Ascalon, Gaza, Negev and Sinai
131. Ostracine - (al-Flusiat)
Situated near the eastern end of the lagoon, this town was a late Hellenistic or possibly a Roman foundation. Its name could be related to Herodotus' account of the wine-jars imported to Egypt from the Greek islands and returned to that waterless region filled with drinking water (Hdt. 3.6). Ostracine was situated on the northern road, 26 miles from Casium and 24 miles from the next station, Rhinocorura (Itin. Anton.). Flavius Josephus recorded it as one of the stations of the army of Titus when traveling to Judaea in a six-day march from Pelusium to Gaza. Pliny's words "Ostracine Arabia finitur" (Hist. Nat. 5, 14, 68) probably refer to the Arab controlled territory mentioned in Herodotus' statement about Mt. Casius (above). The settlement developed into an important bishopric during the Byzantine period, and the ruins of three basilica churches were discovered in the heaps of ruins called el Flusiat or Felusiyeh. One of them was excavated by J. Cledat in 1914 near the sea (J. Cledat, "Fouilles a Khirbet el-Flousiyat (janvier-mars 1914)", Ann. Serv. Antiq. Eg. 16, 1916, 16-32), another, more inland, by E. Oren in 1978 (E. Oren, "A Christian Settlement at Ostrakine in North Sinai", in Ancient Churches Revealed , a cura di Y. Tsafrir, Jerusalem 1993, 305-314.). Christian pilgrims would stop there to venerate the tombs of the Prophet Habakkuk and Simon Judas. Tradition has it that Habakkuk found shelter there while fleeing Nebuchadnezzar's persecution (Chron. Pasch. 369-372), and that Simon Judas was martyred there under Emperor Trajan after evangelizing the region (ibid. 1073).
P. Figueras, "The Road Linking Palestine and Egypt along the Sinai Coast", The Madaba Map Centenary, p. 223 (see also the complete article).
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 78)
This village, represented by a basilica flanked by two towers, is identical with Hirbat al-Fulusiya. It was a bishop's see since the 4th century. Local Christian traditions are attested concerning the prophet Habakkuk and the Apostles Simon Judas, Thaddaeus and Jacob son of Alphaeus.
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Ostracine", 198.
Map Section 9 Place Sources