forty-four sites do not enable determination of the religious loyalties of their inhabitants.)

For the Golan from the third to the seventh centuries, it is legitimate to speak of areas of concentration of particular religious groups, perhaps even of clusters of villages--for instance, Jewish communities in the western central Golan (Ahmadiyye, Dabiyye, and `Ein Nashot [with nearby villages, Dabbfira and Qisrin, in which were found Jewish artifacts, but no Greek inscriptions), and a north-south string of Christian villages in the east (Sukeik, Mfimsiyye, Jueizeh, Tell `Akasha, Ramsaniyye, Tannuriyye, Deir Mfadel, and Rafid). But the existence of religiously defined zones, with acknowledged and operative boundaries, is not supported by the combined data of epigraphy and archaeology from these forty-four Golan sites. In sum, neither a view of religious and ethnic separatism nor one of easy coexistence and intermingling is compelled, or even strongly urged, by the evidence available to date.(24) The most forceful general impression gained from the results represented on the map argues against hostile or standoffish relationships enforced by boundaries, since Jews, polytheists, and Christians lived throughout the region, and often in the same places. As our information has thickened, it becomes more difficult to discern a settlement "pattern" that is explicable in terms of religious or ethnic identity. Such mixed results leave room for more speculations. Was it the rural character of the Golan that shaped and influenced this social geography, one that reflects little of the kind of religious separation suggested in the "quarters" (and discrete necropolises) in late antique Mediterranean urban landscapes? In communities with populations numbering from only several dozen to a few hundred, is it possible that individuals and families drew their senses of identity as much from the town or village itself as from their religions, with the consequence that the "edges" of religious difference softened in their daily interactions?


By way of transition to a second question of boundary marking--this line of inquiry narrower and more "local" in scale--I want to draw attention to a certain type of inscription found in the Golan that speaks of religious change. Consideration of "one God" inscriptions is a stop along the way to understanding how some people within these towns and villages drew limits around their spaces--with formulae and symbols. The door lintel pictured below came from Rafid in the eastern Golan Heights, a site that gave much evidence of a Christian population. Nine cross-decorated inscriptions were found there, as well as the foundations and some walls of a Christian basilica with rounded apse. The encircled cross at the center of the pictured stone has familiar accompanying symbols: the three Greek letters XMT above its arms, denoting the abbreviation for "Christ, born of Mary," and the [Alpha][Omega] (Alpha-Omega) below.(25) The inscription reads: "There is one God who helps Sergonas. (Cross, with abbreviations.) In this (cross) conquer. Abelathos is the builder."

A second example (its two halves are shown) comes from another village in the eastern plateau, Mansura: "Chi-Rho. There is one God who helps Severa the deaconess."

This [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] slogan, as Christians used it, was apparently an adaptation of 1 Cor. 8:4-6 ("although there may be so-called gods in heaven and on earth ... yet for us there is one God, the Father ... and one Lord, Jesus Christ," etc.). Here in the Golan as elsewhere in Syria, this phrase tells us of a conversion of a Hellene--that is, this formula records the embrace of trust in the Christian God and the abandonment of polytheism.(26) Seven such "One God" testimonies to conversions appear among the Golan inscriptions (in several places: `Ein Semsem, Na'ran, Rafid, Quneitra, and Bab) el Hawa). Conversions to Christianity (and the role of evangelizing monks in these events) in rural areas east and northeast of the Golan--in the Bostrene, Djebel Hauran, the Ledja--have been well documented by Frank Trombley in his study of Christianization in the eastern Mediterranean from the fourth to the sixth centuries. We are able to see that many of the identifiably Christian Golan architectural fragments and inscriptions (including those epigraphs containing the "one God" formula) correspond and also contribute to an emerging body of evidence for the relatively late growth of Christianity in rural settings (in comparison with urban centers)--a religious development that Trombley (for a wide expanse, from Attica to Alexandria) and J. H. W. G. Liebeschuetz (for Syria) have teased out and charted from various kinds of data, including epigraphical.(27)

What can we know about distinctions drawn by and between people of different religion within Golan towns and villages? Were any lines of demarcation established and observed in those communities in which members of more than one religious group lived? Specific religious indicators do appear on some epitaphs and on some entrances to buildings (chiefly in the form of door lintel decorations or inscriptions, as seen above). A majority of burial markers from the Golan lack religious symbols or phrases that denote the religion of the entombed. Though many of the epitaphs from the Golan might be products of Hellene or polytheist households, only the tombstone from Fiq, mentioned earlier, which refers to "gods,"(28) is definitely so. Visual traces of polytheist religion occur in statuary, in altars like the votive altar pictured below whose inscription reads simply: "Sabanes built the altar,"(29) and in an occasional dedication--for instance, the stone block discovered in Khisfin, which testifies to a veteran's fulfilment of a pledge to his deity, and is translated: "Aulos Ulpios Aurelius, a veteran of legion III Cyrenaica, having made a vow to Zeus Bel, dedicated (this)."(30)

What importance attaches to those epitaphs on which religious symbols do appear, and what are their implications for practices of "religious definition" in the region? Three tombstones may serve as examples of the phenomenon. The first (photograph 21) is Jewish, as we can see from the symbol at its top, which is not a "tree of life" (a symbol that turns up occasionally on Golan stones), but a definite menorah, with stylized Torah scrolls represented at each side. The stone is from Surman, and is translated: "Menorah. Courage, Alapheos, son of Archelaus! Died in the year 370, at seventy years of age."(31)

Among the artifacts of Quneitra we find two epitaphs with crosses incised at the top. The first (though broken) preserves the image (photograph 22) of an encircled cross, the arms and lower vertical section visible. The inscription gives the consolatory sentiment found most usually in the Golan: "Be of good courage, Sophirtha! No one is immortal. Fifty years old."

A second Christian tombstone (photograph 23) shows a variation on the encircled cross, the lower half of the surrounding disk left off in order to accommodate an [Alpha][Omega]. The inscription reads: "Cross. Alpha-Omega. Here lies the blessed Loutia [Lucia?]. (She died after) seventy-six years, in the ... month."

In recent years it has been argued that even in remote places like the Golan people set up inscriptions chiefly in order to emulate Roman style and fashion or to assert social status--with the "epigraphic habit" rooted in citizenship and inheritance rights.(32) The supposition that status and legal interests were everywhere paramount is open to question, but there is no doubt that the erection of epitaphs was locally understood to mark off space and to make a statement about boundary. Did a Jew or a Christian in the ancient Golan have a religious symbol cut in his or her tombstone with the primary purpose of stating, "Take note, my neighbors here in Surman/Quneitra, that I lived and I died as a Jew/Christian!"? One wonders if or how members of small communities could have been unaware of such affiliations.

Our field data from the Golan suggest that a mixed population in a town or village shared a common cemetery. In only two of the forty-four villages do we have evidence of more than one place of burial. People in the Golan would have been very unusual in their "world" and time had they not counted the individual burial locus as bounded space, as a dwelling place for the dead that required special definition and attention. The kinds of epitaph warnings familiar to us elsewhere in the ancient Mediterranean abound also in Asia Minor and in Syria: "Whoever should throw a bone out from here at any time will reckon with God"; "No one will put another body in my tomb.... If so, he will pay 2000 gold coins to the fiscus.... Peace to you passersby, and pay heed (to this warning)"; "Anyone who changes this lady's place (in her tomb), He who promised to resurrect the dead will Himself judge (him)."(33) Those walking by or through ancient cemeteries were alerted to binding curses on violators of burials--promises of a date with Zeus or with spirits in the realm of the dead or with the enforcer of the "curses of Deuteronomy" or with the Trinity.(34) These inscribed warnings, with their imprecations and threatened fines, are expressions of care for the dead--for whatever aspect of the "self" is understood to reside at the burial place. Desires to protect buried remains obviously were not thought to be in tension with the ideas or beliefs stated in frequently conjoined blessing formulae: "His soul is where immortal God is. He rests in Abraham's bosom, like one of the blessed"; or "Her soul is among the saints."(35) The Golan epitaphs typically did not indulge in elaborated warnings or blessings. Sufficient were the injunction to "take courage" (in the face of the reality of death, or for the journey that follows it) and the brief "democratizing" solacium that no one avoids death. All but a few of the epitaphs were addressed to the buried--in his or her place. The grave was bounded, delimited space because, as Richmond Lattimore put it: "The tomb is exclusive."(36) But issues of images and their meanings persist. When an epitaph bore the figure of a cross or a menorah, did the symbol serve to alert the one who saw it to the deceased person's group affiliation, or was some additional and quite different kind of message being communicated? What statement of protection or exclusion stood implicitly or explicitly in the symbols--in the figure of the cross and possibly in the same way in the menorah? The plain sense is: "The God of the Christians/the God of Israel guards the one here entombed!" From whom? Graverobbers. Yes, but tomb violators were not the most menacing beings in the graveyard, or in the cosmos.

We shift our attention from Golan cemeteries to dwellings--those other defined spaces in towns and villages whose limits were frequently marked in distinctive language and symbology. A Golan inscription--not an epitaph, but a lettered and decorated door lintel found in Quneitra--tells us something about local religious consciousness and the marking off of space and boundaries in this region and era. With one incised cross at its beginning and an encircled cross in relief at its center, the stone reads: [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]--"Pass by and envy not!"

The reader of the words on the building's portal is urged to walk on without ill will. Warning or advice to passersby is a commonplace on ancient tombstones, as we have seen. Here, however, a building's entrance gives admonition. It claims, or hopes for, the building's freedom from envy and its powers. Fuller statements of the theme occur on other houses in the region--for instance, in the town of Sabba in Syria, where a doorway reads: "(The) Lord shall guard the entrance and the exit of the house; for the cross being set before, an evil eye shall not have power."(37) Other inscriptions of the same type contain variations in the name of the protector, but not in the promise or prayer--for instance, "May the Trinity, (our) God, drive envy far away," or "Jesus the Nazarene, who was born of Mary, the son of God, lives here. Let nothing evil enter here!"(38) Another door lintel (from El-Bardoune in Syria), marked with three crosses, and flanked by the Alpha-Omega, says this: "The cross being present here, envy does not have strength."(39)

At graves and at other places of human presence, symbols and inscribed utterances mark off space and invoke powers to avert the evil eye and envy, allies of Satan. Envy is a force to be contended with--an agent, a malicious spirit in the invisible world to be confronted and addressed at those places of vulnerability where humans seek security.(40) A Jewish tombstone found in Gaul, with the word shalom given in Hebrew and decorated with menorah, shofar, and lulab, contains these phrases (in Latin): "In the holy name of God ... May envious eyes burst (oculi invidiosi crepent).... From the gifts of God, Jona made this."(41) At the grave and in the house (and in the church and synagogue), defense is needed against envious evil eyes and against [[Phi][Theta][Omichron][Nu][Omichron][Zeta]]--that envy which (or better, who) does Satan's work. Intrusive and dangerous humans and spirits--beings who in Christian, Jewish, and late Roman religious imagination generally are so in league with evil as to be not strictly separable-- are foes to be kept at a distance. Safety, preservation, salvation (any of the terms translates [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) is believed to be at stake.(42)

To my way of thinking, the apotropaic concern expressed in symbols (the cross and, I shall argue, also the menorah) and in formulae like that of the Quneitra door lintel ("Pass by and envy not!") is not far removed from the human experiences revealed in language written on scraps of paper or metal, folded and enclosed in pottery or metal casings, and worn around one's neck or arm. A recently published parchment adjures the God of the Christians "that you keep any person who may wear this amulet from all [harm] and all evil and all sorcery ... and all the demons and all the deeds of the hostile adversary, that you guard the body of Philoxenus, son of Euphemia, from all these things."(43) Zvi Ma'oz discovered two Jewish magical texts inscribed on small copper sheets at Horvat Kanaf in the Golan, a site three and one-half kilometers from the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The first amulet calls upon Ya, Yahu, and his angels (Kariel, Kasiel, Zariel) "to exorcise the fever ... from Ja'itha the daughter of Marian." The second incantation seeks protection by "I-am-who-I-am" for Rabbi Eleazar the son of Esther. God and his angels enlisted, the spell then challenges an evil spirit: "if you detain him [Eleazar], you will be cast immediately into a burning fiery furnace."(44)

We have seen that Christians used the cross symbol both implicitly and explicitly as an apotropaic sign, an image potent against Satan and his legions. Are there grounds for thinking that the menorah was understood and used in the same way, and do we have convincing evidence of its apotropaic use in the ancient Golan? Data from farther afield provide a beginning of an answer. Years ago, Erwin Goodenough asserted about Roman-period use of Jewish symbols on graves that an incised menorah must have "express[ed Jews'] hope of immortality through their own cult."(45) He drew attention to two diaspora burial inscriptions in which "the word shalom is carved with the menorah, as if to show that the menorah brings peace to the dead; the impression is analogous to what we should feel if we saw Peace + Peace on a Christian tombstone."(46) Goodenough's observation belongs to the category of comparative (and competitive) religious ideas and practices, and Steven Fine in his essay on "holiness and the ancient synagogue" at one point argues similarly for symbology in the service of social identification: "Jews used the menorah as a symbol for their minority group, much as Christians used the sign of the cross during this period."(47) Fine's remark is, however, set in the midst of a description of a nice piece of evidence that allows him to move beyond simple social-indicator uses of the menorah image by Jews. A fifth- to sixth-century bronze polycandelon (a hanging lamp in the shape of a circular ring with holes to accommodate a dozen candles) found in the Galilean village of Kefar Hananyah is inscribed in Hebrew with these phrases: "This polycandelon [belongs?] to the holy place of Kefar Hananyah.... May they be remembered for good.... Amen, selah, shalom, ptp t." This last portion of the inscription is bordered on two sides by incised menoroth, and the concluding consonants "ptp t"--identified by Joseph Naveh as similar to a set of holy letters on an amulet from the Cairo Geniza--suggest to Fine that this "lamp (or perhaps the synagogue) seems to be imbued with magic, or perhaps to need protection against it."(48) Fine also revisits the question of the ceiling tiles that decorated the synagogue of Dura-Europos in the mid-third century, one of which depicts an eye under attack by snakes and a beetle (the eye of Iao, Goodenough argued, rather than an evil eye) and another tile featuring; a similarly drawn eye flanked by oil lamps on stands. This ornamentation, taken together with the discovery of human remains (finger bones?) beneath the building's entry-door sills, points to a commitment to talismans in Jewish buildings not dissimilar to that seen in the churches and houses of Christians.(49)

Did the menorah, when it decorated a tombstone or a doorway in a Jewish residence or place of meeting in the Roman- and Byzantine-period Golan, signal divine protection? Of the several door lintels and stone blocks bearing the symbol (in addition to the epitaph treated above), four merit consideration. A seven-branched menorah, with shofar and ethrog, is cut in relief in the central position in a door lintel from Fiq. No inscription accompanies the symbol.

In Butmiyye, in eastern central Gaulanitis, another lintel (photograph 26) (with an incomplete and indecipherable inscription of only four letters) was found.(50) At its center is incised the top half of a menorah (not a "tree of life," with which it might have been confused, since the base or three-footed stand of the candlestick is not pictured). The incised disks at each side of the branches of the menorah secure its identity. They represent, in crude outline, Torah scrolls, as in the epitaph pictured above and in the architectural fragment, also from Butmiyye, pictured here just below the door lintel (photograph 27).

Nothing in these decorated door lintels demands an interpretation of apotropaic interest or intent on the part of the stonecutters or of the builders who commissioned them; none contains an injunction in Hebrew or Aramaic ordering Satan to flee.(51) In Farj, however, a door lintel was found with menorah decoration and a tantalizing one-word Greek inscription: [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]." Claudine Dauphin interprets this as one of the Jewish "one God" inscriptions, which derive their monotheistic acclamation from the Shema of Deut. 6:4 ff. ("Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord").(52) The drawing below gives us the complete image of the two seven-branched menoroth with their tripod bases.

Dauphin joins others in noting that Jewish "one God" inscriptions, in echoing the Shema, not only invoke daily prayer language of the synagogue, but act upon the biblical advice to write the words "on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deut. 6:9).(53) Another observation must be added--one that bears directly on our question of meanings attaching to the menorah symbol in places like the Golan. The Shema is to be recited seven times (along with other verses--Exodus 14:30, 15:16) in a healing incantation from the Cairo Geniza, and Joseph Naveh points out that Deut. 6:4 "is frequently represented on Samaritan amulets by the last two words of the verse, either in the Hebrew original ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) or in the Greek version ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII])," adding the comment that where this verse appears on door lintels, as in Palmyra, it is not necessary to assume that the structure was a synagogue, there being "no good reason to reject the idea ... that they [the inscribed lintels] were derived from a residential house, where it was used for magical protection."(54)

Yet another artifact found within Israel (but of uncertain specific provenance) and dated to the fifth century can be presented in support of the claim that in Jewish buildings, dwellings, and burial locations the menorah served as an evil-averting symbol.

This relief in soft limestone (twenty-six centimeters wide, thirty-one and one-half centimeters high, three and one-half centimeters thick) has several provocative features, of which only two will occupy us: the two menoroth and the circular recess occupying the space within which we expect a representation of the torah shrine. Small mirrors filled both the circle and the three smaller semicircular recesses that stand above, within the pictured gabled roof.(55) The mirrored glass is a defensive weapon, understood to throw the evil eye back upon itself. The setting of these reflectors between and above the candlesticks reveals a distinctly Jewish plaque, one similar to others featuring menoroth, as well as plaques thought to bear "pagan" and Christian symbols. Holes for suspension are seen in this and other of these plaques, a detail which suggested to L. Y. Rahmani that these "charms against the evil eye ... had served their owners in life and were placed into their tombs with some hope that they might here, too, prove effective against the perils of afterlife."(56) The menorah is the chief symbol in this space-protecting plaque, an object with apotropaic and, thus, explicitly religious-magical intent.

Within Golan towns and villages of mixed religious population, symbols on graves and on the door and window openings of structures marked significant boundaries. The force of the symbols and their accompanying inscriptions on epitaphs and also on buildings is inadequately understood as inspired by fondness for Roman style or even as a social gesture of "group definition." In the Golan, tombs as well as passageways of churches, synagogues, and residences of Christians and Jews (we have fewer data for "pagans" and their buildings) were sometimes inscribed with powerful statements of limits maintained and defended by divine powers. Such messages did, of course, advertise the presence of Christians and Jews and spaces they chose to mark as sacred and inviolable. The decorations may indeed also be seen as a form of display or as "voices" in local religious competition. Nonetheless, the symbols of the menorah and the

cross, and the inscribed messages we have considered, are significantly tied to the dynamics of spiritual warfare and to established practices of Jewish and Christian prayer, exorcism, and spell casting. The creation and erection of these decorated and inscribed stones were locally understood to mark off space protected against pernicious forces, and their primary raison d'etre was religious-magical--concern for safety, preservation, or salvation expressed in distinctly late antique and early Byzantine vocabulary and iconography.

A tantalizing question remains. Did Jews, "pagans," and Christians living together in towns and villages of the Golan see one another as dangerous--as neighbors who were or might become spiritually threatening? Did they target not only invisible forces, but each other, in their apotropaic language and images? Instances of abrasive encounters that took place elsewhere are known to us: a monk challenged both the deities and the sacrifice bringers of a Syrian temple, taking up residence within its precinct and pitting the power of martyrs' relics against the "daimones," and a Jew had recourse to magic in an effort to silence a troubling, apparently too vocal Christian? Whether or to what extent the people of the ancient Golan, in their face-to-face dealings, reacted with enough suspicion and antagonism to count those of another religion as envious, evil, and demonic, our data do not let us know. That Jews, polytheists, and Christians in many instances had town and village daily existence in common is now well established. Still obscure to us are the tone and quality of their relations.

Archaeological remains gathered from the Golan of the Roman and Byzantine eras allow us to picture, with greater or lesser precision, something of the distance and proximity that characterized the lives of Jews, polytheists, and Christians who settled in the region. We are afforded glimpses of inter- anti intra-community realities in a decidedly rural terrain and of indications both of life distinctively marked off and life (in some places) in common. Readable also in some of the inscribed stones are the concerns that occupied the inhabitants of these places, expressed in recognizable religious language and symbol. To recapitulate the main findings: (1) Golan cities, towns, and villages appear not to have been settled and inhabited with a view to keeping distance from those of dissimilar religious loyalty. Jews, polytheists, and Christians lived throughout the region and, in a number of communities, lived together. (2) Within the Golan communities, as we learn from a group of epitaphs and decorated (sometimes inscribed) building elements, a number of Jews and Christians paid attention to setting boundaries against demonic forces--in verbal formulae and symbols particular to their own traditions. In their arsenals for spiritual warfare the Jews had their talisman the menorah, the Christians had their cross, and members of each community took pains to insure their [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

(1.) Robert C. Gregg and Dan Urman, Jews, Pagans, and Christians in the Golan Heights: Greek and Other Inscriptions of the Roman and Byzantine Eras, South Florida Studies in the History of Judaism 140 (Atlanta: Scholars, 1996).

(2.) On Josephus's accounts of places and events in the Golan, see Dan Urman, The Golan, B.A.R. International Series 269 (Oxford: Biblical Archaeology Review, 1985), 117-24 and passim. Works with wider geographical scope are Fergus Millar, The Roman Near East, 31 B.C.-A.D. 33 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), particularly 382-83, 540-42; Martin Goodman, State and Society in Roman Galilee, A.D. 132-212 (Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Allenheld, 1983), 19-20, 22-23, 30-33; E. Mary Smallwood, The Jews Under Roman Rule, Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 20 (Leiden: Brill, 1976); A. H. M. Jones, The Cities of the Eastern Roman Provinces, rev. Michael Avi-Yonah et al (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971), and Michael Avi-Yonah, Holy Land (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1977).

(3.) Boundaries for the three areas are based upon the map by Michael Avi-Yonah, "The Roman-Byzantine Period," Atlas of Israel IX/9 (Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1970).

(4.) J. Spencer Trimingham, Christianity among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times (New York: Longman, 1979), 178-88.

(5.) See Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1951), 1:10-11.

(6.) Runciman, Crusades, 1.10-11.

(7.) The siege is well described in Fred McG. Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 132-36, 142-48, and receives colorful treatment (with suggestions for "wargaming") in David Nicolles, Yarmuk, 636 AD: The Muslim Conquest of Syria, Osprey Military Campaign Series 31 (London: Osprey Publishing, 1994).

(8.) I owe the suggestion of the proper name Praejecticius to Denis Feissel, who made the proposal in his review of Jews, Pagans, and Christians in the Golan Heights in Revue des Etudes Byzantines 56 (1998): 302.

(9.) See P. R. C. Weaver, Familia Caesaris (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972), 28-29; Benjamin H. Isaac, The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 437; and Smallwood, The Jews under Roman Rule, 490. Julia's name occurs (probably) in E. Littmann et al. Publications of the Princeton Archaeological Expeditions to Syria in 1904-1905 and 1909 (Leiden, 1907-1921; New York, 1921-22-cited hereafter as PAES) III.A 563 (inscription no.) and (certainly) in L. Jalabert et al. eds., Inscriptions grecques et latines de Syrie 1-7 (Paris, 1929-70; hereafter IGLS) 2711, 2712 (inscription nos).

(10.) Butmiyye may be a fourth site in which only Jews resided. See Gregg and Urman, Jews, Pagans, and Christians, 151-53.

(11.) Origen, Commentaria in Joannem (hereafter Comm. in Joh.) 6.211 (Origene: Commentaire sur Saint Jean, Livres 6, 10, Sources Chretiennes (hereafter SC) 157 [Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1970], 288, 290; trans. Ronald Heine, Origen: Commentary on the Gospel According to John, Books 1-10, Fathers of the Church [hereafter FOC] 80 [Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 1989], 226. Good comments about Origen's "detailed interest in the physical location of the biblical events" are found in E. D. Hunt, Holy Land Pilgrimage in the Later Roman Empire, AD 312-460 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1892), 92-95. Several recent studies by the site's chief excavator elaborate discoveries over the two decades since el-Kursi's discoverv: Vassilios Tzaferis, "El-Koursi," Israel Exploration Journal 22 (1972): 176-77; idem, "A Pilgrimage to the Site of the Swine Miracle," Biblical Archaeology Review 15 (1989): 44-51; idem, "The Early Christian Monastery at Kursi," in Yoram Ysafrir, ed., Ancient Churches Revealed (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1993), 77-79.

(12.) See Dan Urman, "The Site of the Miracle of the Man with the Unclean Spirit," Christian News from Israel 2 (1971): 76 and n. 16; idem, "Ancient Synagogue Sites in the Southern Golan Heights and the Eastern Shore of the Sea of Galilee," Dapim, May 1972, 18, 20 (Hebrew).

(13.) Gottlieb Schumacher, The Jaulan (London: Richard Bentley and Son, 1888), 233, fig. 120. The formula "this sign conquers," or "in this sign conquer" has reference, of course, to the cross and its power for overthrowing an enemy--particularly Satan and his agents. It occurs in another Golan door lintel (from Rafid) and is familiar from numerous Syrian Christian inscriptions (for instance, IGLS 365, 583, 1404, 1437). The theme of the cross's power to defeat or avert evil appears frequently in early Christian literary sources; Origen's Comm. in Joh. 20.36 (SC 290:318; FOC 89:274) and Athanasius's De Incarnatione 50.5 (Athanasius, Contra Gentes and De Incarnatione, ed. and trans. Robert W. Thompson, Oxford Early Christian Texts [Oxford: Clarendon, 1971], 260-61) are only two examples. Believers "signed" themselves in order to ward off demonic forces. See Hippolytus, Traditio Apostolica 42 (La Tradition apostolique, ed. Bernard Botte, SC 11 [2e ed., 1984], 134; trans. G. J. Cuming, Hippolytus [Nottingham: Grove Books, 1976], 28); Tertullian, De Corona 3.4 (Tertulliani opera II, ed. A. Kroymann, Corpus Christianorum, series latina 2 [Turnholt, Belgium: Brepols, 1954], 1043; trans. E. A. Quain, The Chaplet, FOC 40 [1959], 237); Athanasius, Vita Antonii 35 (G. J. M. Barteling, ed., Vie d'Antoine, SC 400 [1994], 230; trans. R. C. Gregg, Athanasius: The Life of Antony and The Letter to Marcellinus [New York: Paulist Press, 1980], 57). Constantine's conquest of Maximian was effected, according to tradition, through the use of the cross as a talisman (Eusebius, Vita Constantini [hereafter V. C.] 1.31; Eusebius: Werke 1.1, Die Griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte [hereafter GCS] 47 [Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1975], 30-31; trans. Averil Cameron and Stuart Hall, Eusebius: Life of Constantine [Oxford: Clarendon, 1999], 81-82), and the statue to be erected in Rome was to display in the victor's right hand the cross with an inscription declaring the role of this "sign" in the liberation of the city from tyranny (Eusebius, Historia ecclesiastica 9.9.10; see Eusebius: The Ecclesiastical History II, ed. and trans. Kirsopp Lake, Loeb Classical Library [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1965], 365; V.C. 1.40 [GCS 47:85-86]). Another lintel with "This [sign] conquers," differently decorated, was found a century after Schumacher's visit to the site by a survey team led by Claudine Dauphin; see C. Dauphin et al., "Patens, juifs, judeo-chretiens, chretiens et musulmans en Gaulanitide," Proche-Orient Chretien 46 (1996): 324.

(14.) For comment on this inscription, see Dauphin et al., "Paiens, juifs, judeo-chretiens, chretiens et musulmans," 324-26.

(15.) The lintel decoration is discussed in Dauphin et al., "Paiens, juifs, judeo-chretiens, chretiens et musulmans," 326.

(16.) Claudine Dauphin, "Jewish and Christian Communities in the Roman and Byzantine Gaulanitis: A Study of the Evidence from Archaeological Surveys," Palestine Exploration Quarterly 114 (1982): 129-42.

(17.) Eusebius, Onom. [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in E. Klosterman, ed., Das Onomastikon der biblischen Ortsnamen, GCS 2.1 (Berlin, 1904), 22-23; Al Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, ed. M. J. de Goeje (Leiden, 1866), 112 (Arabic); Yaqut, Mu'jam al-Buldan, ed. E Wiistenfeld (Leipzig, 1866-73), 1.332, 3.932 (Arabic).

(18.) The verb [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] displaces [GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("to guard," "watch over") in this, as in some other (for instance, IGLS 1562) adaptations of the psalm verse.

(19.) Notices of church leaders named Gerontius occur in Athanasius, Apologia secunda 3.50 (Athanasius: Werke 2.3 [Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1935], 125, 130; trans. M. Atkinson, rev. A. Robertson, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Series II [hereafter NPNF II], vol. 4 [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1956], 126-27), where we learn of two bishops bearing this name in attendance at the Council of Sardica. Sozomen, in Historia ecclesiastica 3.6, relates briefly the career of a physician named Gerontius, who was made the bishop of Nicomedia, then deposed (among other reasons, for boasting of his powers in a night battle with an ass-like creature) after displeasing both Ambrose of Milan and John Chrysostom (Sozomenus: Kirchengeschichte, ed. Joseph Bidez and Gunther C. Hansen, GCS 50 [1960], 358-59; trans. Chester Hartranft, in NPNF II.2 [1957], 403).

(20.) Zvi Ma'oz, "Art and Architecture of the Synagogues of the Golan," in L. Levine, Ancient Synagogues Revealed (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1981), 101. The map published here is duplicated from Ma'oz's later article, "Comments on Jewish and Christian Communities in Byzantine Palestine," in Palestine Exploration Quarterly 117 (1985): 66.

(21.) Dauphin, "Communities," 140.

(22.) C. M. Dauphin and J. J. Schonfield, "Settlements of the Roman and Byzantine Periods on the Golan Heights: Preliminary Report of Three Seasons of Survey," Israel Exploration Journal 33 (1983): 205.

(23.) Question marks on the map register judgrnents that may be debated, due to the character of some of the evidence at that particular site--for clarifications, see the individual site treatments in Gregg and Urman, Jews, Pagans, and Christians.

(24.) Cautionary comments are in order. The data are, for the most part, materials from surface surveys, taken from a region that has seen minimal and selective excavation. Theoretically a single new artifact could alter description of a site's religious makeup. Secondly, it is worth bearing in mind that in a village with a four-hundred-year history of occupancy in the period in question, the discovery of signs of Jewish, pagan, and Christian occupants does not guarantee their contemporaneity as groups in that settlement. One group possibly could have displaced another, or moved in after the place was abandoned--but I find no reason to think that would have been true consistently and without exception. Therefore, I tend to presume shared existence in a town or village when there is evidence of more than one religious group. Finally, another kind of caveat should be registered. Because nearly all of the stones bearing inscriptions were found, not in situ, but in reuse, we must weigh the possibility of materials traveling to another location, perhaps a different village undergoing construction in a later period. If such a phenomenon were widespread, the religious and historical profiles drawn of our several sites would much less secure. Urman and Dauphin in their surveys noted only a very few stones that had been transported from an ancient ruined site to a modern; the usual case was that inscribed or decorated stones (for instance, from an ancient synagogue or church), when found in later reuse, could be linked with the foundations or ruined walls of their original buildings in the town or village in which they were discovered.

(25.) The Greek abbreviates X([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) M([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) [Gamma]([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), a formula frequently met in ecclesiastical inscriptions from Syria (for instance, IGLS 2072, 2073, 2157). Some earlier epigraphers proposed other meanings (including Christ-Michael-Gabriel), but a scholarly consensus has been reached. See commentary on IGLS 271 and PAES III.B 1154.

(26.) See Frank R. Trombley, Hellenic Religion and Christianization, c. 370-529, Religions in the Graeco-Roman World 115/1-2 (New York: Brill, 1993-94), esp. 2:313-15. Trombley, who notes the two instances in which Origen cites 1 Cor. 8:4-6 in Contra Celsum 4.29 and 8.4 (Contre Celse, ed. Marcel Borret, SC 136:252, 150:184; trans. H. Chadwick, Origen, Contra Celsum [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965], 204, 455), uses the dated Syrian "one God" inscriptions to contextualize and thereby correct claims set forth in the well-known 1926 study by Erik Peterson ([GREEK TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: Epigraphische, formgeschichtliche und religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen [Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1926]). In addition, Trombley cites important distinctions between Jewish, Hellenistic henotheistic, and Christian monotheistic uses of this formula made by Campbell Bonner in his Studies in Magical Amulets, Chiefly Graeco-Egyptian (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press,1950), 174 ff., including this comment: "in a strictly religious sense must be regarded as an expression of monotheistic faith, and is rightly held to be of Jewish origin. It was taken over by the Christians and appears on a great number of bronze pendants, mainly of Syrian and Palestinian origin, which have on one side the Rider saint with the motto 'One God who conquers evil,' and on the other, usually, some apotropaic device directed against the evil eye." See Gregg and Urman, Jews, Pagans, and Christians, 156-57.

(27.) Trombley, Christianization, vol. 2, esp. 316-74; J. H. W. G. Liebeschuetz, "Epigraphic Evidence on the Christianisation of Syria," in Limes: Akten des XI Internationalen Limeskongresses, 1976, ed. J. Fitz (Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1977), 485-505.

(28.) Gregg and Urman, Jews, Pagans, and Christians, 38, inscription no. 36*.

(29.) Gregg and Urman, Jews, Pagans, and Christians, 250, inscription no. 207*, from Quneitra. The altar names no deities, though another, from Tell et-Talaya, is dedicated to "the most mighty Theandrios," a god known to have been popular in Bostra and in various places in the Hauran (idem, Jews, Pagans, and Christians, 180-81, inscription no. 147).

(30.) "Aulos" is not a certain reconstruction of the initial abbreviation in the inscription, though Aurelius does complete the abbreviation that runs from line 1 to the beginning of line 2. Zeus Bel was the patron god of Apamea. For commentary on the inscription, see Gregg and Urman, Jews, Pagans, and Christians, 75.

(31.) The date of the inscription is not secure, since the "era" used in Surman is uncertain; Alapheos may have died in 58 C.E. (Seleucid era) or in the fourth century (305-6 by the Pompeian era, and 367 by the era, or calendar, of Caesarea Philippi). See Gregg and Urman, Jews, Pagans, and Christians, 222.

(32.) Elizabeth A. Meyer, "Explaining the Epigraphic Habit in the Roman Empire: the Evidence of Epitaphs," Journal of Roman Studies 80 (1990): 74-96. See also Ramsay MacMullen, "The Epigraphic Habit in the Roman Empire," American Journal of Philology 103 (1982): 233-46; and Richard Sailer and Brent Shaw, "Tombstones and Roman Family Relations in the Principate: Civilians, Soldiers and Slaves," Journal of Roman Studies 74 (1984): 124-56. The wider context is considered in Peter Garnsey, Social Status and Legal Privilege in the Roman Empire (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970).

(33.) The first two phrases are from tombstones published in Gary J. Johnson, Early-Christian Epitaphs from Anatolia (Atlanta: Scholars, 1995), inscription no. 2.19 from Dinar, and no. 2.13 from Hierapolis. The third inscription is from a Jewish catacomb at Beth She'arim in the Galilee; see Moshe Schwabe and Baruch Lifshitz, Beth She'arim, Volume II: The Greek Inscriptions (Jerusalem: Massada, 1974), inscription no. 162.

(34.) Johnson, Epitaphs from Anatolia, inscriptions no. 1.18, 1.18, 1.23, 4.11 respectively.

(35.) Richmond Lattimore, Themes in Greek and Latin Epitaphs (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1962), 302, 314.

(36.) Lattimore, Epitaphs, 108.

(37.) IGLS 1969. The inscription, another invocation of Ps. 120:8, is dated to 547 C.E.

(38.) PAES III.B 1018, IGLS 424 (see commentary on the second inscription in Trombley, Christianization, 2:258).

(39.) IGLS 1909; the editors describe the phrase as a "maxime prophylactique."

(40.) Among the several fine studies in Henry Maguire, ed., Byzantine Magic (Washington, D.C.: Harvard University Press, 1995), see particularly chaps. 1-3: Matthew Dickie, "The Fathers of the Church and the Evil Eye"; James Russell, "The Archaeological Context of Magic in the Early Byzantine Period"; and Maquire's treatment of "Magic and the Christian Image."

(41.) David Noy, Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 267-70, inscription no. 191.

(42.) That these inscribed formulas were not limited to synagogues and churches, but were carved on residences, seems clear. See IGLS 2634: "Lord, guard these houses"; 2635: "Cross. Lord God, protect this horse"; 1675: "This house is under the protection of the Most High"; and the comments in Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked, Magic Spells and Formulae: Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1993), 30.

(43.) Marvin Meyer and Richard Smith, Ancient Christian Magic: Coptic Texts of Ritual Power (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1994), 115-16, no. 62.

(44.) Joseph Naveh and Shaul Shaked, Amulets and Magic Bowls: Aramaic Incantations of Late Antiquity (Jerusalem: Magnes, 1985), 44-54. Zvi Ma'oz found the amulets (nos. 2-3 in the volume) in "Building 300" at Horvat Kanaf and dated them to the the late sixth or early seventh century C.E. The second of the amulets is interesting, among other reasons, for its mention of a rabbi as client--a rarity in magical texts (see comment by Naveh and Shaked, Amulets, 52).

(45.) Erwin R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period (New York: Pantheon Books, 1965), 12:79-82. Goodenough's interpretation of the menorah symbol moved from Zechariah 4:1-3, 10-14, with its vision of seven lamps described as "eyes of the Lord," to Josephus and Philo, who associate the lights with the seven planets, and, by coimplication in a popular thought world, to Midrash Rabbah on Numbers 8:1ff., leading to a connection of the seven candles with astralism. He concluded that in both the rabbinic passage and in Philo "the menorah is the soul of man sending light back to God, but chiefly it is the light of God" (Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, 12:82).

(46.) Goodenough, Jewish Symbols, 12:79-80.

(47.) Steven Fine, "Holiness and the Ancient Synagogue," in idem, ed., Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 38. In the same volume, see also the comments of Rachel Hachlili about the menorah and its significance in her contribution, "Synagogues in the Land of Israel," 115-19.

(48.) Fine, Sacred Realm, 38-39. In Naveh and Shaked, Amulets, 154, Geniza 10 (the verso of T-S K 1.18), with the letters peh tet peh yod peh tet tet yod, is shown in a photo and drawing. Also Joseph Naveh, in "The Aramaic and Hebrew Inscriptions from Ancient Synagogues," Eretz-Israel 20 (1989): 303 (Hebrew), notes that the ptpt from the bronze candleholder is quite similar to an amulet from the Geniza (CUL Or. 1080.6.19) on which it is written: "in the name of these letters pat pat pat zzzzzzz ... you holy letters and praiseworthy angels, cure so-and-so." Naveh writes further about the home that magic found in synagogues and discusses the instructions regarding the placement of amulets and charms in and around them.

(49.) Fine, Sacred Realm, 44-45. Fine concludes his section on Diaspora synagogues: "the image of synagogues portrayed in the polemics of John Chrysostom accurately reflects the nature of the institution in his time. Synagogues in the Greek- and Latin-speaking Diaspora were often 'holy places' where Scripture was read and Temple imagery employed. At least some were places of prayer where magic was carried out."

(50.) The stone and inscription, as well as the succeeding architectural fragment, are treated in Gregg and Urman, Jews, Pagans, and Christians, 152-53.

(51.) We have such a Christian inscription from Syria: IGLS 1443, which reads: "XM[Gamma] (Christ, born of Mary). Christ is the Victor. Flee, Satan!"

(52.) Dauphin et al., "Paiens, juifs, judeo-Chretiens, chretiens et musulmans," 312-14. The drawing by B. Wool reproduced below appears on p. 2 of the plates, following 334 of the text.

(53.) Dauphin et al., "Paiens, juifs, judeo-Chretiens, chretiens et musulmans," 312-14.

(54.) Naveh and Shaked, Magic Spells, 25, 28, 30.

(55.) The plaque is one of three menorah-decorated limestone reliefs inset with glass treated in L. A. Mayer and A. Reifenberg, "Three Ancient Jewish Reliefs," Palestine Exploration Quarterly (1937): 136-39. The authors report that these objects were shown to them at the Benedictine Monastery of the Dormition, and no record survives of their original location. Mayer and Reifenberg argued that this and the other two plaques showing menoroth were "[r]epresentations of the Temple, of synagogues and of the Ark of the Law," and that "they must have been kept fixed to a wall and so are mutatis mutandis in a way the prototype of the so-called mizrah-pictures,' to be found on the eastern wall of orthodox Jewish houses, indicating the direction of prayer" ("Three Ancient Jewish Reliefs," 139). A more complete and satisfying interpretation of the artifact was made possible by the discovery of four other mirror plaques in 1962 in a tomb near Kfar Dikhrin, a town in the vicinity of Beth Guvrin, about forty kilometers southwest of Jerusalem. L. Y. Rahmani, in "Mirror-Plaques from a Fifth-Century A.D. Tomb," Israel Exploration Journal 14 (1964), 50--60, provides a brief and interesting account of quite diverse interpretations of mirror plaques featuring not only menoroth but birds, fish, "Astarte" figures, etc. These have been variously thought to be children's toys, pyxes serving as receptacles for eucharistic bread, symbols of mystic light, and simple mirrors. Noting that plaques of this kind contained reflectors too small for practical use, Rahmani sought "some kind of symbolic, ceremonial, or magical use of mirrors which may have been, in the fifth century, acceptable to the three main religions." He wrote, further: "Jewish use is indicated by plaques decorated with the seven-branched candlestick; the plaques in the form of a female figure, with or without a small shrine, point to use by pagans; Christian use, finally, seems indicated by the cock, and still more so, the fish, but in any case by recurring instances of such plaques being found in tombs together with small cross-pendants" ("Mirror-Plaques," 59).

(56.) Rahmani, "Mirror-Plaques," 60. See also the summary treatment in Steven Fine, ed., Sacred Realm: The Emergence of the Synagogue in the Ancient World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 164-65 (Catalogue of Objects in the Exhibition, no. 40).

(57.) Theodoret, Hist. Phil. 28.1 (Theodoret de Cyr: Histoire des moines de Syrie 2, Histoire Philothee 14-30, ed. Pierre Canivet and Alice Leroy-Molinghen, SC 257 [1979], 224-26; trans. R. M. Price, A History of the Monks of Syria, by Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Cistercian Studies [Kalamazoo, Mich.: Cistercian Publications, 19851, 180-82), cited in Trombley, Christianization, 2:159-61, where the ascetic Thalaleios's conversion of a place of sacrifices is colorfully described; Trombley suggests that this takeover of the pagan temple "proved to be the beginning of Christianization" in Gabala in the Syrian countryside. An amulet from Geniza 27 (T-S Misc. 29.4), in Naveh and Shaked, Magic Spells, 233-34, records a request "in the name of God of Hosts, El Shaddai" and his angels and his magician that "the tongue of Abu l-Karam Al-Khazzaz the Christian" be subdued. The concluding adjuration is full: "By the virtue of the Supreme One who appears on Mount Sinai. I beg you by the virtue of Abraham ... of Isaac ... of Jacob ... of Moses ... of Joshua ... of Samuel ... of David ... of Daniel, Hanaiah, Mishael and Azariah. Subdue this Abu l-Karam. Amen Nesah Selah."

Robert C. Gregg is Teresa Hihn Moore Professor in Religious Studies at Stanford University.
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