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Artefact ID166
TM IDTM 129876
Findspot (DEChriM ID)58   (Dayr al-ʿIẓām)
Writing mediumSheet/roll
Text contentDocumentary

Gonis 2008: 83-85, no. 5; P. Misc. inv. II 20 a: Letter to an ecclesiastic (Apa John?).

Lower right-hand part of a letter conveying a request by a plurality of persons to an ecclesiastic. Text written along the fibers. The back is blank.

According to the editor, this letter might be part of Apa John's archive: "There is a reference to the latter’s prayers (l. 11), and the abstract nouns used for him are typical of fourth-century letters addressed to monks and other clergymen, including Apa Ioannes. Apart from the motifs and language, the date and the collection itself suggest that the recipient of the letter was Apa Ioannes. This is the work of an educated writer" (Gonis 2008: 83).

The Apa John of this archive was identified with the famous John of Lykopolis known by literary sources by Zuckerman 1995. Most of the Greek and Coptic letters of this archive are 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.

Selection criteriaMention of Christian cult officials/institutions, Christian terms/formulas/concepts
Date from375
Date to399
Dating criteria

Palaeography and archive connection (Gonis 2008: 69-72).

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

Oxford, Sackler Library, Papyrology Rooms EES P. Misc. inv. II 20 a


Editio princeps
• Gonis, Nikolaos. 2008. “Further Letters from the Archive of Apa Ioannes.” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 45, 69-85: 83-85, no. 5

Other References
• Choat, Malcolm and Maria Chiara Giorda. 2017. Writing and Communication in Early Monasticism. Texts and Studies in Eastern Christianity 9. Leiden-Boston.
• 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 166", 4CARE database - Fourth-Century Christian Archaeological Record of Egypt,