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Artefact ID148
TM IDTM 33467
Findspot (DEChriM ID)58   (Dayr al-ʿIẓām)
Writing mediumSheet/roll
Text contentDocumentary

P.Herm. 8: Letter to Apa John.

A certain Abraham sends a carefully written letter to Apa John, asking him to pray for him and his family so that he would be relieved from unspecified troubles.

Recto: written along the fibres. Verso: address, written along the fibres. Use of nomina sacra.

P.Herm. 8 is one of many Greek and Coptic letters addressed by monks, clerics, soldiers, state officials and individuals to Apa John, so that he would intercede in their favour in dealings with the authorities or pray for them. The anchorite of this archive was identified with the famous John of Lycopolis known by literary sources by Zuckerman 1995.

The phraseology here gives good evidence of the spiritual power ascribed to the anchorite: "May God Almighty preserve you for a long time for us sinners, so that through your most holy prayers we may be saved throughout our life" (Van Minnen 1994: 82-84).

Selection criteriaMention of Christian individuals/communities, Christian terms/formulas/concepts, Nomina sacra
Date from375
Date to400
Dating criteria

Palaeography and archive connection

Absolute/relative dateRelative date
Archaeological context

According to Constantine Zuckerman's reconstruction, the Apa John’s letters were presumably found in September 1897, during the excavations of Farag Ismael and Yassa Tadros on the mountain of Siout (Lykopolis), in the ruins of Dayr al-'Azam, the site of the monastery of John of Lycopolis. Yet they never reached the museum in Gizeh – like the other objects unearthed during these excavations – and must have ended on the market, where they were bought soon after the excavations (Zuckerman 1995: 191-192; Van Minnen 1994: 80-82, Gonis 2008: 69-72). Although not proven, this attractive hypothesis is generally accepted by scholars (see discussion in Van der Vliet 2015: 166-167, and some reservations in Choat 2017: 37-40).

Accession number

Manchester, John Rylands Library, P.Herm. 8



Editio princeps:

Rees, Brinley R. 1964. Papyri from Hermopolis and Other Documents of the Byzantine Period. Egypt Exploration Society, Graeco-Roman Memoirs 42. London, no. 8.

Additional bibliography:

Choat, Malcolm. 2006. Belief and Cult in Fourth-Century Papyri. Studia Antiqua Australiensia 1. Turnhout: Brepols, 75.

Choat, Malcolm, and Maria Chiara Giorda. 2017. Writing and Communication in Early Monasticism. Texts and Studies in Eastern Christianity 9. Leiden, Boston.

• Gonis, Nikolaos. 2008. “Further Letters from the Archive of Apa Ioannes.” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 45, 69-85.

Naldini, Mario. 1968. II cristianesimo in Egitto. Lettere private nei papiri dei secoli II-IV. Florence: LeMonnier, no. 83.

Van der Vliet, Jacques. 2015. “Snippets from the Past: Two ancient sites in the Asyut Region: Dayr al-Gabrawi and Dayr al-’Izam.” In Christianity and Monasticism in Middle Egypt, ed. Gawdat Gabra and Hany Takla. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 161-168.

Van Minnen, Peter. 1994. “The Roots of Egyptian Christianity.” Archiv für Papyrusforschung und verwandte Gebiete 41, 71-85.

Zuckerman, Constantine. 1995. "The Hapless Recruit Psois and the Mighty Anchorite, Apa John." Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 32, 183-194.

Valérie Schram, 2021
Suggested citation
Valérie Schram, 2021, "Artefact ID 148", 4CARE database - Fourth-Century Christian Archaeological Record of Egypt,