V 7. Cherson. Building inscription of Justin II and Sophia, 565–574 C.E.





Proconnesian marble. 

Dimensions (cm)

H. 43.0, W. 34.0, Th. 10.5.

Additional description

Ancient pedimental stele in secondary use; rectangular inset field bearing a carved inscription, surrounded by wide relief border; the front surface is bumpy, the back is smooth. Two joining fragments from the top left corner survive. 

Place of Origin


Modern location

Sevastopol, Crimea. 

Institution and inventory

National Preserve of Tauric Chersonesos, 3608. 


May 1999, August 2001, September 2002, September 2003, September 2004, September 2005, September 2006, September 2007. 

Fragment 1

Find place

Sevastopol (Chersonesos). 

Find context

City walls, southern sector, Сurtain walls XVII–XVIII, inner face. 

Find circumstances

1899, excavations of K.K. Kostsyushko-Valyuzhinich. 

Institution and inventory

, no inventory number. 

Fragment 2

Find place

Sevastopol (Chersonesos). 

Find context

City walls, southern sector, near tower XV. 

Find circumstances

1905, excavations of K.K. Kostsyushko-Valyuzhinich 

Institution and inventory

, no inventory number. 

Epigraphic field


Within the frame. 


Lapidary. Alpha with broken crossbar; epsilon and sigma are sometimes rectangular; the diagonals of kappa do not touch the vertical; pi with extended horizontal. 

Letterheights (cm)




Building inscription. 


565–574 C.E. 

Dating criteria



Fr. 1. 1.L.1. Kostsyushko-Valyuzhinich 1901a, 42 fig. 39. Fr. 2. L1. Latyshev 1906a, 121-123, № 37; 2. НЭПХ II (Solomonik 1973), 119-122, № 134. Fr. 1-2. L1. Solomonik 1986, 213-214, № 4 fig. 8; 1.1. Bull.ép. 1990, 902; 1.2. Vinogradov 2007, 265, № 19. 


+ Κατεσκευ[άσθη ---]
ἐπὶ τῶν εὐσ̣[εβεστάτων ἡμῶν δεσποτῶν Ἰουστίνου]
κ̣α̣ὶ Σοφίας α̣[ἰωνίων αὐγούστων καὶ αὐτοκρατόρων]
καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς [ἀρχῆς? τοῦ δεῖνος στρατηλάτου καὶ]
5δουκὸς [Χερσῶνος καὶ σπουδῇ (e.g.) τοῦ δεινὸς]
λαμπρ[οτάτου --- καὶ]
Θ̣εαγ[ένους ---]



EpiDoc (XML)

<div type="edition" xml:lang="grc">
    <lb n="1"/> <g ref="#stauros"/> Κατεσκευ<supplied reason="lost">άσθη</supplied>
      <gap reason="lost" extent="unknown" unit="character"/>
    <lb n="2"/> ἐπὶ τῶν
      εὐ<unclear>σ</unclear><supplied reason="lost">εβεστάτων</supplied> 
      <supplied reason="lost">ἡμῶν δεσποτῶν</supplied> 
      <supplied reason="lost">Ἰουστίνου</supplied>
    <lb n="3"/><unclear>κα</unclear>ὶ Σοφίας
      <unclear>α</unclear><supplied reason="lost">ἰωνίων</supplied> <supplied reason="lost"><rs type="month" ref="aug">αὐγούστων</rs> καὶ αὐτοκρατόρων</supplied>
    <lb n="4"/>καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς
      <supplied reason="lost" cert="low">ἀρχῆς</supplied>
      <supplied reason="lost">τοῦ δεῖνος
      στρατηλάτου καὶ</supplied>
    <lb n="5"/>δουκὸς 
      <supplied reason="lost">Χερσῶνος
      καὶ σπουδῇ <note>e.g.</note>
    τοῦ δεινὸς</supplied> 
    <lb n="6"/>λαμπρ<supplied reason="lost">οτάτου</supplied>
      <gap reason="lost" unit="character" extent="unknown"/> <supplied reason="lost">καὶ</supplied> 
    <lb n="7"/><unclear>Θ</unclear>εαγ<supplied reason="lost">ένους</supplied>
      <gap reason="lost" extent="unknown" unit="character"/>
    <lb n="7a"/><gap reason="lost" extent="unknown" unit="line"/>
Apparatus criticus

1: τὸ τίχος vel τὸν πύργον (sic!) Solomonik 1973
2: εὐ(i.e. σεβεστάτων) vel εὐ[τυχεστάτων] Solomonik 1973; Αὐτοκρατόρων Latyshev 1906a
3: α[ἰωνίων αὐγούστων καὶ αὐτοκρατόρων] Vinogradov 2007
4: [πράξεως·· ? ··] Solomonik 1986
5: καὶ σπουδῇ e.g. τοῦ δεῖνὸς Vinogradov 2007
6: καὶ Vinogradov 2007


Constructed in the days of our most pious rulers Justin and Sofia, e[ternal Augusti and emperors], under the supervision of ... stratelates] and dux [of Cherson, and through the efforts of ...] most illustrious Thea[genes...]



The inscription was carved on the back side of a reused ancient stele, so that the inscribed surface is rough, while the back is worked and smooth. The idea of joining the two fragments (published separately by Latyshev) belongs to Solomonik. Somewhat unusually (cf. V 5), the letters are smaller in the top half of the inscription than in the bottom: the carver might have been afraid of running out of space.

1. The formula Κατεσκευάσθη is typical for ancient rather than Byzantine epigraphy: the last example of it (without Christian symbols) is found in Grégoire 1929, no. 290 (ca. 388 C.E.); in the Northern Black Sea region, it is known only from CIRB 65. Most likely, the inscription refers to the reconstruction of the southern sector of the city walls, where Fragment 1 was found. The action, to restore the walls, may have been taken in connection with the "growing Turkic threat" after 572 C.E. (Sorochan 2005, 683), in which case we should date the inscription to 572–574 C.E. (see below). At the same time, we should point out that in contrast to ancient inscriptions, including Chersonessian, the verb κατασκευάζω is never used, according to PHI7 Database, in Byzantine inscriptions with reference to construction of walls.

2–3. The correct reconstruction of imperial titles is crucial for the calculation of line length. Altogether, we have three epigraphic attestations of joint titles for Justin II and Sophia: ἐ[πὶ] τ[ῶν σε]β(αστῶν) [ἡ]μῶν δ[εσ]π(οτῶν) [Ἰουσ]τίνου κ(αὶ) Σω[φίας] (MAMA III 106а; Ören Köyü, Isauria, 566–567 C.E.), [β]ασιλ[ί]ας [τοῦ ἡμῶν δεσπότου Φλ. Ἰ]ουστίνου Σ[εβαστοῦ αὐτοκράτορος καὶ] τῆς Αὐ[γούστης Αἰλίας Σοφίας] (Dumont, Homolle 1892, no. 62(6); Adrianopolis, 578 C.E.) and τῶν εὐσεβεστάτων ἡμῶν δεσποτῶν Φλα. Ἰουστίνου καὶ Αἰλίας Σοφίας αἰωνίων αὐγούστων καὶ αὐτοκρατόρων (Lefebvre 1907, no. 584; Philae, 577 C.E.). These examples suggest that it is preferable to restore εὐ[σεβεστάτων] rather than εὐ[τυχεστάτων]; in addition, the traces of a sigma are clear on the stone. There is only one case when the title ἡμῶν δεσπότου is not applied to Justin (IGLS 546), therefore, it is more likely that it had been present in our inscription as well, in which case the line would be about 39 letters long. At the same time, the traces of an alpha after Σοφίας indicate that what followed was the title αἰωνίων αὐγούστων καὶ αὐτοκρατόρων, which would fit the reconstructed size of the lacuna to the letter. The inscription can be dated by the joint rule of Justin II and Sophia to the period of 565–578 C.E., and due to the absence of the name Tiberius it can be further narrowed down to 565–574 C.E.

4. Solomonik's restoration ἐπὶ τῆς πράξεως following the model of V 5 (see commentary) is rather doubtful due to the formula's uniqueness (see commentary to V 5) and chronological distance. While ἐπὶ τῆς βασιλείας is impossible, other possible alternatives are: ἐπὶ τῆς ἐξουσίας (Lefebvre 1907, № 593, 598; SEG 18.724) and ἐπὶ τῆς ἀρχῆς (Lefebvre 1907, № 64 (= OGIS 722a); Atribis in Egypt, 374 г.) - the latter was well attested in antiquity (8 times, according to PHI7 Database). The space after ἐπὶ τῆς allows only an alpha (thus excluding ἐπὶ τῆς πράξεως), and therefore the most likely candidate is the phrase ἐπὶ τῆς ἀρχῆς (in Lefebvre 1907, no. 64, it occurs before the name of an eparch of Egypt).

5. Concerning dux, see Sorochan 2006, 298–302. It is worth noting that in 589–590 C.E. the stratelates and dux of Cherson, Eupaterios, was in charge of construction projects in Asian Bosporos (V 330). The length of lacuna in line 4 necessitates the restoration of the title of stratelates, and the name of dux was about 11 letters long, so it could in fact have been Eupaterios. It would be difficult to accept that the second person who figures in the inscription under the title "the most illustrious" would have been connected to the first named official by means of a simple καί. It is also unlikely that two officials would have been introduced by the expression ἐπὶ τῆς ἀρχῆς, and the length of the lacuna in that case would have required one name to be some 18 letters long! It is much more plausible that the name was preceded by some reference to the man's role, such as σπουδῇ (cf. V 329), ἐκ προνοίας, φροντίζοντος or simply ἐπί.

5. Judging by the title, the second official was vir illustris.

6. Theagenes is not otherwise known: being the third official mentioned in the text, he was most likely some local functionary (e.g., "father of the city" (V 329)). The name was very popular in the Northern Black Sea region, particularly in ancient Chersonesos (12 occurrences).



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