University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

E04133: Coptic ostracon from Jeme (Upper Egypt) with a fragmentary letter asking for prayers on the feast day of Apa *David (presumably David, Old Testament king of Israel, S00269), on behalf of the sender who is sick and desires oil from the altar of the saints to be sent; datable to the 7th/8th century.

online resource
posted on 2017-10-10, 00:00 authored by gschenke
KOW 261

The beginning of the letter is missing, but the document is addressed to the priest and provost of a monastery to which a saint’s shrine belongs. There the monks are asked to invoke the intercession of God, particularly on the feast day of the saint, on the sender’s behalf who is suffering from an illness and is thus unable to attend the feast himself. In addition to the prayers and invocations, a contact relic, oil from the altar of the saints, is to be sent, presumably to facilitate healing.

] ⲧⲉⲓ ⲛⲧⲉ̣ⲡ̣ⲣⲉⲥⲃⲓⲁ ⲛⲛⲉⲕϣⲗⲏⲗ ⲉⲧⲟⲩ[ⲁⲃ ⲛⲡ]ⲙⲟⲛⲁⲥⲧⲏⲣⲓⲟⲛ ⲛⲡⲧⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲃ [ ⲙⲁⲗ]ⲗⲟⲛ ⲡⲉϩⲟⲟⲩ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲃ ⲛⲁⲡⲁ ⲇⲁⲩⲉⲓⲇ
[ⲉ]ⲧ̣ⲉ ⲡⲉϥϣⲁ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲡⲉ ⲉⲧⲣⲉⲕⲧⲛⲛⲟⲟⲩ ⲟⲩⲕⲟⲩ ⲛⲛⲉϩ ⲛϣⲗⲏⲗ ϩⲙ ⲡⲉⲑⲩⲥⲓⲁⲥⲧⲏⲣ(ⲓⲟⲛ) ⲛⲛⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲃ ⲁⲩⲱ̣ ⲛⲅⲧⲃϩ ⲛⲉⲥⲛⲏⲩ
ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲉⲧⲣⲉⲩⲡⲁϩⲧ̣ⲟⲩ ϩⲁⲣⲟ ⲛⲥⲉⲧⲃϩ ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲉϫⲛ ⲧⲁⲙⲛⲧⲣⲉϥⲣⲛⲟⲃⲉ ⲙⲙⲟⲛ ϯϩⲟⲣϣ ⲉⲙⲁⲧⲉ ϯϣⲱⲛⲉ ⲇⲉ ϫⲛⲛ ⲥⲟⲩ ϫⲟⲩⲧⲯⲓⲥ
ⲛⲁⲑⲱⲣ ⲧⲁⲁ̣ⲥ ⲛⲁⲡⲁ ⲓⲱϩⲁⲛⲛⲏⲥ ⲡⲣ(ⲉⲥⲃⲩⲧⲉⲣⲟⲥ) ⲁⲩⲱ ⲫⲏ̣ⲅ̣(ⲟⲩⲙⲉⲛⲟⲥ) ⲙⲛ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲁⲣⲕⲟⲥ ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϩⲛ ⲡϫⲟ̣ⲉ̣ⲓⲥ +

] provide the intervention of your holy prayers [at the] monastery by the holy shrine [of saint NN?], especially on the holy day of Apa David which is his holy feast (day), to make you send some prayer oil from the altar of the saints and to make you entreat the holy brothers to let them do reverence on my behalf and to let them entreat God for my wickedness, for I am truly very much burdened. Since day 29 of Hathor I am suffering from illness.
Hand it (the message) to Apa Ioannes, the presbyter and provost, together with Apa Markos. Be well in the Lord.’

(Text: W. C. Till, slightly modified; trans.: G. Schenke)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

David, Old Testament king of Israel : S00269

Saint Name in Source

ⲁⲡⲁ ⲇⲁⲩⲉⲓⲇ

Type of Evidence

Documentary texts - Letter Late antique original manuscripts - Ostracon/Pot-sherd


  • 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)

Jeme Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Relics

Contact relic - oil


The potsherd KO 396 is kept at the papyrus collection in Vienna. The dating is based on palaeographical grounds.


Text and German translation: Till, W.C., Die koptischen Ostraka der Papyrussammlung der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek (Vienna: H. Böhlaus, 1960), 64.

Usage metrics

    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



    Ref. manager