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E00999: Fragments from a Coptic parchment codex of the Sortes Sanctorum (oracle answers), dated to the early 7th century, found at the site of the burial shrine of *Kollouthos (physician and martyr of Antinoopolis, S00641) located in the northern necropolis of Antinoopolis (Middle Egypt).

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posted on 2015-12-17, 00:00 authored by gschenke
Ms Antinoe copte 22:

Fragm. 1, flesh side (A I):

ⲧⲓⲡⲓⲥⲧⲓⲥ ⲉⲧϩⲙ̣
ⲡⲉⲕϩⲏⲧ ⲙⲡⲣ-
ⲕⲁⲁⲥ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ · ⲟⲩⲛ-
4 ⲧ̣ⲕ ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ
ⲙⲙⲁⲩ ⲛⲃⲟⲏⲑⲟⲥ
ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲧⲟϥ ⲡⲉⲧ-
ⲛⲁⲣϩⲩⲙⲉ ⲙⲙⲟⲕ
8 ϩⲛ ⲧⲉϩⲓⲏ ⲉⲧⲕ-
[ⲛ]ⲁ̣ⲃⲱⲕ ⲛϩⲏⲧⲥ
[ ]ⲓ̣ⲟⲛ ⲙⲡⲣⲧⲓⲥ
[ ] ϫⲉ ⲙⲛ ⲗⲁ-
[ⲁⲩ ]

“Do not abandon this faith in your heart! You have God as a helper. It is he who will guide you on the way on which you will go. […] … Do not give it […], for there is nothing […].”

Fragm. 2, flesh side (A II):

[ ⲛⲧⲟⲕ]
ⲙⲙⲓⲛ ⲙⲙⲟⲕ ⲡⲉⲧ-
ⲟ ⲛⲁⲧⲥⲱⲧⲙ · ⲁⲩⲱ
ⲕⲥⲟⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲧϣⲟⲣⲡ
4 ⲛⲗⲩⲡⲏ ⲛⲧⲁⲥⲧⲁ-
ϩⲟⲕ · ⲁⲩⲱ ⲁⲡⲛⲟⲩ-
ⲧⲉ ⲧⲟⲩϫⲟⲕ ⲛϩⲏ̣[ⲧⲥ?]
ⲁϥⲭⲁⲣⲓⲍⲉ ⲛⲁⲕ ⲛ̣[ⲧⲭⲁ-]
8 ⲣ̣ⲓⲥ ⲙⲡⲉⲩϫ̣[ⲁⲓ ]
ⲕ · [ ]

“It is [you] yourself who is disobedient. Are you aware of the first suffering which has befallen you? God has saved you [from it]. He has granted you [the gift] of health. […]”

Fragm. 3, hair side (B I):

ⲙⲟⲟϣⲉ ⲛⲅⲃⲱⲕ
ϩⲛ ⲟⲩⲥⲟⲟⲩⲧⲛ
ϫⲉ ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲡⲉⲧ-
4 ⲙⲓϣⲉ ⲉϫⲱⲕ ·
ⲁⲩⲱ ϥⲛⲁⲧⲣ̣ⲉ-
ⲛ̣ⲉⲕϫⲁϫⲉ ϩⲩ̣-
ⲡ̣ⲟⲧⲁⲥⲥⲉ ⲛⲁⲕ
8 [ ] . . . ⲕ

“Proceed and go immediately, because it is God who fights for you. He will cause your enemies to be subordinate to you. […] … you.”

Fragm. 4, hair side (B II):

[ ⲛ-]
ⲧⲁⲥⲧⲁϩⲟⲕ ϫⲉ
ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲡⲉⲧ-
ⲙⲓϣⲉ ⲉϫⲱⲕ · ⲁⲩⲱ
4 ϥⲛⲁⲧⲱⲱⲃⲉ ⲛ[ⲁⲕ]
ϩⲛ ⲟⲩⲥⲟⲟⲩⲧⲛ
8 ⲃⲱⲕ ϩⲛ ⲟⲩⲉⲓⲉ̣[ⲗⲉⲗ

“ …] which has befallen you, for it is God who fights for you. He will respond to your request [for you] immediately.
Go in brightness!”

There is one more fragment, but it is too small to provide a reasonable translation.

(Translations: Gesa Schenke)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Kollouthos, physician from Antinoopolis (Middle Egypt), ob. early 4th cent. : S00641

Type of Evidence

Early manuscripts - Books/scrolls Liturgical texts - Divinatory texts and oracle questions


  • Coptic

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Egypt and Cyrenaica

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Antinoopolis Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Other lay individuals/ people


All finds from this site of the burial shrine stem from the ongoing excavations carried out by the Italian Istituto Papirologico "G. Vitelli" in Florence at the city of Antinoopolis since 1935. Fragments of this parchment codex of the sortes sanctorum came to light already in 1937.


In search for answers to important questions concerning their lives, visitors to the martyr shrine of *Kollouthos in Antinoopolis could enquire into the future with the sortes sanctorum. They would state the nature of their predicament to the person in charge at the shrine, who would then find it among a long list of numbered entries concerning the most frequently asked questions. Each of these questions on the list offered ten possible answers. The visitors would be asked to call out a number from one to ten at random and the matching answer or statement would be supplied accordingly. What seems to have survived here, are parts of the possible answer register to common questions. The phrasing of the 'answers' is kept unspecific enough to fit and respond to a wide range of enquiries. Besides this particular divination practice, visitors to the healing shrine of Kollouthos also had the option of ticket oracles, posing two written questions to God via the saint, one phrased positively, the other containing its negation. Both were written on separate small pieces of papyrus and one of them would be handed back as the answer. Many of the questions were concerned with the correct remedies for healing, see E01000. For physical problems and in seeking healing from ailments and severe illnesses, pilgrims to the shrine could make use also of special drinking water, dream-incubation, and washing in a healing bath, see also E01001.


L. Papini, "Fragments of the Sortes Sanctorum from the Shrine of St. Colluthus," in: D. Frankfurter (ed.), Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 393–401.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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