On a papyrus sheet: 26 x 27.5 cm. Well preserved, several lines are lost at the bottom. Written along the fibres. Elegant script. Tightly rolled for delivery.
δηληγα(τίων) . . . ἀπ[ὸ] Νεσ̣άνων κα(μήλων) λ΄ (καὶ) δρο(μεδαρίων) λδ΄
'Assignment of [- - -] from Nessana: 30 camels and 34 camel riders (dromedarioi):'
Lines 2-10 deal with camel riders (dromedarioi) and camels assigned to officers, scouts, and couriers.
ἁγ(ίοις) Γεωργιωργις (sic) καὶ . . . μαι̣ρ̣α
Χαραχμούβων δρο(μεδάριοι) β΄
ἁγ(ίᾳ) ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦ κάστρου δρο(μεδάριος) α΄
Φεσανης πρεσβύτερος κά(μηλος) α΄
'For Saints George and [- - -] of Charachmouba: 2 camel riders (dromedarioi).
For the holy church (ekklesia) of the camp (kastron): 2 camel riders (dromedarioi).
Phesanes (Faysan), presbyter: 1 camel.
Text: P. Nessana 35. Translation: C. Kraemer, lightly adapted with the comments by C. Whately.
Saint NameGeorge, soldier and martyr of Diospolis/Lydda : S00259
Saints, name wholly or largely lost : S01744
Saint Name in SourceΓεωργιωργις
Type of EvidenceDocumentary texts - Fiscal document
Late antique original manuscripts - Papyrus sheet
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after600
Activity not before500
Activity not after600
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Palestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcNessana
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Nessana
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - unspecified
Cult activities - Places Named after Saint
- Hospital and other charitable institutions
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsAwarding privileges to cult centres
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesPeasants
Ecclesiastics - lesser clergy
SourceNessana/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.
DiscussionOur document, although titled a 'delegatio', is not what is usually meant by this legal term: an annual order concerning taxes, issued by the Praetorian Prefect. It is rather a kind of levy imposed on the village of Nessana, drafted in the office of an unspecified official, possibly the pagarch in Elousa. The village is requested to supply 30 animals (camels) and 34 dromedarioi, probably camel riders, to the army, churches, and ecclesiastics.
In lines 11-14 we find a request to provide dromedarioi for an institution named after Saint George and apparently one more saint (the editor excludes the completion ἁγίᾳ Μαρίᾳ/'holy Mary') in the village of Charachmouba. The editor finds this a bit surprising, as the village which we know under this toponym, modern El-Kerak, an important Nabataean outpost between Petra and Amman, is located approximately 100 miles away from Nessana. The institution 'of Saint George' need not be a church; it could, for example, be a hostel for pilgrims, or something similar. There follows a request for dromedarioi for the church (ekklesia) of the kastron. The editor, probably rightly, supposes that this is the Church of Sergios (the North Church) in Nessana. Faysan, who receives one camel, was apparently a priest in this church.
Casper Kraemer understood the term dromedarioi as modern dromedaries (1-humped Arabian camels), The document is, however, now discussed in detail by Conor Whately (2015) who argues that, against Kraemer's interpretation, the levy does not mention 2-humped Bactrian camels and dromedaries, but camels and camel-riders (termed dromedarioi). Whately points out that 2-humped Bactrian camels were not suitable for the climate of Nessana and its territory. Furthermore, the exact term δρομεδάριος is never used as a designation of the 1-humped camel in ancient literary sources and papyri, whilst the documentary sources, and the Notitia Dignitatum use this word to describe camel riders.
Kraemer, C.J., Excavations at Nessana (Auja Hafir, Palestine), vol. 3: Non-literary Papyri (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), no. 35.
See also: http://papyri.info/ddbdp/p.ness;3;35
Meimaris, Y., Sacred Names, Saints, Martyrs and Church Officials in the Greek Inscriptions and Papyri Pertaining to the Christian Church of Palestine (Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation, Center for Greek and Roman Antiquity, 1986), 125, no. 676.
Whately, C., "Camels, soldiers, and pilgrims in sixth century Nessana", Scripta Classica Israelica 35 (2016), 121-135.