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Artefact ID532
TM IDTM 33565
Findspot (DEChriM ID)55   (Qarāra)
Writing mediumSheet/roll
Text contentDocumentary

P.Neph. 12: Letter from Serapion to Petechon and Nepheros.

This letter is first and foremost a greeting letter that serves to maintain contact between Serapion, a monk who went on a journey to Omboi in Upper Egypt and his community in the monastery of Phathor.

Although the address on the back says that the letter is to be handed to "Nepheros, priest", the actual letter is addressed to "my beloved father Apa Petechon father of the monastery". Serapion greets firstly the abbot, then the two priests named Nepheros, followed by other brothers. As he immediately asks the first-named Nepheros to include him in his intercessory prayers, he must be the famous priest, the addressee of the other letters. The series of greetings is interrupted l. 12 with a direct address to Apa Nepheros and personal concerns that he brings to his attention: Paulos, a skipper from Toeto, will deliver monk's robes and sickles. Then the series of greetings start again until l. 18 where Serapion asks Nepheros to take care of his piece of land and to harvest the grain while he is away.


Recto: The format of this letter differs from the others in the archive (here wider than high); the hand is a fast and very practiced cursive; the greetings at the end are indented. Use of nomina sacra and diacritics but spelling and case endings often wrong. Use of Coptic letter hori within the Greek place name and pa ("the man of") in ἀσπάζομαι Ὧρ πα Ταxμουρώ ("I salute Hor from Tahmuro"). The writer was probably comfortable in both Greek and Egyptian but didn't go to the grammarian class (Bagnall 2018: 86-89). Writing runs parallel with the fibres.

Verso: address, parallel with the fibres.

Selection criteriaMention of Christian cult officials/institutions, Mention of Christian individuals/communities, Christian terms/formulas/concepts, Christian onomastics, Nomina sacra, Coptic language
Date from350
Date to370
Dating criteria

Palaeography, archive connection and historic context led the editors to suggest a range of date around 360 for the Nepheros correspondence (Kramer and Shelton 1987: 5). According to the study of the prices mentioned in the archive, Bagnall 1989: 75 (= BL IX, 173) suggests a range after 352.

Absolute/relative dateRelative date
Archaeological context

The P.Neph. were bought on the market but according to the seller they were all found together. Nothing in the archive led the editors to doubt this statement and they add that the archive were probably found in the direct vicinity of the ancient location of the monastery of Phathor (see Kramer and Shelton 1987: 5).

Accession number

Heidelberg, Institut für Papyrologie P.Heid. Inv. G 2146


Editio princeps

• Kramer, Bärbel and John. C. Shelton (ed.). 1987. Das Archiv des Nepheros und verwandte Texte. Part I, Das Archiv des Nepheros. Aegyptiaca Treverensia IV. Mainz, no. 12.

Additional bibliography

• Bagnall, Roger. 2018. "The Educational and Cultural Background of Egyptian Monks." In Monastic Education in Late Antiquity. The Transformation of Classical Paideia, edited by L. Larsen and S. Rubenson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 75-100 (esp. 85-96).

• Bagnall, Roger. 1989. "Dating the archive of Nepheros. " In "Fourth-Century Prices: New Evidence and Further Thoughts." Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 76, 69-76 (esp. 75).

• Choat, Malcolm. 2017. "Monastic Letters on Papyrus from Late Antique Egypt." In Writing and Communication in Early Egyptian Monasticism, edited by M. Choat and M. Ch. Giorda. Leiden-Boston: Brill, 17-72 (esp. 25-29).

• Wispzycka, Ewa. 2009. Moines et communautés monastiques (IVe – VIIIe siècles). Journal of Juristic Papyrology Suppl. 11. Varsovie, 81-82.


Valérie Schram, 2021
Suggested citation
Valérie Schram, 2021, "Artefact ID 532", 4CARE database - Fourth-Century Christian Archaeological Record of Egypt,