IRCyr   Inscriptions of Roman Cyrenaica

M.56. Military name

Description: Lintel block; other blocks are inscribed with M.57, M.58, M.59, M.60, M.61, M.62, M.63.
Text: Graffito
Letters: 0.03 – 0.06; square sigma, cursive omega.

Date: First century CE

Findspot: South of Berenike: Zawyiet Msus, in the Roman fort, on the lintel of the doorway; first recorded in 1950.
Original location: Findspot
Last recorded location: Findspot (re-examined in 1969, 1970)


Ἀλέξανδροϲ Πανταλέ-
οντοϲ ϲτρατιώτηϲ



English translation

Translation by: Charlotte Roueché

Alexandros (scil. son) of Pantaleon, soldier


For the fort see Goodchild op. cit.; cf. Reynolds, 1971a. It was one of a series already in existence in the first century CE, probably established after the Marmaric War, forming the innermost defence line of the Syrtic limes. It was occupied by an auxiliary unit which was partly mounted (cf.M.57.f, M.58, M.61.h, M.62.f); the names recorded show a limited number of Roman citizens (certainly M.57.a and b, M.59.a) and a majority of non-citizens. Of the latter, some have Roman names translitterated into Greek as personal names, suggesting a slightly Romanised Greek background, others Libyan names translitterated into Greek (cf. M.59.j, vi.f, vii.e) but most of the Greek names are not especially associable with any area (though M.59.e, M.61.d, e suggest local connections). It seems probable that the unit was raised in a Greek-speaking province (perhaps Syria, see below) but that there had been some local recruiting while it was stationed in Cyrenaica, cf. at Ajdabia.

While inscriptions have been found in connection with two other forts in the same series (Ajdabia, see on M.3, and Esc-Sheleidima, see on M.45), Zawyiet Msus is unique so far in that many of its graffiti remain in situ and are on its outer walls. They occur in very considerable number but they are extremely difficult to read because they are cut more or less roughly on surfaces which are often poor, have weathered badly and, over a wide area, have been coated with modern whitewash. There is no doubt that more sense could be made of many recorded here and that a number of items could be added, given longer time to examine them either of us (Goodchild and Reynolds) were able to spend on the site. For the most part the graffiti consist of names only, sometimes with an indication of military status and occasionally with date (M.59.a, f, h, M.61.e, g, j, M.62.g). Once certainly (M.61.j) and once probably (M.59.a) the word ἥκω is added and the writer seems to be using one of the formulae of pilgrims visiting a shrine in a manner similar to that of the soldiers at Ajdabia, see on M.3. A possible parallel outside Cyrenaica is the Palmyrene Gate at Dura Europos following installation of the shrine of the Fortuna of Dura (Dura Reports, second season, 1928-29 (Newhaven 1931), 114f. and discussion on 154-5) though the formula used there is different. It was perhaps the presence of a shrine of some sort within the tower which led to the graffiti at Zawyiet Msus – their existence may indicate that the core of the unit was formed, as at Ajdabia, of Syrians.

Bibliography: Goodchild, 1953 Appendix 1, p.76, whence AE 1954.122 and SEG 13.620; reprinted, Goodchild-Reynolds, 1976 207;
Text constituted from: Transcription (Reynolds).


None available (2020).