V 122. Basman ridge. Epitaph of John, X–XIth century C.E.
Cоmpact bryozoan limestone.
H. 35.5, W. 18.0, Th. 13.0.
Stele carved in the shape of a church with saddleback roof. On the pedimental front and on the side surfaces is a double circle rosette with crosses in the centre, and there is an ornamental band carved below the pediment. Broken in two pieces, with multiple indentations on the front.
Place of Origin
Karst hollows, cave 5, rubble fill from the ruined church.
1962, survey of O.I. Dombrovsky.
Institution and inventory
Central Museum of Tavrida, no inventory number.
Below the rosette.
Lapidary, bouletée. Alpha with a loop; kappa with elongated vertical, mu with a sagging crossloop, bowl-shaped upsilon without a vertical, chi with serifs at the tops of the diagonals.
X–XIth century C.E.
L1. Solomonik 1986, 214–215, fig. 6–8.
<div type="edition" xml:lang="grc"> <ab> <lb n="1"/><g ref="#stauros"/> <expan><abbr>Ἐκυμή</abbr><ex>θη</ex></expan> ὁ δ<supplied reason="lost">οῦ</supplied><lb n="2" break="no"/>λως τοῦ <roleName><expan><abbr>θ</abbr><ex>εο</ex><abbr>ῦ</abbr></expan></roleName> <lb n="3"/><supplied reason="lost">Ἰο</supplied><unclear>ά</unclear>νου <expan><abbr>πρ</abbr><ex>εσβύτερος</ex></expan> <lb n="4"/><supplied reason="lost">τ</supplied>ῆς Χερσα<lb n="5" break="no"/>κείας <g ref="#stauros"/>. </ab> </div>
3: πρ(εσβύτερος) resp. πρ(ωτοπαπᾶς) Solomonik
4-5: Χερσαικείας Solomonik
Fell asleep: a servant of God [Io]annes, presbyter of Chersakeia.
The monument stands out among other standard tombstones both in terms of its shape, and in terms of its inscribed content. The stone imitates a church with a saddleback roof and is decorated at the top with a rosette bearing crosses. The top half is separated from the inscribed lower half by an ornamental band. Such imitation of church architecture is known among the Byzantine tombstones of Mountainous Crimea. The closest analogy is the now missing tombstone from the Church of the Saviour on Mt. Boyka, which represented a miniature model of church with saddleback roof and pentagonal apse: the pediment bore a carved foliate cross and two small equilateral crosses within rosettes on either side. A Greek inscription was carved below the cross (Dombrovsky 1968, 90). The shape of the monument could perhaps be explained by the clerical status of the deceased who, according to the inscription, was a presbyter.
1–2. On the formula, see Introduction IV.3.F.e.
3. The name of the deceased, and specifically John, in the genitive instead of the nominative, occurs in V 66. On the abbreviation "pr(esbyter)" in the Late Byzantine Crimea, see V 160, V 201 and V 218. An alternative, protopresbyter, suggested by Solomonik, is not attested in the Northern Black Sea region; cf., on the contrary, V 218.1. Indication of the place of presbytery is not unique, it is attested in V 201 and V 218, as well as in Ὀρλάνδος, Βρανούσσης 1973, no. 95 and Mitford 1950, 139, no. 11; it most likely indicated that the deceased was a cleric from the Cherson archbishopric.
4-5. Of great interest is the name of the location - Chersakeia (what Solomonik identified as a final iota in line 4 is nothing more than an accidental scratch at the break). The first editor correctly correlated the place name with the mention of Chersakoi in the Vita of Apostle Andrew, written by Epiphanios the Monk shortly after 815–820 C.E. (see Vinogradov 2005c, 39–47). In the Vita, the term is used by the author who had visited Crimea, with reference to the residents of Cherson. This name is no doubt of local origin (for this reason, in some manuscripts of the Vita, it is replaced with the more traditional Chersonites), which is also supported by V 15. Solomonik hypothesized that Chersakeia may have been the name of the larger region surrounding Cherson, but we cannot exclude the possibility that John was buried away from his place of clerical service (e.g., in his native area) in a locally revered church in the Basman cave. In addition, the clarification could have helped to distinguish it from the Eparchy of Gotthia, which occupied the greater part of the Mountainous Crimea.
The script shows features of the Middle Byzantine uncial (bowl-shaped mu), and can be dated as early as the IXth century, but we have attestations of such script later as well (cf. V 108, XIVth century). At the same time, the formula ἐκοιμήθη does not occur in Crimea before 1065 C.E. (V 319). For this reason, I am inclined to date this inscription to the X–XIth centuries. The archaeological finds from Cave 5 date to the VIII-IXth centuries (Ivanov, Dublyansky, Dombrovsky 1963, 28–30).