The Shenute Codex

From Egypt
Coptic period, 7th century AD

An account of the life of a holy man, written in the Coptic script

This papyrus is written in the Sahidic dialect of Coptic. The Coptic script developed in the second century AD. It uses Greek characters with six letters derived from the ancient demotic script. Coptic papyri of the Christian period in Egypt cover a wide range of topics, from accounts and letters to sermons, Biblical literature and the lives of Church fathers.

Shenute was abbot of the White Monastery at Sohag during the fifth century AD (died 466). His writings show that he was very influential in the Coptic Church, and copies of his works were read for many generations after his death. This papyrus sheet is a page from a codex with an account of his life, copied over 200 years after he lived. It records the exploits of Shenute in his struggle against those who had not been converted to Christianity. In one episode he is prosecuted by pagan priests for raiding their temple and allegedly stealing an image of the god Pan, and a book of magic. In his works he routinely attacked Jews and Arians, but also did not spare those within the monastic system whom he thought lacked true devotion, discipline or education.

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More information


H. Behlmer and A. Alcock, A piece of Shenoutiana from th, British Museum Occasional Paper 119 (, 1996)

R.B. Parkinson and S. Quirke, Papyrus, (Egyptian Bookshelf) (London, The British Museum Press, 1995)

R. Parkinson, Cracking codes: the Rosetta St (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


Height: 20.200 cm
Width: 13.300 cm

Museum number

EA 71005/3

not found on MERLIN

Gift of Mr Rutter and Mr Marchant


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