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This epitome gives a fairly reliable summary of the account of the unidentified pilgrim who traveled to Sinai some time in the late 4th or early 5th century AD, and is a prime source for the earlier section of her work, which is missing in the surviving MS. (What is left of the MS is translated following this epitome of Petrus Diaconus). The pilgrim was a female from Gaul or Spain, the roots of whose Christianity, like that of the monks of her contemporary Martin of Tours, go back to the Coptic Church of Antony and his associates in Egypt. De Locis Sanctis, ed. Gamurrini, 1887, p. 136ff. Braces {} enclose my observations.

“From Jerusalem to the sacred Mount Sinai are twenty-two halting-places. Pelusium is the metropolis of the Augusta(m)nican province. This Augusta(m)nican province is in Egypt. From Pelusium to Mount Sinai are twelve halting-places. Before you arrive at Mount Sinai, you come across Castrum Clesma on the Red Sea, where the children of Israel crossed the sea on dry land. Remains of Pharaoh’s chariotry can be seen in the middle of the desert sands to this day. A bigger space is visible between the wheels than would be the case with chariots made nowadays under the Roman Empire: the distance between wheel and wheel was twenty-four feet and more. {This is presumably because God caused the wheels to come off as the chariots tried to cross the Sea, Exodus 14. 25.} The impressions left by the wheels are two feet across. The remains of Pharaoh’s chariotry crop up near the Sea, but where the Sea was entered, since his aim was to overtake the children of Israel. In the place where the children of Israel entered the Sea, that is, where the impressions of Pharaoh’s wheels are visible, two markers stand today, one on the right, the other on the left, fashioned in the shape of small columns.

The place is not far from the military post, or Castrum, that is, of Clesma. Clesma itself is on the shore, that is beside the Sea. In that place there is an enclosed port, which the sea comes into to the military post in the interior {this additional phrase, (portus) qui intro castro ingreditur mare, is from Geyer’s edition, CSEL XXXVIII}. This port is the base for voyages to India, or alternatively provides docking for ships arriving from India. There is not a single other port of reception for ships from India in the Roman Empire, only this one. There are many large ships docked there, which is why that port is famous, for the merchants who travel to it from India. There is an official called the Logotheta who goes to India in certain years as a representative under orders of the Roman Emperor: he has his office there, and his ships are stationed there.

Here {viz. at Castrum Clesma} is the place where the children of Israel arrived in their flight from Pharaoh, when they went forth from Egypt. The military post, or Castrum, was placed there at a subsequent date for defensive purposes, to keep law and order against the incursions of Saracens. The location can be described as follows: everywhere there is barren desert, that is sandy plains, except for one mountain which inclines into the Sea. From the area on the far side of this mountain is gathered purple-colored marble. It is from this that the Red Sea receives its name, because here a mountain lying for a great distance along the edge of the Red Sea contains red or purple-colored stone. This mountain also is of a reddish tint. This mountain was on the right of the children of Israel as they escaped from Egypt, at the time they began to near the Sea. To those coming from Egypt the mountain is on the right, very steep, and reasonably high, like a wall, so you would think it had been carved out by human hand. The mountain is completely arid, to the extent it is devoid even of shrubbery.

As the children of Israel departed from Ramesses they wandered on foot first through the intervening sandy regions, but when they neared the Red Sea, the mountain which appeared on their right came within close range, so following the edge of that mountain, they came to the Sea. The flank of that same mountain towered to the right of them, and the Sea was on their left, then promptly, as they got up to it, there came into view that place where the mountain and the Sea came together, and proceeded further to form a headland. The plain where the children of Israel spent the night in the company of Moses stretches out as far as the eye can see, and its level surface is of immense extent. The distance between the place where the mountain descends into the sea and Castrum Clesma is 500 paces, or one half a Roman mile. Between the Castrum and the mountain is an intervening place running out from the headland of the mountain, where the children of Israel and Pharaoh and his men entered the Sea. The distance to the other side where they crossed the Red Sea on dry land is eight Roman miles.

{Omitted a small section describing the flora and fauna of the Red Sea.}

The desert of Shur is a wilderness of unbounded size, as far as man can see, and the sandy reaches of that solitary wasteland are immeasurable: it was there they traveled on foot without water for three days. From the desert of Shur to Marah is one halting-place along the shore of the Sea. In Marah are a very few palm trees. There are also two springs there which the sainted Moses sweetened. From that place the boundless desert stretches out to the left over a three days’ journey up to the place which is called Arandara. Arandara is the place known as Elim. There flows a stream which is dry for part of the year, but along its course or along its banks, water can be found when searched for. Reasonably abundant vegetation exists there and there are numerous palm trees in the place. In all the way from where they crossed the Red Sea, that is, from Shur, there cannot be found a more pleasant spot than this, with so great a quantity and quality of water, and in such abundance.

After that there is one intervening halting-place beside the Sea. Then appear two very tall mountains {Jebel Um Shomer and Jebel Thebt: the view from the direction of the coast of the Red Sea at Tor is described by Weil as follows [translation from the French mine]: “For the observer contemplating the great granite facade of the interior, the salient points of the tableau are the massif of Serbal, on the extreme left, and on the right, the enormous mountainous blocs which the eye comes to distinguish, separated by the incision of Wadi Sle, into Jebel Um Shomer to the left and Jebel Thebt to the right.” [La presqu’ile du Sinai, 1908, p. 193.] The latter two are the mountains referred to here as Sinai [Serbal] is treated separately by the writer.}, and on the left side before you come to the mountains is that place where the Lord rained down manna for the children of Israel {in the Desert of Sin, just to the north-west of Um Shomer}. These are lofty mountains and stand very erect. On the other side of the mountains is a quite level valley, which acts like a gateway {El Buweib, the “Gate” or entrance to Wadi Feiran from Wadi Solaf and Wadi es Sheikh}, the valley being two hundred paces in breadth. On either side of the valley the mountains rise up high and straight. But when the mountains open out, there is a valley six miles across, but much more in length {the Wadi es Sheikh and its continuation in the plains and lowlands in the direction of Ain Hudhera}. The mountains are all hollowed out in a compass. The hidden recesses there are formed in such a way, that if you wanted to hang up curtains, the result would be the most lovely little sleeping chambers. Now each little chamber is covered with inscriptions written in Hebrew script {the Sinai inscriptions}. At the end of the valley are good and quite abundant waters {Ain Hudhera}, but not of the same quality as those in Elim. That region is called the desert of Pharan, and from there the spies were sent out by Moses to scout the land. On all sides the place is sheltered by mountains. However that region does not support fields or vines, and there is nothing there but water and palm trees {viz. at oases, like Ain Hudhera}.

Quite close to the village of Pharan {in Wadi Feiran} those mountains close in to one and a half mile, so that the valley is hardly thirty paces across. There {viz. at the village of Pharan} is the place called Rephidim, where the Amalekites met the children of Israel. There also the children of Israel murmured because they had no water, and there Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, met him. The place where Moses prayed when Joshua fought the Amalekites is a very lofty, erect, mountain overlooking Pharan {Jebel Tahuneh overlooking El Maharrad}. Where Moses prayed a church has now been built. The place where he sat, and where stones were placed under him as support, can be seen today. Also Moses built an altar to the Lord there, once the Amalekites had been defeated. This place ascends vertically for five hundred paces, and you pass beneath it as beneath a wall.

From Pharan {viz. the desert of Paran, not the village} to the sacred Mount Sinai is thirty-five miles. It {viz. Mt. Sinai} can be seen in the distance from Hazeroth {Hudhera not far from the Gulf of Akaba in the desert of Paran, approx. 35 Roman miles distant from Serbal, this being at one time the location of a beacon in sight of, and communicating with, a similar beacon on the top of Mount Serbal [from the top of which even the head of the Gulf of Akaba is discernable, see Stewart’s account supra]}, where there was an enclosure made of stone {probably Erweis el Ebeirig near Hudhera, with its remains of an ancient camp}, in which the children of Israel lived when they left the Mount of God. There are also three thrones, fashioned in an unpretentious manner, in a rather elevated place, the one for Moses, the others for Aaron and Jethro. {A large detached rock somewhat like an armchair in shape, still called Magad en Nebi Musa, the Seat of the Prophet Moses, from which he is said to have watched Jethro’s sheep, is found at the pass El Watiyeh, not far from Jebel Musa in the Wadi es Sheikh which leads ultimately into Wadi Feiran, and nearby a Hill of Aaron and a Wadi Shuaib (Jethro).} The cell where Miriam, Moses’ sister was excluded for seven days, still, to this day, rises to a height of two feet from the ground {probably part of the works at Erweis el Ebeirig}. The whole space from Hazeroth to the sacred Mount Sinai, running between mountains on the right and left through that valley {e.g. Wadi Haggag}, is full of commemorative records {monumentis, viz. another series of Sinaitic inscriptions}. Not far from the sacred mountain {viz. in Wadi Berah, Turbet es-Yahud}, in the place called the Graves {sepulcra = “graves, interments”} of Lust, it is full of graves {sepulchris}.

Before you get to Mount Sinai there are six mountains, and these form a boundless valley, quite level, and very beautiful. Across that valley can be seen the sacred mountain Sinai itself. The place where the mountains open up is connected to that place where the Graves {sepulchra} of Lust are located.

From the spot where Mount Sinai is sighted to the mountain itself is a distance of four miles across a valley {Wadi Feiran near the junction with Wadi Aleyat}. That valley is very extensive, lying at the foot of the Mount of God, being sixteen miles in length, and four miles in breadth. So whoever wants to go to the sacred mountain has to pass on foot through that valley. This is the vast, level, valley in which the children of Israel waited, when Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. The place where the calf {= the Golden Calf} was made is pointed out to this day, and a great stone stands fixed to the spot. This is the valley at the head of which is the place where God spoke to the sainted Moses out of the fire in the bush. On one flank is the best path to ascend the mountain, and on the other is the way down. One crosses through the middle of the valley, and so arrives at the Mount of God. The mountain itself appears to be one in respect of compass, but actually comprises several, and all together bear the name Mount Sinai. Unique amongst them is the mountain on whose summit is the place where the Glory of God came down. It is much higher than them all, so that when one ascends it, all those mountains lie beneath one, those which appeared to be so lofty now looking like hills below Mount Sinai itself. Now this middle mountain, though it is the highest, and specially bears the name Sinai, nevertheless remains out of sight unless you come up to the very base of the mountain itself, but before you pass under it, since afterwards you will descend it and see it looking back, but before one ascends it, one cannot do this. The mountains which are within its compass are ascended with much difficulty, since they are not ascended around the circumference snail-shell-wise, but are directly ascended, like traversing a sheer wall, and directly descended. On the peak of Mount Sinai where the Law was given to Moses, a small church has been constructed. No-one lives on the summit of that mountain, and nothing else is there, except only the church, and a cave in which the sainted Moses used to live {the circle of stones on the highest peak of Serbal is all that remains of the church, and the cave is the cavern nearby with its Sinaitic inscriptions, on which see E. H. Palmer, Desert of the Exodus, p. 151, supra}. The mountain itself is all rock and has no shrubbery on it. From the summit of the middle mountain, the loftiest mountains appear below like hills. From the peak of Mount Sinai, Egypt, Palestine, the Red Sea, the eastern Mediterranean communicating with Alexandria, and also the territory of the Saracens, can be seen.

In Mount Horeb, which is connected to the same mountain, is a church, and in front of the church a cave in which the sainted Elijah hid in the reign of Ahab. There is also shown there a stone altar which the sainted Elijah himself set up to make offerings to God. Not far from there is a place where the sainted Aaron stood with the seventy elders. In that place there is no building, but there is a great rock with a smooth surface all over it where they stood {Jebel Muneijah}. In the middle there is a stone altar.

At the head of the valley which lies below the mountain there is a church, in that spot where the Lord spoke to Moses in the bush, and this bush is still living today and sends forth shoots. There for that reason is the best water. There can also be observed in that same valley the type of dwelling each individual used, and the foundations of these dwellings are visible today, where they were formed out of stones. {Cf. Lepsius’ description in his diary of what he took to be Israelites’ houses in Wadi Aleyat at the foot of Serbal.} There also is a place where the original Tabernacle of Meeting was erected.

In the other direction one can exit through the mountains and begin now to walk along the shore of the Sea. Without any transition between you are treading, at one point in the waters of the Sea, and at another, 500 paces away, one is walking through sandy desert. There is no trace of a path in that direction, but those who travel on foot there place markers along the way, and at night they direct their camels by the markers which they set up as they went on foot in the daytime.

From the Red Sea to the city of Arabia there are four halting-places. When the children of Egypt left Egypt, they went to the right the same distance they returned on the left: again they went to the left the same distance they returned in the reverse direction. That was their course of action.”

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