A new complex of Greek inscriptions from Machkhomeri fortress in Lazica
The new complex of Greek inscriptions from Machkhomeri fortress is a unique evidence of the Christianization of Lazica in the 6th c. Along with the inscriptions from Sepieti and Vashnari (now in the Ozurgeti Museum) churches, these are the first monuments of lapidary epigraphy from Lazica and the only complex of inscriptions known there. Three lapidary inscriptions have different characters: one is an invocative and building inscription, the second is invocative and prohibitive, and the third is probably prohibitive. All three of these inscriptions are executed according to the epigraphic style of the mid-6th ‒ mid-7th c., but by different carvers; especially the form of epsilon is different: drop-shaped (incl. with a gap at the top), rectangular and diamond-shaped, that indicates Lazica’s acquaintance with different varieties of the Greek epigraphic ductus. The graffiti inscriptions on the slab, possibly of school character, should also be considered as evidence of the spread of Greek alphabet in Lazica; but also here the form of alpha varies between one with a broken crossbar (like on the lapidary inscriptions of Machkhomeri) and the other with a loop. One should also pay attention to the names of the ktetors: Gorgonios and Theonas, who, as in the case of Sepieti (Philoktistos), are not of local, but of Greek and Christian origin. Probably, the builder of the martyrium basilica, Gorgonios, dedicated it to the holy Forty martyrs of Sebasteia, bearing himself the name of one of them. Also important are the parallels to the formulas of Machkhomeri inscriptions found in the epigraphic traditions of Asia Minor and the East (Arabia and Syria), which may suggest the origin of the ktetors or carvers.