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Artefact ID146
TM IDTM 78082
Findspot (DEChriM ID)47   (Saqqāra (North))
Writing mediumSheet/roll
Text contentDocumentary

P.Bingen 121: Letter to Apa Antinos.

Complete sheet of papyrus containing a letter addressed, with great deference, by two officers, the praepositus Pergamios and the princeps Eulogios, to their beloved and most pious” Apa Antinos. They inform him that his request to withdraw a certain Horos from the service of the agraria in the Oasis has been approved – Apa Antinos had apparently interceded for Horos on grounds that he was a humble man and an old soldier. The officers apologise for the lack of soldiers, saying they would have taken him only out of necessity, but as soon as they received the letter of the Apa, they released him from the journey. In the end, they ask the Apa to mention them in his holy prayers.

The agraria is a guard service outside the military camps in casual lodgings. The soldiers mentioned here could possibly belong to the legio V Macedonica stationed in Memphis, and their guard may have served the Little Oasis: the journey there was certainly a burden (Gascou and Pintaudi 2020: 516-517).

Another letter, from the same period, sent to a holy man (Apa Iohannes) to help exempt someone from the army is P.Herm. 7.

For an Apa Aiantinos (Antinos?) in "the monastery (mone) of Ankyronites", see also SB VIII 9683, 11-12.


Recto: The text runs parallel with the fibres in a legible cursive hand, although phonetic spellings and paratactic syntax make it sometimes difficult to understand the details; two different hands wrote the final greetings. The bottom part of the sheet seems to have been repaired in ancient times.

Verso: Address, parallel with the fibres, in the same hand as the body of the letter.

Selection criteriaMention of Christian cult officials/institutions, Mention of Christian individuals/communities, Archaeological context associated with Christian markers
Date from375
Date to425
Dating criteria

Palaeography, archaeological context and dossier connexion.

Absolute/relative dateRelative date
Archaeological context

This papyrus was uncovered during excavations led by W.B. Emery in the area of the Sacred Animals Necropolis in North Saqqara. The papyrus was part of a Greek archive found in a Christian structure that was probably established at the end of the fourth or early fifth century on the terrace of the great temple of the necropolis. The editors of the text suggest that the Apa Antinos of the letter was the founder of the monastery which is mentioned later as the koinobion tou hagiou Abba Antinou in the ostraca of the archive (P.Bingen 122-126, to be dated in the middle of 5th c. according to a pers. comm. from Jean Gascou). At the time of the letter, the koinobion was probably still only a modest hermitage (Gascou and Pintaudi 2020, 511-513; 518).

Accession number

Egypt, Saqqara, excavations EES 1970/71 H5-2683, EAO 4963.
Actual location unknown.


Editio princeps

Gascou, Jean and Rosario Pintaudi. 2000. “121-126. Les archives du monastère memphite d’Apa Antinos.” In Papyri in Honorem Johannis Bingen Octogenarii, ed. H. Melaerts. Studia Varia Bruxellensia ad Orbem Graeco-Latinum Pertinentia 5. Leuven, 511-520: no. 121. "Lettre à l'Apa Antinos", 512-517.

Additional bibliography

Choat, Malcolm. 2006. Belief and Cult in Fourth-Century Papyri. Studia Antiqua Australiensia 1. Turnhout: Brepols, 14, 90.

• Choat, Malcolm. 2017. "Monastic Letters on Papyrus from Late Antique Egypt." In Writing and Communication in Early Egyptian Monasticism, edited by and M. Choat and A.Ch. Giorda, Leiden - Boston, 17-72 (esp. 41).

• Wagner, Guy. 1987. Les Oasis d'Egypte à l'époque grécque, romaine et byzantine d'après les documents grecs. Cairo: Ifao, 139.

Valérie Schram, 2021
Suggested citation
Valérie Schram, 2021, "Artefact ID 146", 4CARE database - Fourth-Century Christian Archaeological Record of Egypt,