Written along the fibres, on a papyrus sheet: 19 cm x 105 cm. Originally rolled and sealed.
Lines 2-3 read:
[Ἀβραάμιος Προκοπίου το]ῦ ̣Π̣ο̣ωρσαφφ̣ο[υ(?)] εὐγε(νέστατος) ὁρ̣μ̣ώμενος ἀπὸ τοῦδε τοῦ κάστρου τῷ εὐλ̣α̣β̣ε(στάτῳ) Πατρικίῳ Σεργίου ἀναγνώστῃ καὶ ἡγουμέ(νῳ) τοῦ ἁγίου καὶ ἐνδοξ(οτάτου) μάρτυρος Σεργίου καὶ Βάχχου καὶ αὐτὸς ὁρμώμενος ἀπ[ὸ τοῦδε το]ῦ κάστρο[υ χα(ίρειν)]
'Abraamios, son of Prokopios, grandson of Poorsaphos (?), well-born resident of the above Kastron, to the most reverend Patrikios, son of Sergios, reader (anagnostes) and abbot (higoumenos) of the monastery of the holy and most glorious martyr Sergios and of Bakchos, himself also a resident of the above Kastron. Greeting!'
Text: P.Nessana 46. Translation: C.J. Kraemer, lightly adapted.
Saint NameSergios, soldier and martyr of Rusafa : S00023
Bakchos, soldier and martyr of Barbalissos : S00079
Saint Name in SourceΣέργιος
Type of EvidenceDocumentary texts - Other private document
Late antique original manuscripts - Papyrus sheet
Evidence not before605
Evidence not after605
Activity not before605
Activity not after605
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcNessana
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Nessana
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Places Named after Saint
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - lesser clergy
Ecclesiastics - abbots
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.
DiscussionThe document says that Patrikios, son of Sergios, lent 9 solidi to one Abraamios, son Prokopios, at an interest rate of 6%. It is added that only 6 solidi were actually lent and so were subject to interest. This is certainly a record of a private agreement between the two men.
Patrikios uses here his full official title: 'reader and abbot (of the monastery) of the holy and most glorious martyr Sergios and of Bakchos'. In other documents mentioning Patrikios this title is sometimes abbreviated to 'abbot of Saint Sergios of Nessana' (see E04358). This may be because the cult of Bakchos was apparently introduced (or institutionalised) in Nessana only in the late 6th century. In the present document the status of Bakchos seems to be inferior to that of Sergios, as the epithet 'holy and most glorious martyr' is given in the singular form, and is applied only to Sergios.
For further comments on Patrikios and his family, the 'dynasty' of abbots of Nessana, see Kraemer, C.J., Excavations at Nessana (Auja Hafir, Palestine), vol. 3, pp. 6-8; 132-133; 222-223.
Dating: The document is dated 16 July 605, by the regnal year of the emperor Phokas, the era of the province of Arabia, and the indiction year.
Kraemer, C.J., Excavations at Nessana (Auja Hafir, Palestine), vol. 3: Non-literary Papyri (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), no. 46.
See also: ?
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), 117, no. 627.
Whately, C., "Camels, soldiers, and pilgrims in sixth century Nessana", Scripta Classica Israelica 35 (2016), 121-135.