Itinerary of Egeria – Sodom and Gomorrah located south of Dead Sea

These last couple of days I have been closely examining the identification of Morashti/Moresheth-gath (Micah 1:1, 14) – hometown of Micah the prophet. In these pursuits, I ended up reading a lengthy section of the very interesting pilgrim itinerary of Egeria (late 4th century Christian pilgrim). In light of the persistent claims that Sodom should be located at Tell el-Hammam (i.e., Abel-shittim), I was particularly struck by Egeria’s following statement regarding the location of Sodom (and the other cities) from her vantage point on top of Mount Nebo. As she states – and in keeping with all of the evidence regarding the locations of Sodom and Zoar (see Medeba Mao below) – she identified them with the southern end of the Dead Sea. See here for the complete text of the Itinerary of Egeria.

We arrived, then, at the summit of the mountain, where there is now a church of no great size, on the very top of mount Nebo. Inside the church, in the place where the pulpit is, I saw a place a little raised, containing about as much space as tombs usually contain. I asked the holy men what this was, and they answered: “Here was holy Moses laid by the angels, for, as it is written: No man knoweth of his burial, since it is certain that he was buried by the angels. His tomb, indeed, where he was laid, is [not] shown to this day; for as it was shown to us by our ancestors who dwelt here where [he was laid], so do we show it to you, and our ancestors said that this tradition was handed down to them by their own ancestors.” So prayer was made anon, and all things that we were accustomed to do in their order in every place were done here also, and we began to go out of the church. 

Egeria 22
Mount Nebo Memorial of Moses church interior, Todd Bolen/

Then they who knew the place–the priests and holy monks–said to us: ” If you wish to see the places that are mentioned in the books of Moses, come out of the door of the church, and from the very summit, from the side on which they are visible from here, look and see, and we will tell you each place that is visible from hence.” Then we rejoiced greatly and immediately came out. From the door of the church we saw the place where the Jordan runs into the Dead Sea, which place appeared below us as we stood. On the opposite side we saw not only Livias, which was on the near side of Jordan, but also Jericho, which was beyond Jordan; to so great a height rose the lofty place where we stood, before the door of the church. The greatest part of Palestine, the land of promise, was in sight, together with the whole land of Jordan, as far as it could be seen with our eyes. On the left side we saw all the lands of the Sodomites and Segor (i.e., Zoar = Ghor es-Safi) which is the only one of the five cities that exists to-day. There is a memorial of it, but nothing appears of those other cities but a heap of ruins, just as they were turned into ashes. The place where was the inscription concerning Lot’s wife was shown to us, which place is read of in the Scriptures. But believe me, reverend ladies, the pillar itself cannot be seen, only the place is shown, the pillar is said to have been covered by the Dead Sea. Certainly when we saw the place we saw no pillar, I cannot therefore deceive you in this. The bishop of the place, that is of Segor, told us that it is now some years since the pillar could be seen. The spot where the pillar stood is about six miles from Segor, and the water now covers the whole of this space.

Egeria 22-23
Mount Nebo view of plains of Moab and Dead Sea looking west (i.e., left is south), Todd Bolen/
Zoar, Safi, ruins from north, Todd Bolen/