In this article, I will review the last sizeable corpus of epigraphy from Antiquity, the mosaic inscriptions of churches in the provinces of Arabia and the three Palestines. When elsewhere in the Byzantine Empire the inscriptional habit was in serious decline,1 it remained remarkably strong here. I will look at the nature of the society that produced these inscriptions and the identity of the people responsible for their creation. Although there is a great deal of continuity with previous centuries, there are some interesting changes as well. They are noticeable in the content of the inscriptions themselves, including the titles and ranks of donors,2 but become all the more apparent when the larger context of these inscriptions is taken into account. Most notably, by the end of Antiquity, rural contexts produced by far the largest number of inscriptions and, in addition, it was not only members of the rich landowning elite who still made use of ‘official’ forms of epigraphy, but merchants, traders, wealthy farmers and soldiers had adopted the custom as well. I would argue that this is part of a broader phenomenon that had started already in the fourth century, in which settlements are the results of active interventions of broader levels within society, one that is noticeable over larger areas of the Eastern Mediterranean, and has not only an epigraphic but also an architectural expression.3 It comes to its full conclusion only over the course of the sixth century and is then cut short in most provinces, but continues under Islamic rule in the provinces of Arabia and the three Palestines. Consequently, this study is about regions that from the middle of the seventh century onwards fell outside of the borders of the Byzantine Empire, yet this does not mean that the epigraphy we find here is no longer Byzantine. As John Haldon phrased it:

Where does one ‘society’ end and another begin? … There is a tendency to assume that political divisions also represent social divisions … As long as they remained Christian, were north Syrian peasants in the seventh and eighth centuries not, in one sense, part of the same society as their (Byzantine) Anatolian neighbours?4