Saint NameTheodore, soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita : S00480
Type of EvidenceDocumentary texts - Fiscal document
Late antique original manuscripts - Papyrus sheet
Evidence not before559
Evidence not after559
Activity not before559
Activity not after559
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcPetra
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Petra
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Places Named after Saint
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
SourceA 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.
DiscussionThe document was written on two fragments of a roll (inv. 64 and 66.1) connected by the editors. They estimate that it was laid-out in at least 22 lines in one broad column. The text was written along the fibres. The middle left-hand side is lost, and the lower end is so charred as to be unreadable. It was wrapped with two more documents, presumably private letters connected to the selling of the plot of land described in the main document. They are, however, badly damaged, and only small fragments survive.
The editors underscore that this is one of very few documents throwing light on the economic affairs of monasteries in Jordan. The document is a petition sent to Flavios Valens, son of Auxolaos, holding the office of hypodektes, by Theodoros, son of Obodianos, deacon of the Church of Petra. Theodoros notifies the recipient that he has just sold a field to the presbyter Philoumenos, son of Gerontios, the latter acting on behalf of the shrine of the holy and glorious martyr Theodore in Ammatha, and asks him to transfer the taxes due from that field onto Philoumenos (i.e. onto his shrine). The plot of land is described as a fertile one, sited probably near a spring, and having the area of 1 and 1/9 iugerum. It belonged to the imperial patrimonium, i.e. the taxes were deducted to the imperial treasury.
The shrine was almost certainly dedicated to Theodore, soldier and martyr of Amaseia and Euchaita in Pontus, northern Asia Minor, whose cult was very popular in the region. In Petra papyri, we have record of a church of Saint Theodore in Kastron Zadakathon (E03663).
Ammatha, the place where our shrine was located, is also mentioned in P.Petra III 23 (dated AD 544) where it appears as Kastron (site of a garrison). The sanctuary is termed in the quoted passage euages oikos/'reverend house' and hagios topos/'holy place'. It is mentioned three more times in the same document, but always as euages eukterion/'reverend oratory' (lines 11, 15, 17). In the list of subscriptions (line 20) it appears again as hagios topos. This shows that designations of sanctuaries were rather flexible, and one cannot deduce the character of a sacred place based only on the terminology. The editors argue that it could be a monastery, based on the occurrence of the epithet euages, which is often associated with a variety of pious institutions (e.g. hostels, houses for the poor, monasteries), and add that: 'If the situation is similar to that of Egypt - where eukteria or eukterioi oikoi were different from ekklesiai (dependant on the bishop) - then Philoumenos represents a religious institution (perhaps the chapel of a monastery or a martyrion) that belonged to the private sphere and had limited cultic activities' (p. 86). Philoumenos, the buyer, is not openly described as a monk. He appears as presbyter and apparently holds one more function, now lost, which is mentioned only in line 4. A monk is, however, recorded as one of the two people witnessing the transaction, and is described as a member of the same religious establishment as Philoumenos (hagios topos).
Dating: the document is dated by a regnal year, the consular year, and the year of the era of the province of Arabia: 'In the thirty-second year of the reign of our most divine and pious Lord Flavius Justinianus, eternal Augustus and Emperor, in the nineteenth year after the [consulship] of the most glorious Flavius Basilius, three days before the Kalends of January, in the four hundred and [fifty]-third year of the province, on the fifteenth of the month of Peritios, in the seventh indiction year'. This corresponds to 30 January AD 559.
P.Petra III 25 - Arjava, A., Buchholz, M., Gagos, and others, The Petra Papyri III (Amman: American Center of Oriental Research, 2007), no. 25.
For a description of the site, see:
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.
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.
Frösén, J., "Archaeological information from the Petra Papyri", Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan 8 (2004), 141-144.
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.