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E04377: Scarcely legible texts, possibly referring to a martyr shrine (martyrion), and a saint or martyr whose name is lost. Written on papyri in Greek. Found at Nessana/Auja Hafir in the Negev desert (Roman province of Palaestina III). Probably 6th-7th c.

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posted on 2017-11-17, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Text 1:

On the recto of a papyrus sheet: 18.8 cm x 8 cm, written along the fibres. The left-hand margin is preserved. Coarse cursive script. Probably 7th c.

The editor identifies this find as a private letter, possibly by an ecclesiastic. Only fragments of words are legible. In line 3 the editor reads: ἀπὸ τοῦ μαρ̣τυρίο[υ - - -], which can be translated 'from the martyr shrine (martyrion) [- - -].

The sheet also bears an unintelligible sequence of letters, possibly an exercise or a magical formula. On the verso there are 11 lines of an unidentified scarcely legible text, written across the fibres.

Text: P.Nessana 152.

Text 2:

On a complete papyrus sheet: 13 cm x 30 cm, written across the fibres. Probably 6th-7th c. The document is probably a letter. The verso may bear an illegible address.

+ ὑμε̣ῖν [- ca.16 -] ̣Ἀ̣λεξ[άν]δρο̣υ δρ̣ο( ) καὶ Στεφάνου
̣ζ[. . . . .]ικετο ̣τ̣ο̣ῦ ἁγί̣ο[υ] κ[. . .]νδο.ρ( ) . . . . [.]. .[.] ἁγίου καὶ ἔχι
καὶ δ̣ιʼ ὑμῶν ̣[- ca.18 -] ̣ειο[.]. .( ) ἐμοῦ Νεσάνων
Αυσος να̣φρ.[- ca.25 -] ̣π̣αρουσία Ἀλεξάν-
δρο[υ .]μ̣υ̣ρ̣α . [- ca.35 -]α.̣ου Ἰωάνο[υ]
καὶ Σεργ̣ί[ου]

'+ To you [- - -] of Alexandros ... and Stephanos [- - -] of the holy and [glorious martyr (?) - - -] of saint/holy and he/she has (?). And through you [- - -] my/of me, of Nessana. Ausos [- - -] in the presence of Alexandros [- - -] of Ioannes and Sergios.'

Text: P.Nessana 153. Translation: P. Nowakowski.

We are tempted to suggest a different reading of line 2: διὰ ... ο]ἰκετο[ῦ] ̣τ̣ο̣ῦ ἁγί̣ο[υ] κ[αἰ ἐ]νδό(ξου) [μά]ρ(τυρος) [Σέρ]γίου καὶ Βάχχ[ου]/'[through ...] the servant of the holy and glorious martyr Sergios and Bakchos', however, this is just a tentative hypothesis.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Unnamed martyrs (or name lost) : S00060 Saints, name wholly or largely lost : S01744 Sergios, soldier and martyr of Rusafa : S00023 Bakchos, soldier and martyr of Barbalissos : S00079

Type of Evidence

Documentary texts - Letter Late antique original manuscripts - Papyrus sheet


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Nessana Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs


Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Other lay individuals/ people


Nessana/Auja Hafir was an important town (actually termed a kome/'village' in documents) in the southwest Negev desert, located on the caravan route from 'Aila/'Aqaba to Gaza, and the pilgrim route towards Sinai, and is sometimes identified with the site of the hostel (xenodochium) of Saint George, visited by the Piacenza Pilgrim (see E00507; for an alternative identification, see E02006). The site was excavated by the Colt Expedition, led by Harris Dunscombe Colt, between 1935 and 1937, on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem. Although the site had suffered serious damage during World War I, it soon yielded rich epigraphical evidence (more than 150 Greek and Nabataean inscriptions), and two invaluable collections of 6th-7th c. documentary and literary papyri, comprising several distinguishable archives. The first, smaller collection of papyri, was found in Room 3 of the South Church (about six rolls, parts of rolls, and many fragments; they belong to a 6th c. archive, and deal mainly with property rights). The second group was found in Room 8 of the North Church (damaged and mostly fragmentary documents, including some blank sheets); the room where they were kept is unlikely to have been a proper archive room, but rather a place where unneeded documents were deposited. In 1987 Dan Urman resumed archaeological exploration of the site on behalf of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, but no new papyri have been discovered. The literary papyri were published in 1950 by Lionel Casson and Ernest Hettich, in the second volume of the Excavations of Nessana. Among them is a fragmentary account of the miracles and martyrdom of *George (soldier and martyr of Diospolis/Lydda), see E04385. The documentary papyri, which we discuss here, were published in 1958 by Casper Kraemer Jr., in the third volume of the Excavations at Nessana. They can be divided into the following groups (termed 'archives' by their editors): 1) Legal documents concerning private transactions of soldiers (loans, a notice of tax transfers, marriages, inheritance, division of property, etc.), which cover the period between 505 and 596. Drafted by people with good knowledge of legal phrasing. This was probably the archive of the unit named the 'unit (arithmos) of the Most Loyal Theodosians', originally thought to have been based at the garrison of Nessana. This identification was later questions as the Theodosians are mentioned in just one papyrus, and could reside in the coastal city of Rhinokoroura/El Arish. It has been also suggested that this was one of the Palestinian units termed equites sagittarii indigenae in the Notitia Dignitatum (see Whately 2016, 122). 2) Five documents of one Patrikios (son of Sergios, grandson of Patrikios), abbot of the monastery of St. Sergios (to which the North Church in Nessana belonged), and of other ecclesiastics. Patrikios' father was likewise abbot of this monastery. The dated papyri come from the period 598-605. Sergios died in 592, and Patrikios in 628, as is known from their epitaphs (see I. Nessana, no. 12). As members of their family served in the military unit garrisoned at Nessana, Kraemer supposes that the two were involved in the depositing of Archive 1 in the North Church after the unit's disbandment in about 582-590. 3) Documents of Georgios, son of another Patrikios, and his son Sergios. Georgios' documents come from the period 682-684. He acts as a moneylender, and is possibly identical with an abbot who offered a column to the North Church (see I. Nessana, no. 77). Sergios, son of Georgios, appears more prominently. His papyri date to c. 682-689. He was a presbyter at the monastery of Sergios and Bakchos in 689, and (later?) its abbot. He acts also as an influential landowner, witness to other transactions, taxpayer, etc. 4) A small collection of documents of the Arab administration: written mainly in Arabic and Greek.


Text 1: Edition: Kraemer, C.J., Excavations at Nessana (Auja Hafir, Palestine), vol. 3: Non-literary Papyri (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), no. 152. See also:;3;152 Text 2: Edition: Kraemer, C.J., Excavations at Nessana (Auja Hafir, Palestine), vol. 3: Non-literary Papyri (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), no. 153. See also:;3;153 Whately, C., "Camels, soldiers, and pilgrims in sixth century Nessana", Scripta Classica Israelica 35 (2016), 121-135.

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