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E04146: Coptic ostracon from western Thebes (Upper Egypt) referring to Apa *Antonios (Antony 'the Great', monk of Egypt, ob. 356, S00098) as a luminous column, and alluding to him and Apa *Makarios ('the Egyptian', monastic founder of the Sketis, ob. 391, S00863) as model holy men, and mentioning how Apa *Paphnoutios (probably the confessor and holy man of the Thebaid, S01542) had needed council with Antony; datable to the first half of the 8th century.

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posted on 2017-10-12, 00:00 authored by gschenke, Bryan
P.Mon.Epiph. 247

This message was sent from the monk Frange/Phrangas living in the desert tomb (TT29) to Isaac and Elias at the monastery of Epiphanios in an attempt to encourage verbal communication between them. Since his two addressees frequently refused to speak to him during his visits at their monastery, Frange is now sending a message to inform them that he very much needs to speak to them. He addresses them as 'holy men' or 'human saints' comparing them to Antony and Makarios 'the Egyptian'.

⳨ ϣⲟⲣⲡ ⲙⲉⲛ ⲙⲡⲁ[ϣⲁϫ]ⲉ ⲛⲉⲗⲁⲭ(ⲓⲥⲧⲟⲥ)
ⲉ̣ⲓ̣ⲥ̣ϩ̣ⲁ ⲉϣⲓⲛⲉ ⲁ[ⲩⲱ ⲉⲁ]ⲥⲡⲁⲍⲉ ⲙ̣-
ⲡⲉϩⲗⲟϭ ⲛⲛⲉⲧⲛⲅⲁⲣⲡ̣[ⲟⲥ] ⲉⲧ<ⲧ>ⲁⲩ̣ⲏ̣
ⲥⲧⲏ̣ⲛⲟⲩϥⲉ · ⲉⲃⲟⲗ · ⲙⲛⲛⲥⲱⲥ ⲟⲛ
5 ϯⲡⲱϩⲧ ⲙⲙⲟⲉ ⲉⲡⲉⲥⲏⲧ · ⲉⲡⲕⲁϩ · ϯ-
ⲟⲩⲱϣⲧ ⲙⲡⲓⲭⲛⲟⲥ ⲛⲛⲉⲧⲛⲟⲩⲉⲣⲏⲧⲉ
ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ · ⲛⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛϩⲁⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲛⲁⲙⲉ ⲛⲑⲉ
ⲙⲡⲁⲉⲓⲱⲧ ⲁⲛⲧⲱⲛⲓⲟⲥ ⲡⲉⲥⲧⲩⲗⲟⲥ
ⲛⲟⲩⲁⲉⲛ ⲙⲛ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲛϣⲓⲏⲧ
10 ⲛⲧⲱⲧⲛ ϩⲱⲱⲧⲧⲏⲩⲧⲛ ⲁⲧⲉⲧⲛⲡⲱϩ
ⲉⲡⲉⲩϣⲓ ϩⲛ ⲁⲣⲉⲧⲏ · ⲛⲓⲙ ⲉⲛⲁⲛⲟⲩϥ · ϯ-
ϣⲓⲛⲉ ⲟⲛ ⲉⲛⲉⲧⲛϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲙⲙⲁⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ
ⲕⲁⲧⲁ ⲛⲉⲩⲣⲁⲛ ϩⲙ ⲡϫⲟⲉⲓⲥ ⲭⲁⲓⲣⲉⲧⲉ ·
ⲉⲡⲉⲓⲇⲏ · ⲁⲉⲓ ⲉⲛϩⲏⲧ ⲛⲏⲧⲛ ⲛϩⲁϩ ⲛⲥⲟⲡ
15 ⲙⲡⲉⲧⲛⲟⲩⲏⲛ · ⲛⲁ ⲙⲡⲣⲟ · ⲟⲩⲇⲉ ⲙⲡⲉ-
ⲧⲛϣⲁϫⲉ [ⲛ]ⲙⲙⲁ ⲛⲑⲉ ⲛⲗⲁⲁⲩ ⲛⲥⲟⲛ ⲕⲁⲓⲡⲉⲣ
[ⲟⲩⲛ]ⲧⲁ ⲟⲩⲛⲟϭ ⲛⲟⲩⲱϣ ·ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉ̣ . . . .
ⲛ̣[ⲑ]ⲉ̣ ⲛⲁⲡⲁ ⲡⲁⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲡϩⲱⲙⲟⲗⲟⲕⲏ̣ⲧⲏ̣ⲥ̣
[ⲙⲛ ⲁ]ⲡⲁ ⲁⲛⲧⲱⲛⲓⲟⲥ ⲧⲁⲁⲥ ⲛⲁⲡⲁ ⲥⲁⲁⲕ ⲙⲛ ⲁⲡⲁ
20 ϩⲏⲗⲓⲁⲥ ϩⲓⲧⲛ ⲫⲣⲁⲛⲅⲁⲥ ⲡⲉ̣ⲓ̣ⲁ̣ⲧ[ⲙⲡϣⲁ]
ⲁⲣⲓ ⲧⲁⲅⲁⲡⲏ ⲛⲧⲉ[ⲧⲛⲣ ⲡⲁⲙⲉⲉⲩⲉ ϩⲛ ⲛⲉ-]
ⲧⲛϣⲗⲏⲗ ⲉⲧⲟⲩⲁⲁⲃ ⲙⲙⲟⲛ [ⲛⲁ-]
ⲛⲟⲃⲉ ⲟϣ ⲉⲙⲁⲧⲉ ⲟⲩ̣ϫ̣ⲁ̣ⲓ̣ [ϩⲙ]
ⲡϫⲟ̣ⲉ̣ⲓ̣ⲥ̣ . . .

‘Before my most humble message, I write, greeting and saluting the sweetness of your fruits that produce a pleasant fragrance.
Following this then, I cast myself down to the ground. I worship your holy footprints, you truly holy men in the manner of my father Antonios, the luminous column, and of Apa Makarios of Sketis. You yourselves have reached their measure by any good virtue. I also greet your pious children by their names. Hail in the Lord!
I have come north to you many times and you have not opened the gate to me, nor have you conversed with me just like (with) any (other) brother, even though I have a great desire for you (to converse with me), just like Apa Papnoute, the Confessor, (had) [with] Apa Antonios.
Give it (the message) to Apa Isaac and Apa Elias, from Phrangas/Frange, this [worthless] one. Be so kind and [remember me in] your holy prayers, for [my] sins are very numerous. Farewell in the Lord.’

Text: W. E. Crum. Translation: G. Schenke.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Antony, 'the Great', monk of Egypt, ob. 356 : S00098 Makarios the Egyptian, ascetic in Sketis, ob. 391 : S00863 Paphnoutios, confessor and bishop in the Thebaid : S01542

Saint Name in Source

ⲁⲛⲧⲱⲛⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲙⲁⲕⲁⲣⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲡⲁ ⲡⲁⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ

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)

Thebes Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - monastic

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Miracles

Miraculous sound, smell, light


This potsherd, MMA.12.180.202, was found on the rubbish heaps at the former monastery of Epiphanius at Thebes. It is now housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The dating is based on the records belonging to the same Frange archive.


This letter illustrates how monastic leaders were perceived as ‘human saints’ or ‘saintly humans’ by comparing them favorably to former ‘holy men’. For a similar reference to Antony as a column of light see E04172.


Edition and Translation: Crum, W.E., and Evelyn White, H.G., The Monastery of Epiphanius at Thebes, Part II, New York 1926. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition), p. 64 (text), p. 217 (trans.).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity