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The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity

from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world

Coptic ostracon from the area of Hermonthis (Upper Egypt) with an excerpt from a calendar of saints’ feast days, such as those of *Jakob (S00858), *Arsenios and Loukios (ascetics of Syrian origin, and martyrs near Panopolis, S02600), *Theognosta (perhaps the mother of George, S01537), *Athanasios (possibly the bishop of Alexandria, ob. 373, S00294), *David (Old Testament king of Israel and Psalmist, S00269), *Daniel (possibly the disciple and biographer of Arsenios, S02379) *Zoilos (possibly the disciple of Arsenios, S02378) and *Anna (possibly the mother of Mary, S01614), *Maria (possibly Mary, mother of Christ, S00033) and *Sophia (perhaps the head of a convent in Edessa, ob. 363, S02381); datable to the 7th century.

Evidence ID


Type of Evidence

Liturgical texts - Calendars and martyrologies

Late antique original manuscripts - Ostracon/Pot-sherd

O.Crum 26:

⳨ ⲓⲁⲕⲱⲃⲟ̣ⲥ̣ ⲥⲟⲩ ϫⲟⲩⲧⲥⲁϣϥⲉ ⲛⲑ̣ⲱ̣ⲑ̣
            ⲁⲣⲥⲉⲛⲓⲟⲥ ⲗⲟⲩⲕⲓⲟⲥ ⲥⲟⲩ ⲙⲛⲧⲁⲥⲉ ⲛⲕ[ⲟⲓⲁϩⲕ]
            ⲑⲉⲟⲅⲛⲱ̣ⲥⲧⲁ ⲥⲟⲩ ⲓⲍ ⲛⲑⲱⲑ
4          ⲁ̣ⲛ̣ⲑ̣ⲁⲛ̣ⲁ(ⲥⲓⲟⲥ?) [ⲙ]ⲛ ⲛⲉϥⲙⲁⲑⲏⲧ(ⲏⲥ) ⲥⲟⲩ ⲕⲁ̣ ⲙⲫⲁⲱⲫ(ⲓ)
            ⲇⲁⲩ̣ⲉ̣ⲓ̣ⲧ̣ (?) ⲙⲛ [ⲇ]ⲁⲛⲓⲏⲗ ⲙⲛ ⲍⲱⲓⲗⲟⲥ
            ⲙⲛ . ⲁ̣ⲛⲛⲁ ⲥⲟⲩ ϫⲟⲩⲧⲥⲛⲟⲟⲩⲥ ⲛⲕⲟ̣[ⲓ]-
            ⲁϩⲕ ⲙⲁⲣⲓⲁ ⲙⲛ ⲥⲟⲫⲓⲁ ⲙⲛ ⲛⲉⲩⲥ̣ⲛ-
8          ⲛϣⲏⲣⲉ ⲥⲟⲩ ⲕⲇ̣

‘Jakob: Day 27 of Thoth (24/25 September).
Arsenios (and) Loukios: Day 16 of [Choiak] (12/13 December).
Theognosta: Day 17 of Thoth (14/15 September).
Athana(sios?) together with his disciples: Day 21 (?) of Phaophi (18/19 October).
David (?), together with Daniel and Zoilos, and Anna: Day 22 of Choiak (18/19 December).
Maria and Sophia together with their monastic daughters (?): Day 24 of Choiak (20/21 December).’

(Text: W. E. Crum; trans.: G. Schenke)


Saint’s feast

Use of Images


This ostracon is kept at the British Museum in London, inv. 32951.


The order of the feast days listed here is obviously not chronological, but presumably follows the importance of saints or is perhaps dictated by buildings in which these festivities were to be celebrated or by amounts of payments made on these occasions.

Arsenios and Loukios appear as a pair of martyrs in E06902. For the same pair and date, see E06818: ‘Likewise for the Syrian saints Loukios and Arsenios: Choiak 16 (12/13 December)’.

The two saints are mentioned in the
typika of the White Monastery and the Arabic Synaxarion as Arsenios and Eulogios under the date 16 Choiak (12/13 December). They are said to have been ascetics near Panopolis, both of Syrian origin and both suffering martyrdom together.

For similar dates see:

Athanasios of Alexandria (S00294), 13 October in the
Martyrologium Hieronymianum (E04985).
David, Old Testament King of Israel (S00269), 26 December, in two Georgian calendars (E03470, E03970). Check also E05892.
Daniel, the Old Testament prophet (S00727), 18 December in the Georgian calendar (E03962).
Anna, the mother of Mary (S01327), 9 December in the Georgian calendar (E03953).
Zoilus appears three times in the
Martyrologium Hieronymianum, 1 July, 24 May, and 30 June.


Text and comments:
Crum, W. E., Coptic Ostraca from the Collections of the Egypt Exploration Fund, the Cairo Museum and Others (London, 1902), 5 and 7.

O'Leary, De L.,
Saints of Egypt (London: SPCK, 1937), 134.

Papaconstantinou, A.,
Le culte des saints en Égypte des Byzantins aux Abbassides (Paris: CNRS, 2001), 59.

Record Created By

Gesa Schenke

Date Last Modified


Related Saint Records
IDNameName in SourceIdentity
S00033Mary, Mother of ChristⲙⲁⲣⲓⲁUncertain
S00259George, soldier and martyr, and Companionsⲑⲉⲟⲅⲛⲱ̣ⲥⲧⲁUncertain
S00269David, Old Testament king of Israel, Psalmistⲇⲁⲩ̣ⲉ̣ⲓ̣ⲧ̣ (?)Certain
S00294Athanasios, bishop of Alexandria, ob. 373Certain
S00858Jacob (unspecified) ⲓⲁⲕⲱⲃⲟ̣ⲥ̣ Certain
S01614Anna, mother of Maryⲁ̣ⲛⲛⲁUncertain
S02378Zoilos, disciple of Arsenios, ob. 449ⲍⲱⲓⲗⲟⲥUncertain
S02379Daniel, disciple and biographer of Arsenios, ob. 449[ⲇ]ⲁⲛⲓⲏⲗ Uncertain
S02381Sophia, head of a convent in Edessa, ob. 363ⲥⲟⲫⲓⲁUncertain
S02600Arsenios and Loukios, ascetics of Syrian origin, martyrs near Panopolis (Upper Egypt)ⲁⲣⲥⲉⲛⲓⲟⲥ ⲗⲟⲩⲕⲓⲟⲥCertain

Please quote this record referring to its author, database name, number, and, if possible, stable URL:
Gesa Schenke, Cult of Saints, E05971 -