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E02006: Greek graffiti invoking the mercy of the God of *George (soldier and martyr, S00259) for at least two families. Found in the ruins of a fortified monastery/guest-house for pilgrims in Mizpe Shivta (near Shivta/ancient Sobata, and Elousa) in the Negev desert (Roman province of Palaestina III). Probably later 6th c.

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posted on 2016-11-15, 00:00 authored by pnowakowski
+ Κ(ύρι)ε ὁ θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁ[γίου] Γεωργίου ἐλέησον
τὸν δοῦλων [σο]ῦ Παῦλος Λειτισινου (?) τὸν ἀπὸ κώμης Χοσευφ[- - ?]
κ(αὶ) τὴν γυνήκαν αὐτοῦ κ(αὶ) τὴν θυγατήραν αὐτοῦ Νόν[να]ν [- -] κ(αὶ) Ν[- - ?]
κ(αὶ) τοὺς δούλους αὐτοῦ Νῖλ[ον] κ(αὶ) Χονας (?) κ(αὶ) Φῖδον κ(αὶ) Ζοαδο κ(αὶ) Ζαραλος
κ(αὶ) Απδελος κ(αὶ) Μαρζοβας (?) κ(αὶ) Λοϊς καὶ Στέφανον τὸν ἀ(πὸ) Χολφινως (?)·

Κ(ύρι)ε ὁ Θ(εὸ)ς τοῦ ἁγίο[υ Γ]εωργίου [- -] δοῦλον (?)
Κωιμου συ κ[- -] κ(αὶ) Α[- -]
[- -] Παύλου (?)ιου εμ(?)
[- -]α[- - -]ωλου[- - -]

2. κώμη Χοσευφ[α?] = modern Khirbet Kuseifa/Ḥorvat Kuseife (?) situated ca. 60 km in bird's flight to the northeast of Mizpe Shivta SEG

'Oh Lord, God of Saint George, have mercy upon your servant Paulos, (son) of Leitisinos (?), from the village of Choseuf (?), and on his wife and his daughter, Nonna [- - -], and his servants (?) Nilos and Chonas (?) and Phidon and Zoado and Zaralos (?) and Apdelos and Marzobas and Lois and Stephanos from the village of Cholphinos (?)!'

'Oh Lord, God of Saint George [- - -] servant Koimos [- - -] and A[- - -] Paulos (?) [- - -]'

Text: Figuears 2005-2006, 513 with comments from SEG 57, 1853. Translation: P. Figueras, lightly adapted.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, martyr in Nicomedia or Diospolis, ob. c. 303 : S00259

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Inscriptions - Graffiti Archaeological and architectural - Cult buildings (churches, mausolea)


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai Palestine with Sinai Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Elousa Mizpe Shivta Sobata

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

Elousa Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis Mizpe Shivta Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis Sobata Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - dependent (chapel, baptistery, etc.)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Children Slaves/ servants Peasants Other lay individuals/ people Foreigners (including Barbarians)


The graffito is scratched on a layer of white plaster over the arched entrance to a rock-cut chamber in a ruined monastery (now named Mizpe Shivta), sited c. 4.5 km to the southwest of the modern town of Shivta. The text is in cursive script (thus almost certainly written by a person trained in professional writing) and is not easy to read. The last four lines were perhaps written by a different hand. The site has been known to European travellers and surveyors since at least the 1870s. It was originally considered as a Roman fort; in 1914/1915 it was identified as a monastery (a laura) by Charles Leonard Woolley and Thomas Edward Lawrence. The first systematic survey was, however, conducted there only in the 1980s by Ya'aqov Baumgarten with permission of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Baumgarten recorded a number of buildings (e.g. rounded sheepfolds, a 'Byzantine' Christian chapel with an annex, rooms, etc.) protected by a wall and towers, and some rock-cut chambers, probably used as stables and living rooms or hermit cells. He concluded that the monastery was probably at the same time a fortified guest-house for pilgrims. The present graffito was seen and copied by Pau Figueras and published in 2005/2006 along with two similar but much shorter texts invoking God simply as the Lord (hence we do not reproduce them here). One of these texts was painted in red letters and not scratched. Figueras mentions the presence of more unpublished graffiti in other rooms.


It was Baumgarten who first suggested that our establishment at Mizpe Shivta was probably the xenodochium sancti Georgii / 'guest-house of Saint George' mentioned by the Pilgrim of Piacenza as an important station on the route to Mount Sinai from Halutza/ancient Elusa (see: E00507). Figueras uses the graffito as an argument to support this identification, and to discredit the identification of the north monastic church in Shivta, excavated by Avraham Negev, as the Piacenza Pilgrim's xenodochium. He also produces arguments against the possibility that the xenodochium was sited in Nessana, another important town between Elusa and Sinai, to the west of Mizpe Shivta. The distance between Elusa and both Mizpe Shivta and Nessana roughly corresponds to that specified by the Piacenza Pilgrim, but the cult of George, the reported patron of the guest-house, is undisputedly attested only here in Mizpe Shivta, by our graffito (a fragment of the Acts of Saint George which survived in the Nessana papyri actually says nothing about any real cult activity at that town). Also our graffito was probably authored by people from outside, only temporarily housed at the site, as they felt the need to specify the names of their home villages. These men could well have been pilgrims or travellers. Figueras concludes that the graffito might suggest that the central chapel, recorded by Baumgarten, was also dedicated to George, and that the saint was chosen as the dedicatee possibly to satisfy soldiers stationed in this hostel. This supposition is, however, based mostly on the later (Byzantine) cult of George as a military saint and on the fact that a number of sanctuaries in desert outposts in the Negev were dedicated to similar figures, e.g. the church in Oboda to *Theodore (E04162; E04163), and a church in the acropolis of Nessana to *Sergios and Bakchos (EXXXXX), and that a capital with a relief of the centurion *Longinos was found in 'Ailia (E02617). Denis Feissel in his comments in Bulletin épigraphique was sceptical about Figueras' ideas, stating that Nessana still seemed to him a more likely site of the xenodochium of George. Whately (2016), 132, and Caner (2010) 255, note 13 also identify Nessana as the site visited by the Piacenza Pilgrim, see also Ward 2015, 120. In contrast, the editors of Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, following an opinion of Leah Di Segni, agreed with Figueras. Dating: another graffito from the same arch is dated AD 577/578. Therefore Figueras dates the complex, and its inscriptions, to the later 6th c.


Edition: Figueras, P., "The location of xenodochium Sancti Georgii in the light of two inscriptions in Mizpe Shivta", Aram 18-19 (2006-2007), 509-526. Further reading: Caner, D.F., Brock, S., Price, R., History and Hagiography from the Late Antique Sinai (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010), 255, note 13. Di Segni, L., "The involvement of local, municipal and provincial authorities in urban building in late antique Palestine and Arabia", in: The Roman and Byzantine Near East: Some Recent Archaeological Research (Journal of Roman Archaeology. Supplementary Series 14, Ann Arbor, MI: Journal of Roman Archaeology, 1995), 316, note 10. Figueras, P., "Monks and monasteries in the Negev desert", Liber Annuus 45 (1995), 439, note 45. Ward, W.D., Mirage of the Saracen. Christians and Nomads in the Sinai Peninsula in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015), 120. Whately, C., "Camels, soldiers, and pilgrims in sixth century Nessana", Scripta Classica Israelica 35 (2006), 132. Reference works: Bulletin épigraphique (2008), 568. Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 57, 1853-1856.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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