An Outline Of The History Of The Egyptians
                                    Under Their Successive Masters
                              From The Roman Conquest Until Now

                                           Edith L. Butcher

                  [Abridged electronic version for Copt-Net]




In presenting the following account of 100 years  in the history of the Coptic
Church, we  would like to  emphasize that this account by  Edith L. Butcher is
just that: An  account by  Edith L.  Butcher.    We present it  as is, without
endorsing it, or necessarily approving of its contents (in particular, the use
of inappropriate language common in 19th century Victorian writings).

Copt-Net Editorial Board
November 1995


This is a century old book. It was written  by Edith L. Butcher, and published
in 1897 in London, by Elder Smith and Co., 15 Waterloo Place.  If you read the
book,  you will invariably notice  the  love and passion  that  the author has
developed for  the Copts and  their history.  Perhaps,  the best  to examplify
this is her quoting of the Revelation:

    "Him that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment, and I
     will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess
     his name before my Father and before His angels.  He that hath an ear,
     let him hear what the spirit saith unto the Churches".

In reading  the history of  the Coptic Church,  you  will find out  that these
verses are a summary of her  history: A continuous  struggle and a call on her
to carry the cross.

Edith says  that she went  through a labourious   searh among dictionaries and
translations which, to her, "has been a labour of love".

She considered her most important qualification to be her love to the subject,
and a residency of twenty years in the land of Egypt.
The following  are excerpts from the first  of two volumes.  It deals with the
history of  most of the seventh century.   Edith coments on that  very century

    "With one imperfect exception, of the seventh century, all the available
    books on the history of the church of Egypt.....have been written by men
    alien in race or hostile in creed --generally both."


                                                    PART I
                                                 CHAPTER XXIX
                                      THE REVOLT OF THE BROTHERS

In the  early years of  the reign  of Maurice, who  succeeded Tiberius  II., a
fresh  revolt broke  out  in the  North  of  Egypt.   It  was beaded by  three
brothers--named Abaskiron, Menas, and James--who took up arms against the Blue
or Imperial party.  They seized and pillaged the towns of  Bane and Bousir [1]
and killed a great many people.  Eventually they set fire to Bousir, and burnt
tbe public bath among other buildings.  The local prefect  managed to make his
escape   under cover of  the  night,  and fled  to   Constantinople, where  he
represented  the serious nature  of  the  rebellion.  Maurice  sent  indignant
orders to  John, the Governor of Alexandria,  to see that  it was speedily put
down.  But the rebels had not only established themselves firmly in the Delta,
they menaced Alexandria itself, and seized the corn boats on their way to that
city.  This produced an actual famine, and  the mob rose against the governor,
John, who had originally been  a personal friend of tbe  three brothers now at
the head of the rebellion, and attempted to murder  him.  He was only saved by
the  devotion of  some of the  principal Egyptians  belonging to the  National
Church, who stood by him and brought him off in safety.

John's friendly  relations with the  Egyptians, however,  did  him no  good at
Court,  and Maurice dismissed him from  his office, and  appointed a man named
Paul in his place.  Meanwhile the revolt gained ground daily in Egypt, and the
Byzantine power seemed ready to  fall.  Isaac, son  of the eldest of the three
brothers,  by a  brilliant dash made   himself master of several vessels,  and
cruised along the coasts, even to  Cyprus, making war  on all Byzantine ships.
In  this  extremity the  Byzantine  Patriarch  was   sent  to treat  with  the
insurgents, and the place of meeting was fixed at Aykelah,  the native city of
the three brothers.

Eulogius  had   succeeded John about  the  year  579  A.D.,  and was the first
Byzantine Patriarch who    had  won in some degree    the  confidence of   the
Egyptians.  He was  neither Greek nor  Egyptian, but a  native of Antioch, and
had   been consecrated at  Constantinople to  rule  over fhe handful of aliens
which  the Emperor  at Constantinople  and  the Pope   of  Rome persisted   in
regarding as file true Egyptian Church.  Eulogius was indeed a personal friend
of Gregory the Great, who shortly afterwards  succeeded Pelagius in the see of
Rome, and maintained a correspondence with him all his life [2]. But Eulogius,
though no  Egyptian, was a  true Christian, and  by his piety and learning did
much to save   the Greek Church from absolute   extinction and degradation  in
Egypt.  Eulogius readily  consented to treat with the  insurgents on behalf of
the Emperor, and went to Aykelah with his  deacon Ailas.  The Blues and Greens
assembled in great force, and long discussions took place, but without result,
since the insurgents would only accept pardon on condition that John the
dismissed prefect, should be returned to them. 

The Emperor evidently  thought it expedient to yield,  for the insurgents were
now masters of  the whole of  Northern Egypt, and  all taxes were paid to them
instead of being remitted to the Byzantine Government.  John  was sent back to
Alexandria, and a man named Theodore, who knew Egypt well and was the son of 5
well-known general, took the field against the insurgents.

It appears that one of  the original complaints  of the Egyptians was that two
of   their  nationals whom  they greatly    respected   had been  arrested and
imprisoned.  The names  of these men are given  as Cosmas, son of Samuel,  and
Banon,   son of  Ammon;   but the reason   of   their arrest  by the Byzantine
Government is nowhere stated.  Theodore insisted that these two men should not
only be set at liberty, but that they should accompany his army, in order that
the insurgents should see for themselves that  they were free.  His demand was
at once  acceded to by  the Government; not  only Cosmas  and Banon, but three
other men who had  been arrested  with  them, were delivered to  Theodore, who
thereupon marched in search of the Egyptian insurgents.  He camped immediately
opposite to them, on the other  bank of the river, and  brought out Cosmas and
Banon in  full view of their compatriots.   At  his desire, though  whether by
persuasion or threats   we are  not  told, Cosmas   and Barton addressed   the
insurgents  from  across  the  river,  entreating them   to   return to  their
allegiance, assuring  them that the   Roman Empire was   not yet enfeebled  or
conquered, and that their ultimate success was impossible.

The appeal was successful.  Little by little  the insurgent camp broke up, and
its  members passed over  the river  to  Cosmas and  Banon  with  the Imperial
troops.  The three brothers were  left alone  with their immediate  adherents,
but they boldly endeavoured to stand their  ground, and met  the attack of the
Byzantine army with desperate courage.  They fought till  night fell, and then
fled  from the  field to Abu  San.  Here  they  made  a  brief halt, but  with
daylight discovered that they were pursued by the Byzantine army.  The gallant
little band  retreated fighting  towards  Alexandria, but  they were at length
overpowered, and all three brothers, with Isaac, were taken prisoners.

They were placed on  camels and paraded  about the streets of Alexandria, that
all men might know the revolt had come to an  end.  Then they were thrown into
prison; but the prefect, John, stood their friend as  much as he dared, and no
further steps were taken against them till long afterwards,  by a new prefect,
who succeeded John.   This man cut  off the  heads of the  three brothers, and
sent  Isaac into exile.  The same  prefect, probably acting  under orders from
the Emperor,  who had evidently, neither  forgotten  nor forgiven  the revolt,
though he had not dared to use harshness at the time, confiscated the goods of
the chief men who had taken part in it, and delivered the towns of Aykelah [3]
and Abu San to the flames.

So ended the  revolt of the  three brothers, but  it was not  the only one  in
Egypt  during the reign  of Maurice and  his  successors.  Again and again, in
different parts of the country, the smouldering flame of discontent broke out.
In the canton of Akhmim the insurgents were  at length driven by the Byzantine
army  into the barren  hills and there  surrounded and starved to death. Under
Phocas, fresh attempt broke out in the district  of five towns--Kharbeta, San,
Basta, Balqua,  and   Sanhour--the suppression of   which  was accompanied  by
circumstances of  the utmost  barbarity.   It was   because the Egyptians  had
learnt by repeated disappointment and failure that they  could not alone shake
off the yoke, which since 451 had become yearly more distasteful to them, that
in the early years of the seventh century  they looked in  despair for help to
the victorious Arabs,  and  by   this treason to   their  faith  brought  upon
themselves the  far heavier yoke  under which they  have groaned during twelve
centuries of persecution and degradation.


                                                    PART I
                                                 CHAPTER XXX
                                         THE PERSIAN CONQUEST

While the Byzantine rule  was tottering to  its fall  in  A.M. 319  Egypt, the
national party was gaining strength every year.  The Patriarch Damian had been
succeeded in 603 (or 607) by Anastasius, who  had the true martyr spirit, and,
notwithstanding that  he left Litria   at the risk    of his life,  constantly
travelled through his country, and even held ordinations in Alexandria itself.
He built another church in that city,  the stronghold of Imperialism, which he
dedicated to the Archangel Michael [4].  In his time the  Nile rose so rapidly
in one night that the whole of the town of Esneh was flooded, many houses were
overthrown by the water, and a great number of the inhabitants perished.

The Egyptians,  as might be  expected, joined  eagerly  in the  general revolt
against the Emperor Phocas.  Three thousand Byzantine soldiers supplemented by
a great number of irregular native troops  were sent through Pentapolis by the
eider  Heraclius, Exarch of  Africa,  to  secure Egypt  for  his son,  who was
engaged in making  himself master of  Constantinople.   Bonakis, who commanded
this   contingent,  effected a  junction with  the  troops  of  the Prefect of
Mareotis without opposition and turned against  Alexandria.  The governor came
out to meet them at  the head of  such troops as  remained faithful to Phocas.
He was hopelessly outnumbered from the first, and the insurgent commander sent
to say that if he would even remain neutral his life should  be spared; but he
indignantly  refused the offer,  and fell fighting.  His head  was cut off and
exposed on the gates of  Alexandria.  The  Byzantine Patriarch, Theodore,  who
had about two years before been nominated by  Phocas on tho death of Eulogius,
took  refuge in the  church of Athanasius, for the  whole city gladly welcomed
the general of Heraclius, and his life was in danger.

The  inhabitants of Nildue,  headed by their  bishop,  hastened to acknowledge
Herclius, and their example  was quickly followed  by almost all the cities of
Egypt. Only one Egyptian of any standing, the same Cosmas  who had stopped the
revolt of the three brothers against Maurice, declared for Phocas and very few
even of   the Byzantine officials.   Two of   these, however--Paul, Prefect of
Samannoud,  and  Marcian, Prefect   of   Athribis  [5]--with  a   lady   named
Christodora, who seems  to have been a person  of great influence, endeavoured
to make a stand for Phocas, especially as they had just received news thst his
general, Bonose, had arrived with an army at Pelusium.  Two native armies (one
under Theodore and  Plato, accompanied by  Theodore of  Nikius and Menas,  the
chancellor of his diocese; and the other under Cosmas snd Paul, accompanied by
Christodors) now menaced each other in the district of  Menour; but both sides
waited for the Byzantine troops.  On the same day  Bonose (for Phocas) arrived
at Athribis, and Bonakis (for Heraclius)  at Nikius, and  pushed on hastily to
join their native allies.  The  fight took place  a little to  the east of the
town  of  Menour, and victory declared  for  Bonose.  Bonakis was  killed, and
Plato and Theodore,   seeing that the day was   lost, fled to  Atris, and took
refuge in the convent.  Theodore of Nikius and his chancellor came to the tent
of Bonose, carrying the Gospels and asking for mercy.   Bonose seemed at first
inclined to  spare them, and took them  with him to  Nikius.  But  Marcian and
Christodora represented to  him that it  was by the  bishop's orders that  the
statues of Phocas had been thrown  down from the  gates of Nikius, and that he
was too dangerous to be allowed to live.

The bishop was therefore beheaded in his own  city, and Menas was subjected to
so  severe an application  of the  bastinado that, though  he  had  paid three
thousand pieces of gold for his ransom, he died two or three days after he was
set  at liberty.  The inhabitants of  the surrounding country were struck with
terror, and the monks of Atris thought to purchase  their safety by delivering
the fellow-countrymen  who had sought    refuge with them to  the   victorious
general.   Not  only Plato and   Theodore,  but the  principal  inhabitants of
Menour, who had fled to the convent--among them three old men who were greatly
respected--were brought in chains by the monks to Bonose at Nikius.  They were
all publicly scourged, and then beheaded on the same spot where the bishop had
been put to death.

This, however, was only a passing success for the adherents of Phocas. All the
principal inhabitants of  Egypt, all the  members of the  Green party, all the
strength of the national Church,   were for Heraclius.  Reinforcements of  all
kinds poured into Alexandria, where  Nicetas, the lieutenant of Heraclius, had
arrived.  Paul of Samanhoud made a  feeble demonstration agsinst the city, but
was driven off  with stones which  sunk his boats  in the canal.   A hermit of
great sanctity and renown, named Theophilus, who  had lived forty years on the
top of a pillar by the river, on being consulted  by Nicetas (who knew what an
effect his words would have on the Egyptians), promised victory to Nicetas and
the speedy accession of Heraclius.  On  this, Nicetas sailed out of Alexandria
and gave  battle to Bonose.  His victory  was complete; Bonose fled to Nikius,
and all the  Blues joined Nicetas.  Bonoso next  sent  soldiers to assassinate
Nicetas under pretext of a message of surrender, but one of his own men warned
Nicetas.  The herald  was searched and  killed with the dagger found concealed
upon him for the purpose.  Eventually, after some more desultory fighting, the
adherents of Phocas were  finally crushed.  Bonose  and Theodore the Byzantine
Patriarch were both  killed  in  the final struggles;  Paul  of  Samanhoud and
Cosmas were  both made  prisoners,  but were treated  with  leniency.  Nicetas
devoted himself to   the task of   restoring order throughout Egypt, for  many
members  of the Green (or National)  party were inclined  to take advantage of
the confusion  to plunder the defeated Blues  in all  directions.  Many of the
Byzantines left Egypt  altogether, and some  renounced  their Christianity and
returned to the    old pagan religion.    Nicetas by  a  judicious mixture  of
severity  and clemency--he remitted  all taxes for  three years--succeeding in
re-establishing peace.

But peace could not endure long in Egypt.  Barely  four years afterwards Syria
was overrun by the Persian troops of Chosroes, and Egypt  was threatened.  The
Christians of Syria took refuge  in Egypt in vast numbers,  and both John, the
Byzantine Patriarch (who had been nominated by Heraclius to succeed Theodore),
and Anastasius, the National Patriarch, vied with each  other in relieving the
necessities of  their fellow-Christians.   John,   of course, was by  far  the
richer, as all the ancient endowments  of the National  Church were by command
of  the Emperor confiscated  to the support of the  Byzantine Church in Egypt;
and the deprived Monophysites  were only gradually  making fresh provision for
the support of their own Patriarch and clergy.  John  had four thousand pounds
waiting  for him in  the  Church treasury  when  he  landed, and, besides  his
official  income, enormous sums  were  sent him for the  relief  of the Syrian
refugees.  The Patriarch of Antioch himself took  refuge in Egypt, but he went
to the National Patriarch, Anastasius, who received him with  open arms and as
much   splendour of  reception  as the   times allowed; for  again famine  had
followed in the track of strife,  and the Nile had not  risen to the requisite
height.  St.  John the Almoner,   as the  Byzantine Patriarch was   afterwards
called, in  affectionate memory of his generosity,  had shown  more liberality
than prudence in the distribution of the  funds entrusted to  him.  He had not
only established hospitals for the sick,  and relieved the fugitives, but alms
were given daily  to  all who  applied  at his  gates.  When the  men who were
charged with the  distribution represented  to John that   some of those   who
applied for daily alms  wore gold ornaments,  he rebuked them for an officious
and inquisitive spirit, declaring that if the whole  world came to ask alms at
Alexandria they could not exhaust the riches of God's goodness.

As a natural consequence, the  money ran short before the  need was over,  and
John was in sore distress.  In this juncture a rich citizen of Alexandria, who
greatly desired to be made a deacon  (the first step  to the high dignity of a
Patriarch), but  who had  been  twice married, and was   therefore canonically
incapacitated, offered John an immense supply of  corn and a hundred and eight
pounds of gold, if he  would break the canon law  and admit  the donor to  the
diaconate.  John was sorely  tempted, and even sent for  the man,  but finally
told him  that, although he could not  deny that the   gift was sorely needed,
yet, the motive being  impure, the offering must be  declined.  ``God,'' he is
reported to have said, ``who supported the poor before either of us were born,
can find the means of supporting them now.  He who blessed the five loaves and
multiplied them can bless  and multiply the  two measures of corn which remain
in my granary.''

The citizen, foiled in his ambition, departed, and John himself was a widower,
a native of Cyprus, and had never been either a monk or a descon; therefore on
counts his elevation  to the Patriarchate  of Egypt was uncanonical.  But, for
the  Imperial  party   in  Egypt,  the   Emperor's  nomination  overrode   all
ecclesiastical laws.  Almost at the same moment a message came that two of the
Church  ships had  returned  from  Sicily with a  large  cargo  of corn.   The
Patriarch John fell on his face in mingled humiliation and gratitude, thanking
God  that he had not been  permitted to sell  the gift of  the  Holy Ghost for

Though he received  all the ecclesiastical revenues, John,  like all the other
Byzantine Patriarchs,  had little authority  outside Alexandria and the two or
three cities which  were garrisoned by  Byzantine troops.  But by his personal
virtues  he  endeared  himself  to   the  Alexandrians;  and, though all   the
endowments of  the   Church were at   his  disposal, he  lived with  the  same
simplicity  as the   National  Patriarch--with  whom   indeed,  as became  his
character,  he maintained  friendly  relations.    When  Anastasius, who   was
universally loved and respected,  died, his successor Indronicus was permitted
to   live openly in  Alexandria, and  peace   was maintained between the rival
Churches.   The  Egyptians  readily acknowledged the   piety  of the Emperor's
bishop, and, though they would yield obedience  to no Patriarch but their own,
they equally with the Imperial Church  commemorated John as  a saint after his

A  yearly sum of  Church money was devoted by  John to the ransom of Christian
captives.  Discovering that the men who were entrusted with  this duty were in
the  habit of  taking  bribes from the friends  of  the captives, to determine
which should  first be ransomed, he called  them  before him and  forbade them
ever to receive such money  in future.  At  the same  time he increased  their
salaries, to spare  them the temptation.  It is   said that some  were so much
touched by his forgiveness  and generosity that  they voluntarily declined the
increase of pay which he offered.  One curious incident is recorded of the way
in which  he managed his congregation.  Already,  as  in all Churches  where a
fasting  communion  is  made  obligatory,   a  very  large  proportion of  the
congregations belonging  both to the Imperial and  National Churches had given
up communicating  altogether.    But  the Imperial  churches  of  Alexandria a
further innovation had  lately grown up.   Many of the  fashionable members of
the congregation did not  even  remain to  assist  at the celebration  of  the
Eucharist, but left  the  church at  the  conclusion of  the Gospel.   On  two
occasions the Patriarch solemnly followed  his congregation out of the church,
and left  the   service  unfinished.  On  their  expressing  astonishment  and
inquiry,  he calmly told  them that ``Where the sheep  are, there the shepherd
ought to be. It is for your sakes,'' he added, ``that  I go to the church; for
my  own part, I  could celebrate the  office at home.''  The congregation took
the hint, and remained in church till the service was over.

But though his virtues were undoubted, John had not the  kind of courage which
leads to martyrdom.  There had been a brief respite; but now that the Persians
were firmly established in Syria, they advanced into  Egypt, and were welcomed
as deliverers by the National party,  who hailed every  chance of throwing off
the hated Byzantine yoke.  The whole of the Delta was in their hands, and they
laid  siege to  Alexandria.   Nicetas, the general   who  had so  successfully
contended   against  native levies   of   undisciplined  Egyptians,  evidently
considered  resistance hopeless.      He persuaded the    Emperor's bishop  to
accompany    him, and the  two fled    from  Alexandria, which was immediately
occupied by the Persians in 620.   The whole of Egypt submitted  to them up to
the borders of  Ethiopia, and  for nearly ten  years Egypt   was once more   a
Persian province.  Heraclius  had enough to  do in  defending his own  capital
from the victorious  Persians, and made  no attempt for  some time to  recover
Egypt.  Nor did he  nominate another Patriarch for the  State Church in Egypt,
though John died in the same year of his flight.  Probably he would have found
no one  to  accept the   office from him   at this  juncture.  About  a   year
afterwards Andronicus died, so that both the Churches in  Egypt were without a
head.   But  when  the National Church  proceeded  to  the election of  a  new
Patriarch, the small but rich State Establishment appears to have taken alarm.
If  there were but one Patriarch  in the country,  it was  clear  that all the
revenues, which  so far they  had kept in  their own hands,  were liable to be
reclaimed  by him, and   refusal on their   part would be  dangerous.   It was
determined to wait the Emperor's pleasure  no longer, and the Byzantine Church
proceeded to elect a man named George, of whom  little to his credit is known,
but who probably served their immediate purpose as well as another.

The National    Church elected  Benjamin,  a man    of wealthy parentage, whom
after-events have made  famous.  He had been a  monk in the monastery of  Deyr
Kirios (Cyrus), and was distinguished for his austerities  and his devotion to
prayer.  He had been, for some  years before his  election, in Alexandria with
the Patriarch Andronicus, whom he succeeded.


                                                    PART I
                                                CHAPTER  XXXI
                                           THE ACT OF UNION

In  the year 629 Heraclius, having  waged successful wars against the Persians
in other parts of the empire, turned  his attention to  the recovory of Egypt.
Experience, however, had taught him that he could  not retain his hold on that
country without conciliating the National Church, and  in so doing the bulk of
the population.  He  therefore  on his way  back  from  a  victorious campaign
consulted Athanasius of Antioch  (the same who had taken  refuge in Egypt some
years before);  Sergius of  Constantinople; and Cyrus,   Bishop of Phasis, who
represented three different shades of religious  opinion, as to the best means
of doing so.  After much discussion it was decided not  to mention the Council
of Chalcedon, since  openly to accept or reject  that Council would inevitably
offend one of the two parties beyond retrieval;  but it was determined to draw
up an Act of  Union, which should  affirm one Will  in our Lord instead of one
Nature.  This compromise  was accepted by the three   bishops above named,  of
whom one was a  Monophysite and  the  other a Chalcedonian Patriarch,  and the
Emperor promptly appointed the third  of them (Cyrus) Patriarch of Alexandria,
and sent  him off to  that city   with  full powers   to effect the  hoped-for

What became  of the unfortunate George, whom   the Graeco-Egyptians had chosen
for themselves,   cannot be   ascertained.   Makrizi does    not know  of  his
existence; and Eutychius, a  Melkite historian of  the tenth century, declares
that George fled  from Egypt ``for fear of  the Saracens.''  But  as Cyrus was
appointed Patriarch of Alexandria in 630, and as Amr did not invade Egypt till
639-40, his memory  may  be held  clear  from  this  accusation.  It  is  most
probable  that Heraclius  simply ignored the   action of the  State Church  in
having set up  a Patriarch for themselves, and  that George did not venture to
assert himself against the Emperor's nominee, but retired into private life on
the arrival of Cyrus.

Cyrus found no difficulty in his task as far as the Egyptian laity and many of
the clergy  were concerned, One Will  signified  to them one Nature,  and they
readily agreed to accept the  Act of Union, and to  communicate with the State
Church in doing so, declaring that the Byzantine Church had come over to their
views.  Indeed, the principal members of the Byzantine party thought the same,
and received the Emperor's  decree with consternation.   At the  Council which
Cyrus called   in Alexandria to discuss the    matter, Sophronius, an intimate
friend of St.  John  the Almoner,  and a man   of great weight in the  Church,
remonstrated  with the most  urgent entreaties.  He  declared that the Emperor
had but  evolved  a new  heresy--indeed,  it has ever   since  been called the
Monothelite heresy--and implored Cyrus not to publish the Act of Union.  Cyrus
paid no  attention to these remonstrances, but  was dismayed to find  that the
National Patriarch coldly   refused to discuss   the matter, or  to accept any
theological  decision  from the Emperor.   Cyrus  knew that the reconciliation
would be of little political value without the sanction  of the Patriarch, and
he   attempted  to carry  his  point  by force.  The   lives  of the principal
Egyptians who stood by their Patriarch were in danger, and they retreated from
Alexandria.    Benjamin was   banished  to a   small  monastery   in the Upper
Thebaid [6], and Sophronius on the other hand retired into Syria, where he was
afterwards elected Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Heraclius appears to have been well content  with the measure of success which
his agent had  attained, and felt  sufficiently secure to  go on pilgrimage in
the following year to  Jerusalem.   It was  on  this occasion that  the events
happened which  are commemorated in the  so-called  Fast of  Heraclius--a fast
still kept in Egypt and throughout the East every year [7].

Heraclius  had  given his  word to the   Jews of  Syria  for their  safety, in
consideration of costly presents which he had received from them.  But when he
came  on pilgrimage to  Jerusalem he was  indignant and horrified to find what
havoc had been wrought there, not so much by the Persians as  by the Jews, who
had profired  by the occasion to indulge  their  deep hatred of  the Christian
religion.  The Syrian Christians appealed to the Emperor  for vengeance on the
Jews.  Then (says  ElMakrizi) Heraclius told  them he  could not massacre  the
Jews, as he had pledged to them his word for their safety, and had sworn it to
them.   Then the  Christian monks, patriarchs,   and presbyters gave  him as a
reason that he need  not be hindered  by that from slaughtering them, inasmuch
as they had dealt with him by craft so far as  to make him  give them his word
for their safety, without his being aware of the real state of their case; and
that they would undertake for him, in  expiation of his  [breach of] faith, to
bind themselves and  the Christians to  a fast of a week  every year for ever.
The Patriarch [of Jerusalem] and the  bishops then wrote  unto all the cities,
to constrain  the Christians to keep this   fast for seven   days in the year,
which is known among them as the ``Week of Herhudys.''

The Persians had been driven  back, and the Byzantine garrisons re-established
at the Delta; but it seems probable that no troops were stationed south of the
Fayoum, and  Upper Egypt appears to have  been left practically to  itself, or
later to that celebrated  yet shadowy person  known as the Makaukas.  From the
deserts of  the Arabian peninsula  a new and  more formidable enemy rose up to
defy the Roman  Empire, viz., the  recently created Saracen power, animated by
the irresistible fervour of a new religion.  Mohammed  their prophet was dead,
but his successor Omar was pushing his conquests in every direction.  Early in
the year 640 [8], having  overrun Syria, one  of their ablest generals, Amr or
Amru ebn Ass, turned his eyes  upon the far  more valuable prize of Egypt, and
by stratagem obtained consent from the Kaliph Omar to the expedition [9].


                                                    PART I
                                                CHAFFER XXXII
                                         THE  ARAB  CONQUEST

It has been already pointed out that at the time of the Arab invasion of Egypt
the greater part of that country  was in a  state of passive opposition to the
recently re-established Byzantine occupation.  For  the last ten years many of
the officials  had systematically kept   back the  dues which  the   Byzantine
Government was powerless to collect,  and two or  three of them seemed to have
lived like petty kings in   Egypt, paying to the Persians   as little as  they
could   help,  and practically  independent  of   either  Persian or Byzantine
control.  When in 680 Heraclius drove  out the Persians and re-established his
garrisons in Egypt, he was too  well aware of the insecurity  of his tenure to
proceed rashly, and waited for his religious concessions to the Egyptian party
to take effect.  Still the governors of  the different provinces, some of whom
were native Egyptians, knew that the time  of reckoning could  not long be put
off; and all  of them had  personal as well   as political cause to dread  the
re-establishment of the Byzantine power.

If, however, the Act of Union, otherwise called the Ekthesis had been accepted
by  the  Patriarch Benjamin,  these   men  would have  been   powerless.   But
Heraclius, through his  agent Cyrus, whom he had   appointed Patriarch of  the
Byzantine  (or State) Church in Egypt,  made the fatal mistake of undervaluing
the power of the Egyptian Patriarch.  When the bulk of the Egyptian nation, as
it  seemed  to Cyrus,   gladly  accepted his terms,  he   did not  hesitate to
persecute and  banish  the Patriarch  for refusing.  But   this only made  the
refusal and disapproval of Benjamin patent to all Egypt, and from that day the
Act of Union was doomed.  Whatever their faults, the Egyptian nation had never
yet  failed in  loyalty to their  Patriarch.  The  concessions  of the Emperor
might seem all that they desired, but, if the Patriarch was not satisfied, the
true Egyptian would  have  none  of  them.   Slowly the inert  mass  of public
opinion swung back from the  Emperor, and Cyrus  began to perceive that he had
failed. The  dishonest officials breathed  more  freely; the day  of reckoning
seemed far off.

One  of  these  officials  stands out from  all  the  others in a  disgraceful
pre-eminence.  Most people have at least heard of the  Makaukas, for his name,
his functions, his very  existence even,  have  been made the subject  of many
controversies.  Quite recently, however, the  translation of the papyri in the
collection of the Archduke Rainer has enabled us to clear up  some at least of
the difficulties attending this subject.

Most scholars have  long agreed that Makaukas is  not a proper  name, but have
been  puzzled to decide whether it  was a nickname or an  official title.  The
fact  seems to  be  that it  is neither.  The  man in  question  was a pegarch
(loosely rendered as prefect in most histories), and his  name was George, son
of Menas  Parkubios [10]. The pagarch was  the  civil governor of  an Egyptian
province, the whole administration of   which was confided   to him.  He   was
responsible   for the public  security and  order, and for  the collection and
remittance of  the   imperial  imposts.   Also   all highways,  dams,  canals,
bridges--in  short, all the public works  of the district--were in his charge,
even to the coinage, measures,  and weights.  Only   the army (represented  in
most provinces by little more  than a single garrison) and  the clergy (a much
more important exception)  were  exempt  from  his  control.  The  number   of
subordinate officials who  looked no higher than their  pagarch for orders was
consequently very great.  Recent researches have  revealed to us the names and
districts of the  three principal pagarchs in Egypt   at the time  of the Arab

The official language of Egypt was Greek, and the complimentary title given to
these pagarchs was  a word which  signifies in English ``the most  glorious,''
just as our ambassadors always have  the prefix ``his excellency.''  The Arabs
took this word for part of the actual name of the pugarch who treated with Amr
for the surrender of the  country and thus George the  Traitor has been  known
for centuries by  a title which he has  little right to bear, Makaukas  (``the
most glorious'').

The Prefect (or   Pagarch) of Lower Egypt was   Ammen Menus,  a man fiull   of
pretension,  but quite ignorant,  who  detested exceedingly the Egyptians, and
was continued  in his office  after the conquest  of the country by the Arabs.
The Pugarch of Middle Egypt--whose province on one bank of the Nile appears to
have   included  the   districts  of    Heracleopolis   Magna, Arsinoe,    and
Oxyrhynchus--was Cyrus,  of  whom we  know little, except   that he joined  in
delivering  the  country to  the Mohammedans. The  Pugarch of  Upper Egypt--or
Babylon, as it is called in the papyri--was that George (Girghis) whom we call
the Makaukas. These were the three important provinces, in each of which there
were also a   military governor and a garrison.    Besides these there   were,
either then existing or added immediately  after the Arab conquest, two lesser
pagarchs--Philoxenos, of the Fayoum; and Shenouda, of the Rif Province.

Three out of  these five men were by  the indisputable witness of their  names
Egyptians [11], but   they could not  have belonged  to  the National  Church,
because  that would have disqualified them  of their official position.  Those
writers who  speak of the  Makaukas as a Copt are  perfectly correct;  but the
inference which some have drawn, that  he belonged to  the National--or, as it
is now called, the Coptic (Egyptian [12])--Church,  is false.  He might in his
heart incline to the  Church  of his fathers,  but  he could not have  done so
openly.  He was a Byzantine official and an Egyptian; and he was else alike to
his emperor, to his Church, and to his country.

He had  been  long in office  at  the time  of the invasion  and was  the most
powerful of all the pagarchs.  This was partly owing to the fact that Babylon,
the capital  of his province, was on  its northernmost boundary, and  that for
twenty years or more the dwellers in the valley of the Nile  had looked to him
alone as their ruler.  The ravages of  the Persians taught them that Byzantium
was powerless; and since the Persians had gone, though Babylon itself had been
re-occupied by Byzantine soldiers, and small garrisons  were also stationed in
Arsinoe and  the  Fayoum, the whole  country  lying south  of Babylon had been
practically unaffected  by their return.   Whether the soldiers of the distant
garrisons wore Persian or Byzantine  dress mattered little to the  population.
They paid their taxes all the same to the  pagarchs and left  him to settle to
whom the  money was due.  For many  years the powerful  George of  Babylon had
settled it in the simplest manner, by  keeping everything himself that was not
returned in salaries  or public works  to the  province.  But when  Heraclius,
believing that by his Act of Union he had conciliated the whole country, began
to press for a real re-establishment of his  government and a repayment of the
Egyptian revenues, George  saw ruin staring  him in  the face.  Already,  from
motives as farseeing policy, he had sent a complimentary embassy to the rising
power, with gifts of honey and slaves to their  leader Mohammed.  Now Mohammed
was  dead,  and the conquests of  Heraclius  filled him with  dismay.   If the
moribund empire  were to rise  again, and sweep the Arabs  away, as its troops
had already swept the Persians, he would be the first to be called to account.
Already the troops of Heraclius and of Omar,  Mohammed's successor, faced each
other  in  Palestine;  and  George knew   well   that whichever  power  proved
victorious   there was the   future master  of   Egypt.  The late successes of
Heraclius  inclined him to  think that this  would be the  winning side, after
all, and he hastened to act accordingly.

He had a  beautiful daughter called   Armenosa and he conceived the  brilliant
project of  marrying  her to Constantine,  the   widowed son  and  heir of the
Emperor, with so large a  dowry that the  latter might  think it expedient  to
waive the question  of arrears of tribute.  Constantine  was then at Caesarea,
and seems to have  favourably entertained the  proposal.  Accordingly, late in
the  year 639, a gorgeous  marriage  procession left  the  city of Babylon  to
escort the Egyptian bride to her royal husband.  Her guard of honour amounted,
we are told,  to the number of two  thousand cavaliers, besides  slaves, and a
long caravan laden with treasure [13].

On approaching  the Egyptian frontier,  and  evidently  intending to  pass  by
Kantara to El Arish,  Armenosa heard that the  Arabs  had been  victorious and
were now closely besieging Caesarca and preparing to  invade Egypt.  The young
Egyptian acted with a courage and  promptitude worthy of her remote ancestors.
She retired herself to Belbeis and dispatched her  regiment of Egyptian guards
to hold Pelusium in case the enemy came by that way,  as seemed most probable.
She sent warning  to her father, but remained  herself in Belbeis, encouraging
the inhabitants to  make a stand for the  deronce of their country against the

Amr, the Moslem general avoiding  Pelusium, marched straight for Belbeis,  and
laid siege to that city.  For one month the  brave girl held  the Arabs at bay
with her scanty and undisciplined forces.  After  several obstinate fights and
great loss of life, Amr at length took the city by storm, and Armenos with all
her treasures, fell into his  hands.  Either the  warrior respected the maiden
for her gallant attempt at resistance, or  he realised the importance of doing
nothing to offend the  powerful Pugarch of Babylon.  He  sent Armenosa back to
her father with  all honour, and  the Pagarch's difficulty   was solved.  From
henceforth there could be little doubt as to which of the rival powers was the
``rising sun.''

He did not   venture, however, openly   to avow himself    the friend of   the
invaders.  Babylon was strongly fortified and well  garrisoned by the Imperial
troops.  It must be remembered that  the Nile ran  farther to the east than it
does now, and  that the  city of Babylon    was connected with  the island  of
Rhoda--also strongly forrifled--by a bridge of boats.  Another bridge of boats
connected Rhoda with the  west bank of the Nile,  where Gizeh now  lies.  This
town has existed   under a more  ancient name  from remote times,  but it  was
little more than a northern suburb of Memphis.  Memphis,  though still rich in
beautiful relics  of pagan times, was  already  a defenseless  and half-ruined
city.  Babylon  once taken, both  she and the other rich  cities of  the south
must fall an easy prey to the conqueror.  The policy of the Pugarch George was
to aid  Amr in the capture of  Babylon, but  he  still remained  outwardly the
servant of the emperor and the friend of the commander of the garrison.

Meanwhile Heraclius, hearing of the  invasion of Egypt,  and knowing well  the
weakness of his own hold over  that country, sent  his confidential agent, the
Patriarch Cyrus, to  treat with Amr and offer  him money to  withdraw from the
country.  Amr was  already encamped before   Babylon and had  begun the famous
siege of that almost impregnable fortress.  It is said that  Cyrus went so far
as  to offer not  only  tribute, but the  Emperor's  daughter Eudocia, or some
other member   of the royal   family, in marriage   to  the Caliph  Omar.  The
negotiations fell through; Amr already understood that  the Pagarch George was
far more powerful than  the Patriarch Cyrus, and the  latter only succeeded in
displeasing his  own master Heraclius,  who summoned him to Constantinople and
overwhelmed him with reproaches for his  presumption in the matter of Eudocia.
Indeed, Cyrus would have paid  for his proposals  with his  life, had not  the
fall of Babylon  and the danger  of Alexandria made  his presence necessary in
the latter city, where his influence was very great.

Amr  was too wise to keep  the whole of  his army  idle  before Babylon during
those seven months.  He sent to Omar  for reinforcements, and  as soon as they
came he dispatched troops  with all secrecy  to the Fayoum, apparently  to cut
off  possible  reinforcements  from the  Imperial   armies  in that direction.
However, the Arabs  found the Byzantine  troops  ready to  oppose them on  the
other side when they  proposed to cross  the river, and retreated, but managed
to  carry off a great number  of sheep and goats.  By  this time the Byzantine
generals in the Delta, Theodosius and Anastasius, had effected a junction with
the troops  at Babylon, by  which the  garrison was considerably strengthened.
They also sent   reinforcements  to the  Fayoum,  but  under  command  of  one
Leontius,   who is described   as  being  fat,   lazy,  and without  practical
experience of war.  He left half his troops with the general who had succeeded
to the  command in the   Fayoum (one had  already  fallen  in fight  with  the
Moslems), and returned   with the rest   ``to report  the condition'' to   his

For seven months Amr spent himself in unsuccessful attacks upon Babylon and in
a fruitless siege.   He posted  his  troops in three  divisions--one  at On or
Heliopolis, to cut off reinforcements from the north; one  on the northeast or
landward side of Babylon; and one at Temlounyas (Greek: TiantSnios), a fort on
the bank of the river  to the south-west of Babylon,  of which nothing remains
but some ruined foundations, now at some distance from the riverbank.

Egypt looked on passively while her fate was thus decided  by a combat between
the armies of  two alien nations in her  midst.  Side with the Imperial troops
they would not; yet their consciences forbade the  Egyptians openly to espouse
the  cause  of the  infidels.   They left  the issue, as  their  own historian
implies, to the judgment of God.

That Babylon fell at last   by fraud  or  stratagem, and   not by assault   or
capitulation, is   agreed  on all  hands;  but  it is  hard  to  reconcile the
conflicting statements  of various  writers,  and say  with certainty what did
happen.  The  popular story  is that George  (the Makaukas)  ``persuaded'' the
garrison to retire from the   fortress to the island of   Rhoda, and that  the
Arabs, having timely  notice from the pagarch, at  once occupied the fortress.
That  George would have  done  so if he  could,  and that  he did give  secret
information to the   Arabs of all    the intended movements  of the  Byzantine
general, there is no reason to doubt.  But a  study of the field of operations
on the spot renders it impossible to  believe that any Byzantine general could
have been deluded into thinking the island of  Rhoda a better position for his
garrison than the citadel of Babylon; and the undoubted evidence we possess of
the  loyalty of the Imperial troops  renders  it equally impossible to believe
that they were willing agents  in a treacherous  desertion of their post.   It
seems better to reject  the popular  tradition  and to accept instead  the far
more credible account given by John of Nikius.

His version is that by a feint  Amr drew the  greater part of the garrison out
in an attack upon his troops.   When the Imperial soldiers believed themselves
to have  driven off the besieging army,  another body of  Arab troops  cut off
their retreat from behind and surrounded them on all sides.  A terrible battle
took place, in  which the Byzantines  sold their  lives dearly.  Eventually  a
remnant  of  them broke through  the  ranks of the  Moslems,  and succeeded in
reaching the bridge of  boats and making  good their retreat  on the island of
Rhoda.   Only 300 soldiers were left  in Babylon, and  they hastily entrenched
themselves in the citadel,  leaving the  town  perforce to be occupied  by the
Arabs.  Here they  held out for some time   longer; but at length, seeing  the
hopelessness of their position, they agreed  to abandon all their war material
and to withdraw  from the citadel on condition  that they were allowed to join
the remnant of the army in Rhoda and to retreat to the north unmolested.

The pagarch had    already made  terms   with Amr,   which included all    the
non-Byzantine  inhabitants of Egypt.   He stipulated that the Egyptians should
be left absolutely free  as far as their religion  was concerned, on condition
of paying tribute and making no resistance to the occupation of the country by
the Arabs.  Amr swore to observe the proposed conditions, on the one hand with
the pagarch and the Egyptians, on the other with the general and the Byzantine

On hearing of the fall of Babylon, Domentianus [14], the general commanding in
the Fayoum, left the chief city of that province with all his troops by night,
and  abandoned the  whole  district  to the Arabs.    They   struck the  river
apparently at some  point north of  Gizeh, and fled towards Alexandria without
any attempt  to join forces with the  Babylonian troops, whose idea appears to
have been to retreat on Nikius [16], and  there concentrate their forces for a
final stand.  This, however,  Amr gave them no time  to do.  He did, it seems,
allow them to begin   their  retreat northwards  without molestation,  but  no
sooner  were they well away than  he  started with  a  division of his army to
follow and cut them off.

He first    came up with  the troops   which had fled   from the  Fayoum under
Domentianus, who showed no fight    at all. Their    general, hearing of   the
approach  of the Moslems,  flung himself into a small  boat, and, setting sail
for Alexandria, abandoned his  soldiers to their fate.  They  were not slow to
follow his example.  They flung down their arms  on the bank and scrambled for
the boats.  But the boatmen, sharing the panic, took flight also, and made the
best of their way back to their native province.   The Byzantine soldiers were
left to the mercy of the Arabs, who surrounded them on the river and massacred
them  in cold blood.  It  is  said that only one  man,  Zacharias, who was ``a
gallant warrior'' escaped to tell the tale.

On the other hand, the retreat of the  Babylonian garrison deserves to be more
widely celebrated than it is.  They could only have  been a few hundred men at
most, and for three weeks  they fought their  way back  to liberty against  an
enemy  greatly superior in numbers and  well  mounted, through a population at
the  best indifferent and  for the most  part openly hostile.  The militia, or
irregular troops belonging to the Green and Blue  factions, equally and openly
refused to fight against  the invaders.  It must be  remembered that little or
nothing was known of the  newcomers by the common folk,  except the fact that,
unlike  the  Byzantine oppressors,  for whom hatred  had become  an hereditary
passion in the breast of every  Egyptian, they were  a circumcised nation, who
believed in one God  and claimed to be religious  reformers.  Even without the
treason of the pagarch  the Egyptians were ready to  welcome the Arabs, though
before six months were over they began to realise how  great their mistake had
been.   Meanwhile  they held  aloof, and remained   passive  spectators as the
retreating Byzantines were  pushed back  inch  by inch,  as it were,  fighting
every day,  and  each day with  diminished  numbers, but without a  thought of
flight or surrender.  At Khereu [16] they formed once  more against the Arabs,
and fought a  pitched battle with  the same ill-success.   But they made  good
their retreat into Alexandria, and prepared to defend that city to the end.

Egypt was now, as  John of Nikius expresses it,  a prey to Satan.  The Moslems
spread over the delta, plundering, burning, and massacring wherever they went.
The  rival Egyptian nobles--Menus, chief of  the Greens, and  Cosmas, chief of
the Blues--carried  on, like  Ishmaelites,  a  kind  of guerilla  warfare with
Moslems, Byzantines, and each other; with anyone, in short,  who came in their
way.   Amr,  however,   was   gradually concentrating  all    his  forces upon
Alexandria.  He left a sufficient garrison in Babylon, but  broke up the great
camp there [17] and moved the bulk of his army northwards.  On his way he took
the  city of Nikius,  with terrible slaughter,  though  no attempt was made at
resistance.  They put to the sword everyone they met, ``in  the streets and in
the churches, men, women, and children alike, sparing none.''

Heraclius had hastily dispatched Cyrus to  Alexandria to assist in the defence
of that city, and by this time not only all the Byzantine troops in Egypt, but
all the civilians of that nationality who  could do so, forsakiug their houses
and goods,  had collected within her walls  for safety.  There was little hope
of  safety, however; For  Alexandria,  like the   rest of Egypt,  was torn  by
internal dissensions, and unity of action was impossible.

The  general in  command was Theodore,   and the only  other Byzantine general
remaining appears to have been  the cowardly Domentianus.  Among the civilians
who had taken refuge in Alexandria were two of high official rank; one of whom
was a Monothelite  Egyptian, named Menus, and the  other a brother to the late
Byzantine Patriarch George, whose name was  Philiades, and who was probably of
Greek extraction.  Domentianus was at feud with  both these men, and also with
the   Patriarch  Cyrus, his   own  brother-in-law.   Theodore  was  so greatly
disgusted with the   conduct of Domentianus  that he  refused to espouse   his
quarrel even against  the Egyptian Menas.   Domentianus therefore recruited on
his own account all the Blues he could find in  Alexandria for his protection,
and Menus followed   suit by enrolling all the   Greens in the city under  his
private standard.  Naturally it  was not long before the  two parties  were at
open war  in the streets.  It was  with the  greatest difficulty that Theodore
suppressed the  riots,  and degraded  Domentianus  from his  rank  of general.
Meanwhile the Arabs were closing round them on all sides, and in the autumn of
the year 640 the siege had begun.

Though  supplies  were  cut  off  by  land, the  sea   was always open  to the
Alexandrians, and   this  accounts for  the  fact  that, in spite  of  all her
internal weakness, Alexandria  held out against the Moslems   for more than  a
year.  At first they confidently  expected succor from Constantinople, but the
state  of  affairs there  was  not favorable   to  so costly and difficult  an
enterprise as   the reconquest of Egypt.  Ieraclius   was already stricken for
death, and breathed his last in February 641.

When the news of his death reached Alexandria, Theodore felt that all hope was
gone.  What his personal feelings about  the succession were,  we do not know;
but Domentianus, Menas, and the Patriarch Cyrus agreed  in desiring peace with
the Moslems, and their united influence with the principal men of the city was
too strong for him.  Surrender became a question of time and terms.

The one opportunity that fate had put  into their hands  had been thrown away.
On one occasion, we are told, Amr himself, with  his second in command and his
freedman,   was taken prisoner  by the  Byzantines  in a  brilliant sally, and
brought before Theodore.  No one knew the name and rank of their prisoner; and
when Amr  by his haughty bearing was  in danger of  revealing himself,  he was
saved by the presence of mind of his  freedman, who pressed forward and struck
him on the mouth, bidding him hold his peace before his betters.  Amr's second
in command then  took the conversation on himself,  and contrived to  persuade
Theodore and Cyrus to  send them ``back  to Amr'' with  proposals for a truce.
It was only the  tumultuous rejoicings  of the Moslem  army at  the unexpected
return of  their leaders  which revealed to  the Alexandrians  the opportunity
they had lost.

A desperate attack which left the  Arabs for a short time  masters of the city
brought matters to   a  crisis.   The  Byzantines  did,  indeed,  succeed   in
dislodging them again, owing to the rashness of the Moslem general, but it was
felt vain to continue  the struggle any longer.  Cyrus  was empowered to treat
with Amr for the surrender  of the city and the  withdrawal of the  Byzantines
from Egypt.

The terms, if we  may take them  from John of  Nikius.   were as good  as they
could have  expected. Eleven mnonths cessation of  hostilities was  granted to
allow all  Byzantines living  in  Egypt, who  desired to do  so, to  leave the
country.  A large sum of money was demanded as their ransom, and it was agreed
that those who preferred to remain in the country should pay tribute in common
with  the native Egyptians to the  Moslems.  All the  Byzantine troops were to
withdraw  with  the honours of war,  taking  with them that which  belonged to
them.   A solemn  undertaking was given   that they  should   never attempt to
re-enter the country, and one hundred hostages--fifty from the army, and fifty
civilians--were to be given till the engagement should be carried out.

On their part the Moslems promised that they would observe the same terms with
the Byzantine Christians  as they had already promised  to the Egyptians; that
they   would take no   church from them,  nor  attempt  to  interfere in their
religious   affairs.    Curiously enough, the   last   clause  of  this treaty
stipulated that the  Jews should be  allowed to live  in  peace in Alexandria.
Probably the community had undertaken, on  this condition, to find the greater
part of the money which was paid to the Moslems.

Cyrus returned to the city and laid the proposed agreement before Theodore and
the other chief men  oF the various   parties; but there  was some  demur, and
eventually  they   proposed to  send   an express  to  Constantinople  and ask
Constantine's sanction before concluding the agreement.  It thus happened that
the Moslem general and  his  army entered the  town  to receive  the  promised
ransom before the surrender had been publicly  announced.  The population flew
to oppose their  entry,  and a  troop of soldiers   was hastily dispatched  to
restrain the mob and assure  them that peace  had been  made by the  Patriarch
Cyrus.  On this  the fury  of the mob   turned itself against Cyrus, and  they
clamoured for his life.  Cyrus, who had plenty of courage,  came out and faced
the howling mob, who, instead of  falling upon him,  gradually quieted down to
hear what  he had to say.  Then  he made them an address  which so worked upon
their feelings that  they were covered  with shame,  and  offered willingly to
bring their gold towards the payment of the ransom.

Thus, in  the December of the year  641, Egypt passed   under the Moslem yoke,
from which--whether under Arab, Circassian,  or Turk--she has never since been
able to free herself, and which slowly but surely has crushed out her art, her
civilisation, her learning, her religion, and  well-nigh her very life; for of
the four millions who make up the  present population of  Egypt [18] there are
barely  seven hundred thousand  who  can claim beyond  dispute  to be the true
descendants  of  the  ancient  Egyptians and the   enduring  witnesses through
centuries of persecution for the faith of Christ.


                                                   PART II
                                                  CHAPTER I
                                           THE NEW  MASTERS

It was  thirty  years before the  commencement  of our  present era that Egypt
exchanged the yoke of the Ptolemies for that of the Romans. It was in the year
642 A.D. that the treason of a renegade native delivered her into the hands of
the Arabs.   Though Egypt had been more  or less Christian since the preaching
of St. Mark,  her faith had been at  variance with that  of her masters during
the greater part of these six centuries.

Until 323 the State religion of Egypt was pagan; from  about 340 to 380 it was
generally Arian; and after 451 it became, to give it the name used by Egyptian
historians, Chalcedonian.   The National  Church  of Egypt, whether   right or
wrong in her rejection of Chalcedon, fairly claims that  she has remained ever
the same--rejecting   all later creeds   than that of   Nicea, and refusing to
acknowledge any Pope  but her own.  Since the  conquest of the country by  the
Arabs the State  religion has always been Moslem,  and  has gradually absorbed
into  itself the greater  part of  the Egyptian nation.   Still there are--not
seven thousand, but more than seven  hundred thousand, who  have not bowed the
knee to Baal; and with a pathetic pride those who  have remained faithful call
themselves, not the Church, but the nation.

It has been a popular notion for some centuries  that Europe owes to the Arabs
her science and much of her learning.  In one sense this is partly true, ``for
what  they  were  able to  assimilate   in course  of  time  from  the ancient
civilisations which they destroyed they passed on  in a more or less imperfect
form to Europe;  but a careful study of  history shows us that they originated
nothing  of  value.  The  Arabs   through the   tenth,  eleventh, and  twelfth
centuries  invented  the Arab art  and  architecture which spread  through the
Saracen  world were  Greek,  Armenian,  and   Circassian rulers who   employed
Egyptian architects and developed existing styles.  The  very names which used
to be quoted as proof of an  Arabic origin are found by  modern research to be
Greek or  Egyptian,  pronounced  or  written as  if  they were  Arabic.   (For
instance, 'Alchemy' is  of 'El Khemi' or Egypt.)   In Egypt their  physicians,
their architects, their engineers, and their  artisans were all natives of the
country, and for  some centuries Christians  as well.  Even  now  any place of
trust, or any post where superior intelligence is needed, is filled by a Copt,
and generally by a  Christian Copt.  This  may appear a startling assertion to
make, but it will be borne  out by anyone  who will take  the trouble to study
the  history of  Egypt  under the  Moslems,  and  who  will  put aside popular
prejudice in examining her condition at  this day.  The  Arabs, and after them
the  Turks, were splendid soldiers, and  had  some virtues which the Egyptians
would have  done  well to emulate;  but  at heart [t]heir  idea  of government
is personal aggrandisement,  and  their idea of  civilization  personal luxury

At  the outset  of  their  career the  Arabs,  however, were  far superior  to
personal luxury.  Their food was of the simplest, their couch of the roughest,
and they despised the refinements  which they afterwards so coarsely imitated.
Amr was almost aghast at the wealth and  splendour of Alexandria, and wrote to
Omar in extravagant terms of  his conquest.  But  though he writes much of the
baths and  the shops, he says nothing  of the books  or the works of art which
still adorned that city and  everyone knows the  story of the library.  Gibbon
throws doubt upon its  destruction, but his only good  argument against  it is
the silence of the  contemporary writers, and this is  by no means conclusive.
It was not till they had lived  among the Egyptians  for a century or two that
the Arabs realised  what they had done.  At  the time it  must  have seemed to
them  a most trifling  incident.  One of the  most  learned of the Alexandrian
scholars of that  day--one hesitates to call him  John Philopompus, because it
seems almost impossible  that he can  have lived so long--sought an  interview
with the conqueror,  and entreated that the books  of the Alexandrian  library
should  not be    dispersed or destroyed,    but might  be delivered to    his
guardianship.  Amr, we learn, was inclined  to grant his request, but inquired
with curiosity what he could possibly want with the musty old parchments.  The
scholar replied indignantly, but incautiously,   that some of them were  worth
all the  riches of Alexandria put together.   Amr replied that,  if so, he was
not empowered to give  them to the first man  who asked for them, and referred
the question to Omar.

The Kaliph's decision was simple.  ``If these books  contain nothing more than
that which is written in the book of God (el Koran), they are useless; if they
contain anything contrary to the  sacred book, they  are pernicious; in either
case, burn them.'' It is written that the books sufficed  for six months' fuel
for the public baths of Alexandria [20].

While  engaged   in arranging the  affairs  of  Alexandria the  Moslem general
received  a  strange embassy.  The monks  of  Nitriit in Scetis had  mixed but
little with politics for some time, and we do not hear of their taking part in
any of the petty  civil wars and futile rebellions  of the sixth century.  But
the tidings that  the  Byzantines had been driven  out  of the land by  a  new
power,  whose very name  was unknown to  them, but who--so the rumour ran--was
favourable to the Egyptians and to their  National Church, drew them once more
from their  desert retreat.    In  solemn procession they came,   barefoot and
roughly clad but with all  the dignity of an independent  state, to treat with
the new conqueror.  They demanded it  guarantee of their safety and liberties,
and the return of their rightful Patriarch, Benjamin, to Alexandria.  Amr must
by  this time have  been  well aware of  the   importance of conciliating  the
National Church.  He  at once gave the monks  the charter they  desired--which
Makrizi says that he  saw still  preserved  in one of their  monasteries eight
hundred years   afterwards--and wrote a letter to   the Patriarch  Benjamin to
assure  him  that he  was  henceforth free  to show  himself  as openly  as he
pleased.   Benjamin lost  no  time in  returning  to Alexandria,  where he was
received with    great joy.  The Byzantine Pittriarch,    Cyrus, did  not long
survive the downfall of all his  hopes.  He was  taken ill on Palm Sunday, and
died in three days.  A man named Peter was elected--whether by the Court or by
the bishops of the Byzantine Church in  Egypt--in his place; but, finding that
Benjamin was  recognised  as  the   only  true Patriarch by  Amr,   he quietly
abandoned   his  post, and  withdrew to   Constantinople   with  the Byzantine
refugees.   For sixty years after his  death no attempt was made  to  set up a
Greek Patriarch in Egypt.

From Alexandria Amr sent an expedition into Pentapolis, but did not attempt to
occupy the country which, since  the Arab conquest,  has practically ceased to
form  part of the Egyptian dominions.   He contented himself with carrying off
an enormous booty,    consisting chiefly of  cattle, and   a  great number  of
captives, who were reduced to slavery.  After this he returned to Babylon, and
began to build a new town for himself and his followers, a little to the north
of  the older city. [T]he recorded  actions of Amr  show him to  have been not
merely  a successful  soldier,   but a statesman; and  he   fully realised the
importance of keeping his army  separate from the  inhabitants of Babylon  and
Memphis.  He exacted enormous sums from the conquered people, but for the rest
he let them alone, and governed them through men  of their own nation.  In his
time the promise which  he had given of religious  liberty was  strictly kept;
justice, even if it strongly resembled tyranny, was dealt alike to Melkite and
Monophysite, and the native Egyptians were ready to acknowledge that they were
better off under the infidel  than they had  been under ``the Chalcedonians.''
Amr had the Nilometers from Phila to Rhoda  put into sorely needed repair, and
gave orders that Trajan's Canal, since then known as El Khalig [21], should be
cleared out and prolonged.  He regulated and  simplified the administration of
justice,  but permitted the Egyptians to  be judged by  their own compatriots,
and the  decisions of the   Moslem  Kadi were  only  binding  on the  army  of
occupation.  He built the first mosque in Egypt on the  site where the present
mosque of  Amr,  though more than once   rebuilt,  still stands;  but  all the
columns needed  for  it were brought  at  a later  date  from the  churches of
Memphis--a precedent which has been  followed ever since,  the Arabs having no
faculty for stone-carving,  though  in time they learned  how  to cut  a plain
shaft with a mere block for base and capital.

While Amr  was  thus   usefully   employed  in  Egypt, the  Caliph    Omar was
assassinated, and one of the first acts of his successor, Osman, was to recall
Amr from  the  scene  of his successes,  and  nominate  his brother  (the same
Abdallah who, according to some authorities, had served in  Egypt, and was the
first to enter  Nubia) Viceroy of  Egypt.  Abdallah was  appointed in 647, but
cared little to enter on his new duties.  He increased  the tribute payable by
the  Egyptians, but  thought  more of   extending the Arab  conquests than  of
governing well the  countries which had submitted to  him.  One expedition had
already been  sent into Nubia,  or the country  south of  Aswan, and the first
thought of  the new  governor   when he   went  to Egypt   was to  avenge  its
comparative failure.


                                                   PART II
                                                  CHAPTER II

                                        THE SOUDAN EXPEDITION

Though the Roman  or Byzantine rulers of Egypt   had never really  established
themselves for  any length of time  beyond  the limit of Phila,  the bloodless
conquest of paganism by Christianity in  all these southern countries had been
going on steadily for  centuries.  The Christian religion at  the time  of the
Arab invasion was professed not only  in the valley of the  Nile, but far down
to  the  southern frontier  of Abyssinia, on  the eastern  side of the African
continent.  All these countries  acknowledged the head  of the National Church
of  Egypt  as  their  Pope.  There were  a  number  of politically independent
Christian kingdoms  between Aswan and  Abyssinia, which, it must be confessed,
fought  a good deal among themselves;  but  on the  whole,  as even Mohammedan
historians  acknowledge, this part of Africa  was  never so well settled, well
governed, and well  cultivated as at  this time.  Not  even Egypt herself  has
suffered so terribly and her civilisation been so effectually destroyed by the
Arab and Turkish  invasions as these  kingdoms, which  under  the influence of
Christianity had but just begun to emerge  from the chaotic condition which we
have learnt to regard as the normal state of the African interior.

Opinions differ as to whether  Amr marched in  person against Nubia in 643  or
sent  an army under  the command of   one of his   Emirs.  In the  Book of the
Conquests, by Ahmed el Koufi, the author writes that Amr ebn  Aas was in Egypt
when he  received a letter  from Omar,  commanding  him to march on  Nubia and
conquer this country, the country of the Berbers; of Barkah; of Tripoli in the
west; and all the provinces belonging  to them Tandjah, Afrahenjah, until Sous
el Aksa.

Amr, the  writer adds, had intended to  send the sum  of ten  thousand dinare,
which he had  just received as tribute from  the Alexandrians, to Omar; but on
receiving these orders he divided them instead among the soldiers of his army,
and after making the necessary preparations sent Abdallah  ebn Said into Nubia
with 20,000 men.

Abdallah  allowed his soldiers unbridled licence;  they spread themselves over
the country, murdering and pillaging on  all sides.  After the first surprise,
however, the Nubians gathered together for the defence of their country to the
number of 100,000 (?),  and attacked  the Moslems with  so much  courage that,
says their historian, ``they had never experienced so terrible a shock.''  One
of  the  principal Moslem  warriors told  the  writer afterwards  that  he had
``never  seen men  aim  their arrows with such  skill  and precision as  these
Nubians.''  He declared that during  the war it was not  uncommon for a Nubian
to  shout to a Moslem to  know in which particular member  he  preferred to be
struck; and if the Arab  mockingly  answered the  challenge and mentioned  any
particular part of his  person, he  instantly received an  arrow in  the place
indicated, without fail.  But  ``they preferred  to  aim at the eyes  of their

In the end the victory   remained with the Arabs, but   they gained little  by
their  success at first, not even  a single prisoner  since the Nubians fought
to the death.  The Moslems judged it expedient to retreat across the frontier,
and it might  have been long before they  ventured again into  a country where
they had met with so stubborn  a resistance, had it not  been for the rashness
of  the  Nubians themselves,  who  in the following years  made  more than one
expedition into Egypt, and did much damage.  The Arabs after the death of Omar
were greatly hindered by internal dissensions, and Amr was recalled from Egypt
by the new Kaliph  while the new governor, Abdallah  ebn Said, did not go near
the place for some time.  Had the Egyptians combined with the Nubians to expel
the  invaders at this  juncture,  there is little doubt  that  they could have
succeeded with ease.  But the  Heaven-sent leader of  men, so greatly  needed,
did  not   appear, and  the  opportunity  was  lost.   The   Nubians exhausted
themselves  in   objectless   raids and  in    the  year  653   Abdallah,  who
had now taken over the government of Egypt, marched again  into Nubia with the
resolute purpose of subduing that troublesome country.

He penetrated as far as Dongola (the Dongola of the seventh century was nearly
a hundred  miles south of  the present town) and laid  siege to that city.  He
constructed a stone-throwing  machine, the like  of which had never been  seen
among  the Nubians and  directed it either  by accident or design, against the
principal church of the city, to such good purpose that in a short time it lay
in ruins.

The  fall  of  their  great church seems  to  have  intimidated the Nubians as
nothing-else could have done, and their king (whose name is variously given as
Kalidourat, Balidaroub, and Kalidourdat--none of which  versions are likely to
be correct) opened negotiations for peace.

Eventually a formal treaty was concluded between the Arabs and the Nubians, in
which the former agreed not to invade Nubia, and  to give aid, if called upon,
in the wars of the latter.  In return the Nubians were to allow a mosque to be
built in Dongola for those Arabs who might desire  to settle there, and to see
that no harm was done to it, and no Moslem annoyed or hindered in the exercise
of  his  religion.  They  were even  to  hold themselves  responsible  for the
cleaning and lighting of this mosque.   Moslems were to  be allowed free entry
into the country, but no  fugitive slave from  the  Arabs in  Egypt was to  be
given shelter.

The worst feature  of the treaty was the  clause which laid the foundation  of
the Arab slave trade--so difierent an affair from the domestic servitude which
has existed   from time immemorial in Oriental   countries.  Three hundred and
sixty slaves from  the interior, of both sexes,  among whom should be found no
old man or old woman  or child below the age  of puberty,  were to be  brought
every year to the Governor of Aswan, for the Imam.  As may be imagined, it was
not long before forty slaves were required as a backsheesh for the Governor of
Egypt in addition to  the three  hundred and sixty  forwarded to  the reigning
Iraart.  Presents of wine, wheat, barley, and fine robes for  the king were to
be  sent in exchange;  but occasionally  the  Mohammedan governor for the time
being  had  scruples   about   the  wine.   Another question   of   conscience
subsequently arose--whether, so  long as the  tribute of s]aves was duly paid,
it was  just  to take  slaves from Nubia  beyond the  stipulated  number.  The
Mohammedan  judges to whom the question  was  referred made no difficulties in
deciding that all slaves taken in the wars which constantly prevailed in these
countries--which, indeed, were bound  to prevail for  the purpose of obtaining
slaves for the tribute--and all  those who had been reduced  to a condition of
slavery in their own country, were legitimate trade.

It  is also  recorded  by  Moslem   authorities  that  one  of  the  principal
inhabitants of Nubia presented a mumba, or pulpit, to the new mosque of Amr at
Fostat, and sent Victor, Iris own carpenter, who  was a native of Denderah, to
fix it in its place.

The Egyptians were not slow to  feel the difference  between the government of
Amr and that of Abdallah, and in  the year 657  they showed unmistakable signs
of preparing  for a general  rebellion.  Abdallah left  the country to consult
the Kaliph; but a conspiracy had  already been formed  by the Arabs themselves
against Osman,  and Abdallah was hardly out  of Egypt  before that country was
taken  possession of by one of  the principal  conspirators,  whom the army of
occupation appear to have  readily received.  Osman  hastily promised all that
was demanded of him  by the Arab rebels, and  in particular the request of the
Egyptian party--that Abdallah should no longer be  their governor.  But secret
instructions having been   found on one   of Osman's messengers that the   new
Governor of  Egypt, Mohammed ebn  Bekr, was to  be assassinated as soon  as he
reached the country, the indignant Arabs appear to have made common cause with
the Egyptians against the Kaliph.  They marched upon Medina, killed Osman, and
elected Ali in his place the commotions which followed, Egypt was left without
a governor; two were  named, but were  dismissed or died without  entering the
country, and the appointment of  Mohammed  ebn Bekr  was finally confirmed  in
A.H. 37.

The Moslems,  however, were still  disunited.  Ali  reigned in Persia, Arabia,
and Egypt; but Syria  was in the  hands of Moawiyah, and Amr  was on his side.
In the year 660 (A.H. 41) the assassination  of Ali and  his son Hussein, with
the abdication  of his  elder son Hassan,  left  Moawiyah  sole master  of the
Moslem world.


                                                   PART II
                                                 CHAPTER III
                                                 ABD EL AZIZ

Moawiyah is the  first Kaliph of the dynasty  of the Ommyades, so called after
Ommyah, the great-grandfather of Moawiyah.  Egypt had reason to rejoice in his
accession,  for he at  once restored the  governor whom they  had respected as
well as  feared--Amr ebn Aas.  He died,  however, about a year afterwards, and
Moawiyah sent  one of  his younger brothers,   Atbah, to govern  Egypt.  Atbah
dying within  the year, another  man was appointed  and speedily dismissed; so
that  Egypt had three successive governors  within as many years.  Finally, in
664  (A.H. 45) Mosleima  was appointed  Governor of Egypt,  and remained there
till his death in  681 (A.H. 62).  During these seventeen  years and the three
years  of his successor, Said ebn  Zezid, Egypt remained in comparative peace,
though  in all   other  parts of    the  Saracen Empire   there  were constant
dissensions and  civil wars, owing  to the struggles   of the different Moslem
leaders for supreme power.

About a  year  before  the accession  of   Moawiyah, Benjamin,   the  National
Patriarch  of Egypt, died  at  a ripe  age.   He had laboured unremittingly to
encourage and strengthen  the members of the National  Church,  to refound the
monasteries which had been pillaged   and destroyed in the recent  commotions,
and to reform  the morals of  his people.  He had sent  a  new Metropolitan to
Abysssinia, and with him  a monk named Tekla Heimanot,  of great sanctity, who
is held in reverence to this day, and credited for being  the first founder of
monasticism  in that country.  Benjamin's last  act   was to consecrate  a new
church to St.  Macarius in the desert settlement of Nitria.



 [1] These towns were so near together that they are  now confounded under the
     name of Abousir-Bana, near Samanhoud.

 [2] In 598 Gregory wrote  a letter to Eulogius of  Egypt, which must interest
     all Englishmen.  After congratulating  the  Patriarch on his  success  in
     reviving the Byzantine Church in Egypt, he tells him of the efforts which
     he on his part is   making for the conversion of   the Angles.  He  tells
     Eulogius all about  the mission of St. Augustine  to England, and relates
     with joy that at the last Christmas no  less than ten thousand pagans had
     received Holy Baptism.

 [3] The  town  which  rose upon   the ruins of   Aykelah was  called  Zawiet.
     Professor Amelineau identifies it with the present Zawiet-Sakr.

 [4] In Egypt  the Archangel Michael  had taken the place of  one of the pagan
     gods, to whom they were   greatly devoted.  In   the fourth century  Pope
     Alexander solemnly broke the brazen image of this idol in Alexandria, and
     altered the temple into a   church. But he   only won the consent of  the
     people by promising them that they  should find the patronage of Michael,
     to whom  he dedicated the  church, far better  for them than that  of the
     idol, and that nothing  should be changed  in the yearly feast which they
     had been wont to celebrate, save only that it should be held in honour of
     Michael instead of the idol.  This ancient heathen feast has been kept in
     Michael's honour ever since.  The Egyptians have a legend that on one day
     in  the year the mouth of  the  pit of purifying fire  opened,  and it is
     Michael's privilege to plunge  into it  and bring up  as many  souls into
     Paradise as he can carry on his wings.

 [5] Athribis is ruined, and its place taken by the modern town of Beuha.

 [6] It is said that  Benjamin was cheered in his  flight by  the vision of  a
     celestial messenger, who  foretold to him  that within ten years the Lord
     would deliver the  Egyptians by the advent of  a  nation circumcised like
     themselves, and that   by them the  Byzantine yoke  should be broken  for

 [7] It is curious that almost the only  lasting result of the attempted Union
     of Heraclius in Egypt has  been to impose  the observance of this fast on
     both Churches alike.

 [8] This date used to be given as 638, but modern researches have established
     it two years later.
 [9] Omar's reply was to the effect that if Amr were already on Egyptian soil,
     he might go forward; if  not, he must return. Amr  having reason to guess
     what was in the letter,  refused to open   it until he camped within  the
     frontier of Egypt.

[10] Menas, or Mena, was such a common  name in Egypt  that a surname, usually
     Greek, was often attached to those who bore it.

[11] It was not uncommon for Egyptians of the Imperialist  party to take Greek
     names, but no instance is known of a Byzantine taking an Egyptian name.

[12] The  ancient religious name for Memphis  was Ha ka  ptah.  When the Arabs
     came,  they called it  Agupta (hard  g), and the  inhabitants  Agupti. In
     course  of time it became Gupt  and Gupti, which the English mispronounce
     Copt and Coptic.

[13] The story of Armenosa is taken from El Wakedi, and not from the papyri or
     from the chronicle, which is here imperfect.

[14] This name is probably corrupt.

[15] Nikius is the Greek name  not only of  a city, but  a district called the
     Isle of   Itikius, lying between   two branches of    the river. Both the
     district, which  was a diocese, and the   city had but   one name also in
     Egyptian--Pshati.  This   older name is still preserved,   but given to a
     modern hamlet in the same district-- Ibshadi.

[16] Khereu, now  El Kerioum, about   twenty miles from  Alexandria, whence it
     used to be considered the first halting-place.

[17] Then occurred--so  runs the  graceful   legend which  shines  out from  a
     background of  treachery and bloodshed like &  gleam of sunshine on a day
     of storm--a curious  incident.  When the order was   given to strike  the
     tents of the  Moslem camp, some one told  Amr  that a  pair of doves  had
     built  their nest on  the roof of his tent,  and that the young ones were
     not  yet   fledged.  Amr at  once  gave  orders that  they  should not be
     disturbed,  and that his tent should  be  left standing  as  it was until
     his return from Alexandria.

[18] Since the above was written, a new census has been taken  (in 1897).  The
     figures  are not  yet  published, but it is  currently  reported that the
     total population is now over eight  millions, of which about nine hundred
     thousand are acknowledged Christians of the National Church of Egypt.

[19] The pure-bred Arab in Egypt,  represented by the present Bedouin  tribes,
     is  still superior to  personal  luxury;  but  the reigning Arabs  of the
     eighth  to  the eleventh   centuries  degenerated almost  as   quickly as
     their Turkish successors.

[20] It is true that  the ancient library of Alexandria   was burnt by  Julius
     Caesar,  but   it was shortly  after  replaced  by   the rival library of

[21] This  ancient canal is   now  being filled  up  (1897)  by order  of  the
     English sanitary authorities. It is not known yet whether the Pharaonic
     festival of the Nile will be discontinued in consequence.