V 243. Partenit. Epitaph of Niketas, 906 C.E.
H. 43.0, W. 27.0, Th. 2.0.
At the time of discovery, broke into 15 fragments; when Yu. P. Kalashnikov located the fragments at the Leningrad Branch of the Institute of Archaeology, the USSR Academy of Sciences, two were missing; during the restoration works of 1970-1971, the missing parts were supplemented, and the inscription was fixed in gypsum.
Place of Origin
1884, chance find.
Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Institution and inventory
State Hermitage, ω1219.
On the front.
Lapidary; letters are slightly elongated, with pointy loops. Alpha with a loop, beta with bottom underline, chi with a short lower right diagonal, cross-shaped psi. Ligatures: nu-eta, omicron-upsilon.
L1. Latyshev 1886; 1.1. Latyshev 1896, 74–77, № 69, табл. VIII.
θροπε, καὶ ἴδε τάφον, ὅν μέλ[λεις]
μετ' ὀλοίγον καὶ αὐτὸς ὐκῆν. Ἐ[ν]
τούτο ἐτελιώθι το͂ βίῳ, ἐχρίσ[ατο]
5ὡ δοῦλος τοῦ θ(εο)ῦ. Πτωχεύσας [τῷ]
πν(εύματ)ι πρὸς τὴν πράξιν ἔσχες καὶ τ[ὴν]
ἐπίβασιν, οὐράνιος ἄνθρωπος, ἐπίγιο[ς] ἄγγ-
ελος. Ὡ ἐν ὡσίῳ τῖ μνήμῃ ὁ θ̣[εο-]
φόρος π(ατ)ὴρ ἡμο͂ν ἀβᾶς Νικίτ[ας], ὁ κ(αὶ)
10ἱγούμενος τῆς μονῖς τοὺς ἁγίους
ἀποστόλους, ἐκ νεαρᾶς ἡλικίας ἀ-
νατεθὶς τῷ θ(ε)ῷ, πεδευθὶς ἐν τῷ
μονήρι βίο, πονέσας καὶ μαθιτεύσας
καὶ καλο͂ς διαπρέψας, ἐγνωρίσθη
15τοῖς πᾶσιν φιλόξενος ὢν και φιλό-
πτοχος, μᾶλον δὲ καὶ φιλόχ̣(ριστο)ς φα-
νίς. Ἐπαρ[έ]θετο τὼ πνεῦμα αὐτ̣[οῦ] εἰς
χεῖρας θ(εο)ῦ ζο͂ντος ὢν ἐτο͂ν νγ´. Ἐτε-
λιώθει μηνὶ δεκεμβρίῳ ιδ´, ἱμέ-
20ρᾳ κυριακῖ, ὥρ(ᾳ) α´, ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) ι´, ἀπὸ Ἀδὰμ̣ ἔτους ͵ςυ-
ιε´. Εὔχου, π(άτε)ρ, τὼ πεδίον σου Νηκόλ(αον) μο(να)χ(ὸν) καὶ πρε(σβύτερον)
ἀπὸ Βοσπόρου, ἵνα ὁ θ(εὸ)ς ἐλείσ[ῃ] μ[ε].
<div type="edition" xml:lang="grc"> <ab> <lb n="1"/>Ἐξ ἐναντίας βλέψον, ἄν<lb n="2" break="no"/>θροπε, καὶ ἴδε τάφον, ὅν μέλ<supplied reason="lost">λεις</supplied> <lb n="3"/>μετ' ὀλοίγον καὶ αὐτὸς ὐκῆν. Ἐ<supplied reason="lost">ν</supplied> <lb n="4"/>τούτο ἐτελιώθι το͂ βίῳ, ἐχρίσ<supplied reason="lost">ατο</supplied> <lb n="5"/>ὡ δοῦλος τοῦ <roleName><expan><abbr>θ</abbr><ex>εο</ex><abbr>ῦ</abbr></expan></roleName>. Πτωχεύσας <supplied reason="lost">τῷ</supplied> <lb n="6"/><expan><abbr>πν</abbr><ex>εύματ</ex><abbr>ι</abbr></expan> πρὸς τὴν πράξιν ἔσχες καὶ τ<supplied reason="lost">ὴν</supplied> <lb n="7"/>ἐπίβασιν, οὐράνιος ἄνθρωπος, ἐπίγιο<supplied reason="lost">ς</supplied> ἄγγ<lb n="8" break="no"/>ελος. Ὡ ἐν ὡσίῳ τῖ μνήμῃ ὁ <unclear>θ</unclear><supplied reason="lost">εο</supplied><lb n="9" break="no"/>φόρος <expan><abbr>π</abbr><ex>ατ</ex><abbr>ὴρ</abbr></expan> ἡμο͂ν ἀβᾶς Νικίτ<supplied reason="lost">ας</supplied>, ὁ <expan><abbr>κ</abbr><ex>αὶ</ex></expan> <lb n="10"/>ἱγούμενος τῆς μονῖς τοὺς ἁγίους <lb n="11"/>ἀποστόλους, ἐκ νεαρᾶς ἡλικίας ἀ<lb n="12" break="no"/>νατεθὶς τῷ <roleName><expan><abbr>θ</abbr><ex>ε</ex><abbr>ῷ</abbr></expan></roleName>, πεδευθὶς ἐν τῷ <lb n="13"/>μονήρι βίο, πονέσας καὶ μαθιτεύσας <lb n="14"/>καὶ καλο͂ς διαπρέψας, ἐγνωρίσθη <lb n="15"/>τοῖς πᾶσιν φιλόξενος ὢν και φιλό<lb n="16" break="no"/>πτοχος, μᾶλον δὲ καὶ <expan><abbr>φιλό</abbr><abbr><unclear>χ</unclear></abbr><ex>ριστο</ex><abbr>ς</abbr></expan> φα<lb n="17" break="no"/>νίς. Ἐπαρ<supplied reason="lost">έ</supplied>θετο τὼ πνεῦμα αὐ<unclear>τ</unclear><supplied reason="lost">οῦ</supplied> εἰς <lb n="18"/>χεῖρας <roleName><expan><abbr>θ</abbr><ex>εο</ex><abbr>ῦ</abbr></expan></roleName> ζο͂ντος ὢν ἐτο͂ν <num value="53">νγ</num>. Ἐτε<lb n="19" break="no"/>λιώθει <date>μηνὶ <rs type="month" ref="dec">δεκεμβρίῳ</rs> <num value="14">ιδ</num>, ἱμέ<lb n="20" break="no"/>ρᾳ κυριακῖ, <expan><abbr>ὥρ</abbr><ex>ᾳ</ex></expan> <num value="1">α</num>, <expan><abbr>ἰνδ</abbr><ex>ικτιῶνος</ex></expan> <num value="10">ι</num>, ἀπὸ Ἀδὰ<unclear>μ</unclear> ἔτους <num value="6415">ςυ<lb n="21" break="no"/>ιε</num></date>. Εὔχου, <expan><abbr>π</abbr><ex>άτε</ex><abbr>ρ</abbr></expan>, τὼ πεδίον σου <expan><abbr>Νηκόλ</abbr><ex>αον</ex></expan> <expan><abbr>μο</abbr><ex>να</ex><abbr>χ</abbr><ex>ὸν</ex></expan> καὶ <expan><abbr>πρε</abbr><ex>σβύτερον</ex></expan> <lb n="22"/>ἀπὸ Βοσπόρου, ἵνα ὁ <roleName><expan><abbr>θ</abbr><ex>εὸ</ex><abbr>ς</abbr></expan></roleName> ἐλείσ<supplied reason="lost">ῃ</supplied> μ<supplied reason="lost">ε</supplied>. </ab> </div>
3: ἐ[πεὶ] Latyshev
4: ἐχρίσ[θη Latyshev
7-8: ἐπίγειον τ]έλος Latyshev
9: ὁ κ(αὶ): om. Latyshev
Look in front of you, o man, and see the tomb, which, after a short while, you yourself will inhabit. He died in this life, he used it up, a servant of God. Having assumed humility of spirit, he gained access to the [promised - A.V.] object, a heavenly man, an earthly angel. Of saintly memory, God-bearing, our father, abbas Niketas, and prior of the monastery of the Holy Apostles, dedicated to God from the young age, raised in mostastic life, having laboured and learned, and turned out well, he became known to all as hospitable and loving poor people, or rather as loving Christ. He placed his spirit into the hands of the Living God being 53 years of age. He died on the 14th of December, Sunday, in the first hour in the 10th indiction, the year 6415 since Adam. Pray, o father, on behalf of your child Nicholas, monk and presbyter from Bosporos, so that God may have pity on me.
The epitaph of hegumen Niketas (here Nikitas) is the longest funerary inscription in the Northern Black Sea region of the Byzantine period. It is written in an encomiastic style and consists of quasi-poetic prooemium (lines 1-3), encomium for the deceased (lines 3-18), date of death (lines 18-20) and a final invocation (lines 20-21). Its language is not grammatically correct, in particular with respect to the use of cases.
1–3. The proem uses elements of metrical division: if we assume that the author stresses the first syllable in the word ἴδε, as was normal in Byzantium, then we would have two sentences: Ἐξ ἐναντίας βλέψον, ἄνθροπε, καὶ ἴδε τάφον and ὅν μέλ[λεις] μετ᾿ ὀλοίγον καὶ αὐτὸς ὐκῆν, consisting of iamboi, of which the second looks like a dodekasyllabic verse. The expression τάφον οἰκεῖν is known already in Euripides (Helena, 962), but in Christian authors, under the influence of Ps. 48.12, it has come to have negative connotations (a sinner's lot), so that in our text it might be used in the same sense.
3–5. In a private conversation, D.E. Afinogenov suggested to me that we might read ἐχρίσατο (i.e. ἐχρήσατο) here: it would be in connection with the formula ἐχρήσατο τῷ βίῳ (IG IV 628, Argos; an Egyptian variant is ἐχρήσατο τέλει τοῦ βίου (Lefebvre 1907, № 1907, № 382, 606, 621, 626, 659)), in the sense "completed one's life." In our case, the author of the epitaph, for the sake of rhetorical effect, somewhat unsuccessfully paired that expression with the formula ἐτελειώθη.
5–8. The expression πρὸς τὴν πράξιν ἔσχες καὶ τ[ὴν] ἐπίβασιν might refer not only to the attainment of Heavenly Kingdom, which is usually promissed to those "poor in spirit" (Мatth. 5.3), but might also be an allusion to Gregorius Nazanzenus, Orationes 4 (PG 35, 652), 20 (PG 35, 1080). The author of the epitaph, Nicholas, could have borrowed the expression "a heavenly man, an earthly angel" from the opening of an encomium written by St. Andrew of Crete for his probable patron, St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia (BHG 1362).
8–11. Hegumen Niketas is not otherwise known. On the monastery at Partenit, see commentary to V 241. For the colloquial μονὴ τοὺς ἁγίους ἀποστόλους compare μονὴ τὸν ἅγιον Κάρπον καὶ Πάπυλον in Patria Constantinopolitana III, 82. For ὁ κ(αὶ), necessistated by the length of the line, compare V 340.
11–14. Here we have a topos typical for monastic Lives: consecration from early age, being brought up at a monastery, feats of ascetism (see Pratsch 2005).
14–17. The words "hospitable and loving poverty" suggest that Niketas may have set up a hospice and an alms house at the monastery (Sorochan 2005, 1175). Assimilation of love for the poor to the love of Christ goes back to the Gospel of Matthew 25.35–40.
17–18. We should note an ungrammatical ἐπαρέθετο, with double augmentation. Variants of πνεῦμα παρατίθημι occur in rhetorical inscriptions CIG IV, № 8721 (Constantinople, 1118–1133 c.E.) and Feissel 1983, № 60 (Veroia).
18–21. For repetition of the word "died" in the dating formula, compare V 240 from nearby Panair. On the correspondence of dates 'since Creation' and 'since the Birth of Christ' in the Middle Byzantine period, see Introduction IV. 4. D. December 14, 906 indeed fell on a Sunday. The dating formula 'since Adam' is typical for the Middle Byzantine period: in Bosporus, cf. V 307 (692–693 C.E.), V 316 (770 C.E.), as well as V 315 (819 C.E.) and V 317 (884 C.E.; see Vinogradov 2008).
21–22. The use of the Bosporan dating formula is probably related to the epitaph's author - monk Nicholas: either because of his origin in Bosporus or his departure to Bosporus after his schooling at the side of hegumen Niketas. A connection with Bosporus is also corroborated by the type of tombstone (a thin marble panel), unknown elsewhere and palaeography, very similar to V 336 (912 C.E.). Compare the prayer of Nicholas with V 108; Nicholas apparently treats Niketas as a saint and entreats him for assistance in obtaining divine mercy. A similiar abbreviation of the name Nicholas is in I.Eph, № 4244; IG XIV, № 2573, 21.