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E05697: Coptic ostracon from the area of Hermonthis (Upper Egypt) with a letter mentioning that some people entered the church of *George (presumably the soldier and martyr, S00259) causing damage, for which they will be banned from the celebration of the saint’s feast day; datable to the end of the 6th century.

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posted on 2018-06-12, 00:00 authored by gschenke
O.CrumVC 40

The letter was sent by a man named Abraham, possibly the famous bishop of Hermonthis. It is addressed to more than one person, stating that the sender has been informed that the addressees have entered the church of saint George and ruined the place, seemingly by having taken things from it. As punishment they and their entire households are excluded from the saint’s feast day celebration.

⳨ ⲉⲓⲥ ϩⲏⲧⲉ ⲁⲩⲉⲓ ⲁⲩϫⲟⲟⲥ ⲛⲁⲓ ϫⲉ ⲁⲧⲛⲉⲃⲱⲕ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲁⲡⲁ ⲅⲉⲱⲣⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲁⲧⲉⲧⲛⲃⲗ ⲡⲙⲁ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ ⲁⲩ̣[ⲱ] ⲁⲧⲉⲧⲛⲣ ϩⲉⲛⲕⲉⲉⲡⲉⲣⲁ̣ⲉⲓⲥⲓⲥ
ⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲣⲭⲣⲓⲁ ⲙⲡⲉⲥ̣ⲧⲁⲩ[ⲣ]ⲟⲥ̣ ⲛⲧⲁⲗ̣ . . . . ⲉ̣ⲡⲉ ⲣⲭⲣⲓⲁ ⲛ̣ⲛⲉ . . . ⲁⲩⲱ ⲛⲁⲅⲅⲉ[ⲗⲟⲥ] ⲙ̣ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲉⲩϣ̣ⲉ̣ ⲉϫ̣ⲛ̣ ⲡⲓ̣ⲙ̣ⲁ̣
ⲡⲉ̣ⲩ̣ⲙⲁ ⲛⲟⲩⲱϩ ⲡⲉ ⲧⲉⲕⲕ(ⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ) ϯⲛⲟⲩ ⲣⲱⲙⲉ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲉⲁϥⲃⲱⲕ ⲉϩⲟⲩⲛ ⲉⲁⲡⲁ ⲅⲉⲱⲣⲅⲓⲟⲥ [ϥϩ]ⲓⲃⲟⲗ ⲙⲡϣⲁ ⲙⲛ ⲡⲉϥⲏⲓ [ⲧ]ⲏⲣϥ ⲕⲁⲓ ⲅⲁⲣ
ⲁⲡϩⲏⲕⲉ ⲉⲧⲙⲙⲁⲩ ϯⲧⲉϥϩⲏⲙⲏⲣⲁ ⲙⲡⲉⲧⲛⲣϩⲟⲧⲉ ⲉⲧⲃⲉ ⲡⲛⲟⲩⲧⲉ ⲟⲩⲇⲉ ⲙⲡⲉⲧⲛϣⲓⲡⲉ ϩⲏⲧⲛ ϯⲛⲟⲩ ⲟⲩⲟⲛ ⲛⲓⲙ ⲉⲁϥⲃⲓ ⲗⲁⲁⲩ ⲛ̣ϩ̣ⲟⲩⲛ
ⲙⲙⲁⲩ ϥϩⲓⲃⲟⲗ ⲙⲡϣⲁ ⲙⲛ ⲡⲉϥⲏⲓ ⲧⲏⲣϥ [ϣ]ⲁ̣ⲛⲧϥⲧ̣ⲓ̣ⲙⲁ
ⲧⲁⲁⲥ ⲙ[…….] ϩⲓⲧⲛ ⲁⲃ[ⲣⲁϩⲁⲙ

‘Behold, I have been approached and told that you have entered (the church) of Apa George and that you have destroyed the place and have committed other atrocities. Everyone is in need of the cross. The … are in need of the … The angels of God frequent this place. The church is their dwelling place. Now anyone who has entered (the church) of Apa George is excluded from the feast, together with his entire household. For that poor man provided his (feast) day. You did not fear God, nor were you ashamed of yourselves. Now anyone who took anything away from there, is excluded from the feast, together with his entire household, until he pays respect.’

Address: ‘Give it to […], from Abraham [the bishop?].’

(Text and translation: W. E. Crum, modified by G. Schenke)


Evidence ID


Saint Name

George, soldier and martyr : S00259 Angels, unnamed or name lost : S00723

Saint Name in Source

ⲁⲡⲁ ⲅⲉⲱⲣⲅⲓⲟⲥ ⲛⲁⲅⲅⲉ[ⲗⲟⲥ]

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)

Hermonthis Hermopolis ϣⲙⲟⲩⲛ Ashmunein Hermopolis

Cult activities - Liturgical Activity

  • Service for the Saint

Cult activities - Festivals

  • Saint’s feast

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Activities Accompanying Cult

  • Feasting (eating, drinking, dancing, singing, bathing)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Church

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Distribution of alms


This limestone ostracon is part of a private collection. The text of the letter is written on both sides. The dating of this text is based on the assumption that the Abraham writing here is the famous bishop of Hermonthis.


Since the accused are not asked to return whatever they took from the church, they seemingly did not take any valuables belonging to the church, but most likely took from the edible donations made available, and possibly already laid out for the feast day celebration. The comparison drawn seems to be between the self-sacrifice of the martyr saint whose feast day is a gift to the congregation and the gluttonous members of congregation who could not wait for the festivities to begin, presumably entering early to cherry pick from what was available.


Text and translation: Crum, W.E., Varia Coptica (Aberdeen, 1939), 14 (text), 21 (trans.).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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