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E03661: Fragments from one or more ecclesiastical document(s) in Greek on papyrus, probably mentioning a church dedicated to *Mary (Mother of Christ, S00033), likely to be the cathedral of Petra, and, probably, a monastic establishment named after a certain 'Theodoros'. Found in Petra (Roman province of Palaestina III). Dated c. 561.

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posted on 02.09.2017, 00:00 by Bryan
Fragment 1

Entry 48 in the fourth volume of the Petra papyri contains fragments extracted from one of two poorly preserved chunks of papyrus. The two chunks consist of more than 500 fragments, but within the first chunk only 27 were identified as bearing intelligible text, preserving a total of 55 lines. Some of the fragments were conjoining, but it is not clear whether they all belong to the same document, as the chunk could have been a bundle of several rolls. Matias Buchholz and Traianos Gagos offered an edition following the order in which the fragments were extracted from the chunk. Therefore, their text does not mirror the order of the contents of the document(s). The second fragment (Fragment Ba 6V) says:

τῆ]ς ἁγίας Μαρία[ς

'] of the Holy Mary ['

The editors associate it with a fragment from the other chunk (P.Petra IV 49) which mentions 'the most holy church of the metropolis of the Petraeans' (τῆς ἁγι]ωτ(άτης) ἐκκλ̣ησ(ίας) τῆς Πετρα[ίων] ̣μ̣η[τροπόλεως) and argue that this is the church where the papyri were found, and that it was dedicated to Mary.

Fragments 2 and 3

In addition, fragment Ba21V [+Bb 17R] says τ]ῷ ὄρει τοῦ ὁσιωτ(άτου) Θεοδώρου/'on the mount of the most reverend Thedoros' and fragment Bba 2R καὶ διακονίαν ὄρῃ ἱερῷ | [τοῦ ὁσιωτ(άτου) Θεοδώρου]/'and service on the holy mount [of the most reverend Theodoros]' (the completion of this second line being, of course, hypothetical). The editors probably rightly argue that this is 'an institution, probably a religious one'. This could be a monastery named after its founder. The designation ὄρος/'mountain' was often associated with monasteries or desolate places (in the context of Egyptian papyri it often means 'desert'). The epithet ὁσιώτατος suggests that the eponym was a monk rather than *Theodore, the soldier and martyr of Euchaita in Pontus (S00136).

The document(s) touch(es) upon the following issues: 'daily wages of ministers', 'lighting the candles', 'service' or 'ministration', 'rent', 'lease', probably some cultivated property. 'Public dues', taxes, and gold coins/carats of gold may also be mentioned. Thus the entire document(s) appear(s) to have dealt with financial issues of the church. Theodoros, son of Obodianos, the key figure in the entire archive, is mentioned here probably as acting on behalf of the church in the capacity of his office. Bishop Ioannes, one Leontios, possibly Stephanos, son of Leontios, and Kyra are also mentioned.

Dating: By chance a fragment (Ba 9V + Bb 15R) with a date, the month of Loos, the year 456 of the era of the province of Arabia, convertible to 20 July - 18 August AD 561, was preserved in the lot.

Text: P.Petra IV 48.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Mary, Mother of Jesus : S00033 Theodore, soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita : S00480

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Documentary texts - Fiscal document Late antique original manuscripts - Papyrus sheet



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)

Petra Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Cult activities - Places

Cult building - independent (church)

Cult activities - Places Named after Saint

  • Monastery

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy Women Other lay individuals/ people

Cult Activities - Cult Related Objects

Oil lamps/candles


A collection of carbonised papyri (c. 140 fragmentary rolls) was found in 1993, in Room 1 of the 'Petra Church' - an impressive three-aisled basilica with an atrium, three inscribed apses, baptistery and several annexed structures, sited to the north of the so-called Roman Street, and apparently dedicated to *Mary (as suggested by the papyrus evidence). Room 1 lies in the northeast corner of the complex, to the north of the northern side apse. It is presumed to have been a bedroom in a residential block (phase III: 363 – mid-5th c.), that was later converted to a store-room of religious or other precious items. The archaeologists excluded the possibility that it was a proper archive or scriptorium, as the room had no characteristic equipment. It was destroyed by fire, together with the church, probably in the early 7th c. The papyri were almost certainly kept in wooden containers (boxes? caskets?) in a shelved bookcase, standing against the west wall, which collapsed during the fire. The church was excavated between 1992 and 1997 by Pierre Bikai, on behalf of the American Center of Oriental Research. The papyri were extracted and secured by Catherine Valentour, aided by Deborah Kooring, Zbigniew Fiema, and others. They are now housed in Amman, in the American Center of Oriental Research and in the Jordan Museum. They are being published in the series The Petra Papyri by a team of papyrologists from Helsinki University and the University of Michigan. The first volume appeared in 2002, and was followed by vols. 2-4. The collection has recently been updated with a new volume (P. Petra V, published in 2018). This is the largest collection of papyri so-far found in Jordan. The earliest text dates to 537, the latest to c. 594. The papyri come from the archive of the family of one Theodoros, son of Obodianos, a local landowner and deacon (later archdeacon) of the Petra Church. The archive gives an important, albeit selective, overview of relationships, inheritance, donations, transactions, and disputes in Petra and its territory, especially the villages of Augustopolis/Udhruh and Kastron Zadakathon/Sadaqa. Toponyms (including churches and martyr shrines), and about 350 people, mainly of the upper class, are recorded, all of them for various reasons connected with the family of Theodoros.


Edition: P.Petra IV 48 - Arjava, A., Buchholz, M., Gagos†, T., Kaimio, M. and others, The Petra Papyri IV (Amman: American Center of Oriental Research, 2011), no. 48.;4;48 For a description of the site, see: P.Petra I – Frösén, J., Arjava, A., Lehtinen, M. (eds.) with contributions by Z.T. Fiema, C.A. Kuehn, T. Purola, T. Rankinen, M. Vesterinen, and M. Vierros, The Petra Papyri (Amman: American Center of Oriental Research, 2002), 1-8. Frösén, J., "Archaeological information from the Petra Papyri", Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan 8 (2004), 141-144. Fiema, Z.T., "Petra and its hinterland during the Byzantine period: new research and interpretations", in: J. Humphrey (ed.), Roman and Byzantine Near East: Some New Discoveries, vol. 3 (JRA Supplement Series 49, Portsmouth, Rhode Island: JRA, 2002), 191-252. Fiema, Z.T., "The archaeological context of the Petra Papyri", in: P.M. Bikai, Z.T. Fiema (eds.), The Petra Church (Amman: American Center of Oriental Research, 2001), 139-150. Fiema, Z.T., "Reconstructing the history of the Petra Church: data and phasing", in: P.M. Bikai, Z.T. Fiema (eds.), The Petra Church (Amman: American Center of Oriental Research, 2001), 7-137.

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