V 330. Hermonassa or Bosporus. Building inscription of Mauricius, 589–590 C.E.





White marble. 

Dimensions (cm)

H. 76.0, W. 179.0, Th. 28.0.

Additional description

In secondary use; the front retains the design of the original: on either side there is a bas-relief of a Nike with a wreath in the right and a palm branch in the left hand, with one foot resting on a ball; at the bottom centre of the stele - two relief tamgas. The surface is somewhat weathered, the name Mauricius suffered damnatio memoriae. 

Place of Origin

Hermonassa or Bosporus. 

Find place

Taman, vicinity; Suvorovskaya fortress. 

Find context


Find circumstances

1803, survey of P.I. Sumarokov. 

Modern location

Saint Petersburg, Russia. 

Institution and inventory

The State Hermitage, 2069/1. 


November 2007. 

Epigraphic field


Between the bas-reliefs and the tamgas. 


Lapidary; letters are uneven and of varying heights. Alpha with broken crossbar, lunate epsilon, pi with extended horizontal. Ligature omicron-upsilon, abbreviation mark. 

Letterheights (cm)




Building inscription. 


589–590 C.E. 

Dating criteria

Explicit date. 


L1. Raoul-Rochette 1822, № 8. Pl. IX.5; 2. Ashik 1848–1849, 115, № 43; 3; 3. Stefani 1854, 21; 3.1. CIG IV.8740; 4. Köhne 1856, 207; 5. Latyshev 1894a; 5.1. Latyshev 1896, 105–109, № 99; 5.2. Latyshev 1898, 244–250; 5.3. Nadel 1989; 6. Kulakovsky 1896b; 7. Vinogradov 2007, 266, № 20; 8. Vinogradov 2010a, 155-175. 


+ Πρὸς τοῖς λοιποῖς
μεγάλοις κ(αὶ) θαυμαστοῖς
κατορθόμασι κ(αὶ) τόδε τὸ<δ>
λαμπρὸν ἐν Βοοσπόρῳ
5Κεσάριον ἀνενέωσεν
Μ̣[[[αυρί]]]κις ὁ εὐ(σ)εβεστάτος κ(αὶ) θεοφύλακτος ἡμῶν
δεσπότης διὰ τοῦ γνησίου αὐτοῦ
δούλου Εὐπατερίου, τοῦ ἐνδοξοτάτου
στρατηλάτ vac. 1 litt. ου καὶ δουκὸς Χερσῶνος. Ἰνδ(ικτιῶνος) η´.

3: orig. ΤῸ



3: orig. ΤῸ

EpiDoc (XML)

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    <lb n="1"/><g ref="#stauros"/> Πρὸς τοῖς
    <lb n="2"/>μεγάλοις <expan><abbr>κ</abbr><ex>αὶ</ex></expan>
    <lb n="3"/>κατορθόμασι
     <expan><abbr>κ</abbr><ex>αὶ</ex></expan> τόδε
     τὸ<supplied reason="omitted">δ</supplied>
    <lb n="4"/>λαμπρὸν ἐν
    <lb n="5"/>Κεσάριον  ἀνενέωσεν
    <lb n="6"/><unclear>Μ</unclear><supplied reason="lost"><del>αυρί</del></supplied>κις
     θεοφύλακτος ἡμῶν
    <lb n="7"/>δεσπότης διὰ τοῦ
    γνησίου αὐτοῦ 
    <lb n="8"/>δούλου
    τοῦ ἐνδοξοτάτου
    <lb n="9"/>στρατηλάτ<space quantity="1" unit="character"/>ου
    καὶ δουκὸς Χερσῶνος.
    <expan><abbr>Ἰνδ</abbr><ex>ικτιῶνος</ex></expan> <num value="8">η</num>.
Apparatus criticus

6: ...ΚΙΕ Ashik; ...ΚΙΣ Dubois de Montpéreux 1843, Stefani; Ἰ[σαά]κις Kirchhof, Kulakovsky


In addition to other great and admirable achievements also this splendid Kesarion on Bosporus restored M[auri]cius, our most pious and divinely guarded lord, through his intimate servant Eupaterios, most glorious stratelates and dux of Cherson. In the 8th indiction.



On the detailed history of the study of this inscription, see Latyshev 1896, №99. Apparently, it was this inscription that the architect N.A. Lvov saw built into the fence of the Pokrov church in Taman, in August 1803 (Tunkina 2002, 561, 570). A drawing made by poruchik Kramarovsky is also published there, p. 562, fig. 148. In the XIXth century, the monument was visually inspected several more times and additional drawings were made (Sumarokov 1805, 127–128, fig. 19; Dubois de Montpéreux 1843, 74; Atlas, 4 ser., pl. 26a., fig. 6; Murzakevich 1837, 679–680, № 6). Shkorpil (1910) conclusively demonstrated the secondary use of the stele on the basis of an analogy with a pair stele with two Nikai and a tamga in the centre. In the case of our stele, a band of wreaths and the tops of tamgas were filed away to make room for the inscription.

1–3. The formula is unique in Byzantine epigraphy. For Τὰ λοιπά in reference to "the rest of buildings," see Grégoire 1929, № 94 (Colophon, VIth century; cf. also V 11).

4. The word "Bosporus" is somewhat difficult to interpret here. On the one hand, John Malalas (Chronographia 431) uses "Bosporus" in reference to a city, not region. On the other hand, if we indeed take it in this sense (that is, as a Byzantine name for Pantikapaion-Kerch), then it is unclear how our inscription could have ended up in Hermonassa (see also below).

5. A related issue is the meaning of another term, the most difficult in the interpretation of the inscription, - 'kaisarion' (here 'kesarion'). In Byzantine epigraphy, this term is not attested. Aside from its use as a personal name, we find its use in Byzantine authors twice: as the name of a church in Alexandria (Socrates Scholasticus. Hist. eccl. 7, 15) and as the name of a city on Euphrates (Theophanes. Chronographia 347). In classical antiquity, the term designated a temple dedicated to Caesar (LSJ, s.v. Καισάρειος). Indeed, there is a mention of a certain 'kaisarion' in CIRB 1050 from Hermonassa (1st half of the IInd century) Usually interpreted as a temple of Caesar in Hermonassa of the late VIth century, it compells us to identify Hermonassa as its location (contrary to the commentary in CIRB 1050. It is, however, a puzzle why a pagan temple would have have restored at the end of the VIth century: there is no hint in the inscription that the building was a church. To obviate the problem, some scholars identify the kaisarion of Hermonassa as a palace (Makarova, Pletnyova 2003, 159), but there are no grounds for such a supposition.

At the same time, the interpretation of 'kaisarion' as a temple in CIRB 1050 is also somewhat loose: the word "priest" is restored. It remains unclear which city was renamed Kaisareia in the Ist century, when Phanagoreia was renamed Agrippia. The Hermonassian origin of the inscription that mentions both these names supports the notion that Kaisaria was Hermonassa — the main counter-argument is the coin issue struck by Polemon I and bearing the name of Kaisareia, however, we should not rule out the possibility of its minting in Hermonassa (Podosinov 1997 adds another hypothesis: the origin of the later name of Pantikapaion (?) Kareion from Kaisarion). An element of the whole problem is the question about the actual forms of city names: both are known to us in the genitive, as names of its citizens: Καισαρέων and Ἀγριππέων. Since we know that cities of the empire could be called not only Kaisar(e)ia, but also Kaisar(e)ion (see above), it remains possible that Hermonassa had been renamed Kesar(e)ion. For epigraphic references to a city as "this here," cf. V 6.

For λαμπρὸς as an official epithet of a city in Early Byzantine epigraphy, see Grégoire 1929, 304, 309 (3) (Attaleia), I.Eph 1340, 1352, I.Erythrai 517, MAMA IV, 59 (Sinas), TAM III.1 80, 82, 942, 943 (Termessos), SEG 2.735 (Sagalassos) and so on (such characterization is specifically typical for Asia Minor: the exception is Lapithos on Cyprus). For the combination ("this illustrious" and "this here"), see Ivanov 1931, 42 (Ohrid, 1361 C.E.). Thus, we may conclude that under Mauricius, the city of Kaisarion was restored in Bosporus on the site of the ancient Hermonassa, which fits in well with the inevitable building activity of a military official necessitated by the Turkic destruction of 576 C.E. Still, we cannot rule out the possibility that the monument had been transported to the Taman peninsula from Kerch, thus allowing for other interpretations.

6. A heated debate arose between Latyshev and Kulakovsky in relation to this inscription, as also to V 329: it concerned the name of the emperor subjected to the damnatio memoriae in this line. There is no doubt in my mind that Kulakovsky and Kirchhoff, who had restored Isaakios, were wrong, and Latyshev, who had restored Mauricius, was right. Although with difficulty, this name is legible on the stone. On the posthumous damnatio memoriae of Mauricius, cf. Grégoire 1929, no. 111 (Ephesos, 585 г.; ср. Sartre 2007, 325). Thus, in the time of Phocas who had deposed Mauricius, Bosporus was still guided by the politics of Constantinople. The title εὐσεβέστατος is attested for Mauricius in SEG 26.1677, and θεοφύλακτος — in IdC, no. 118.

7–9. On the title πιστὸς δοῦλος that seemed so puzzling to Kulakovsky, see, besides Latyshev 1898, 244–250, also three inscriptions of the Justinian period from Corinth: InsKorIstm, no. 1, 2 (γνήσιως δουλεύων), 3 (domestic of the holy court and imperial excubitor). Eupaterios of our inscription is probably the same as Eupaterios, dux of Sardinia in 598–599 C.E. (PLRE III 463), especially if we recall the testimony of John Malalas (Chronographia 431) regarding the establishment of an Italian garrison headed by a tribune in Bosporus in 528 C.E.

Although the inscription was made under the supervision of the dux of Cherson, it nonetheless betrays a certain predilection for specifically Bosporan traditions of epigraphy: reuse of the monument from the period of the Kingdom of Bosporus, pseudo-etymological classical form Βοοσπόρῳ (cf. CIRB 838), which, however, survives down to the X-XIth centuries (Vinogradov 2005c, 225). At the same time, it is quite telling that Bosporus had lost its independence by the late VIth century and had been placed under the control of a Byzantine official in Cherson. Moreover, the building activity of a military functionary (cf. V 330) from Cherson on the Asiatic Bosporus indicates the creation in the Northern Black Sea region of an entity typical for the late VIth century in Byzantium - a precursor to the future thema (exarchate) with a unified civil-military command, especially poignant after the Turkic destruction of 576 C.E.



(cc) © 2015 Andrey Vinogradov (edition), Irene Polinskaya (translation)
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