Ostrakon with a Homily by Athanasius
Artist: Unknown Coptic Primary
Date: 6007th century
Dimensions: 7.88 x 5.31 x 2 in. (20 x 13.49 x 5.08 cm)
Object Type: Utilitarian Object
Creation Place: Middle East, Egypt
Medium and Support: Limestone
Credit Line: Lent by Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1914 (14.1.64)
Accession Number: L2013.13.01
On View: Bellarmine Hall Galleries
Ostraka (pl.) are pieces of rock, pottery, or bone that feature writing. Limestone, as used for this ostrakon, was popular during the Early Christian period in Egypt as a readily available alternative to papyrus, which was more expensive and more difficult to obtain. The inscription, a homily by Saint Athanasius, is written in the Coptic language. This ostrakon likely had its origins in a monastery where it was used for educational purposes of practicing writing and learning theology. The ostrakon is from a period when Egypt played a central role in Christianity. Saint Athanasius was a fourth-century Bishop of Alexandria and theologian known for his role in defining Christian teaching. He was a strong opponent of Arianism, a belief (declared heretical) that denied the Trinity by asserting that the son of God was lesser than the Father. Athanasius was part of the council that wrote the Nicene Creed, asserting the consubstantiality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
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