DISCUSSION

Ascalon, Gaza, Negev and Sinai

119. Thauatha - (Kh. Umm al-Tut; Migdal Tuta)


According to St. Jerome (Vita Hilarionis, 2; Patr. lat. 23, c. 30) Tabatha ca. 5 miles south of Gaza was the place of origin of Hilarion, the first monk in Palestine; Sozomenus (Hist. eccl. III, 14; Patr. graec. 67, col. 1076) confirms this information. The modern identification is with Kh. Umm el Tut, wich corresponds to the Migdal Tuta of Petrus Ibericus. It should not be confused with the burial place of Hilarion, which according to Antoninus (33, ed. Geyer, p. 180) was but two miles from the city of Gaza. The position of Thauatha on the map seems to point to just this kind of mistake, for it is much too near the city and too far from the coast.

Avi-Yonah, The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, 74

Mohammed Moain Sadeq ("Mosaic Pavements recently found in the Gaza Strip", in The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 215)
"Thauatha" straight to the south of Gaza on the Madaba Map, five miles to the south of the city according to Jerome, is mentioned as the birth place of Hilarion, who, in the beginning of the 4th century, founded a monastery seven miles away from Maiuma (Hieronymus, Life of Hilarion, 2), and twenty stades away from Thabatha (Sozomenos, History of the Church, III 14,23). We suggest that the ruins of Thabatha are located on Tell Umm 'Amir between al-Zawayda area and al-Nuseirat, which was excavated by the Israeli Antiquities Office in Gaza between December 1991 and January 1992. The Palestinian Department of Antiquities investigated the end of the Tell in the north-east side. Foundations of a Roman structure, most probably a palace built of sandstone, were discovered under the sand-dunes. Parts of the destroyed structure were paved with mosaic made of big white cubes (ca. 18 x 18 mm). This kind of mosaic was also used in the Byzantine period. Similar cubes of mosaic have been found for instance in Gaza, Deir al-Balah and Beit Lahya in the Gaza strip. The pottery cooking pots, jars and other artifacts discovered are mostly of local production and of the Roman Byzantine type. The type of wall courses with its outer plaster is also similar to the one discovered in Gaza to the north of the walled port of Anthedon in al-Bilakhiyya area.
Some scholars locate the village of Thabatha on the site of Kh. Umm al-Tut, which is also located in the al-Nuseirat area, c. 500 m to the north of Tell Umm 'Amir. The site of Kh. Umm al-Tut could be a site bordering Thabatha but not Thabatha itself, as it is too small in comparison to Tell Umm 'Amir. (See also the complete article)

Bellarmino Bagatti (Ancient Christian Villages of Judaea and Negev, Jerusalem - in the press)

Kh. Umm et-Tut, Sheikh Subani

The toponym preserves the ancient name Thabatha or Migdal Thutha. It is believed that under the tomb of Sheikh esh-Shubani, or Subani, there are probably the remains of the monastery of Seridus. However, no excavation has been ever carried out. St. Hilarion was born at Thabatha. Here St. Dorotheus lived in the monastery of Seridus, and so did two recluses, both famous for their writings: Barsanuphius the Egyptian, called "The Great Old Man," and John, surnamed "The Prophet." Abbot Seridus was one of their disciples and the only intermediary used by Barsanuphius in dealing with the external world. On the death of Seridus and John, Dorotheus left the monastery and built one of his own between Gaza and Maiuma of Gaza. Clermont-Ganneau (quoted by Abel, JPOS 4 [1924], p. 117) located Thabatha near Tell el-'Ajjul, about 7 kilometers from Gaza and not far from Wadi Gaza.
An anecdote about Seridus tells that once, when he was abbot, a disciple of his friends in Ascalon came to seek some parchments with the order to return quickly. Since the torrent of Thabatha was swollen, Seridus advised the young man not to leave right away but, encouraged by obedience, he crossed the river and succeeded in reaching the opposite shore (PO 8, p. 176). Seridus' monastery, therefore, was on the south shore of the Wadi Gaza, called by the name Thabatha by the Byzantines.

For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Thabatha", 246.

Map Section 9 Place Sources

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Created Tuesday, December 19, 2000 at 23:40:43
by Eugenio Alliata ofm in collaboration with Stefano de Luca ofm
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copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000