Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

See other formats

328 The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity
was a defender of the Byzantine Church, as he had to be, but
his wife Theodora was a supporter of the schismatic Church,
perhaps an intentional arrangement, and under his protection
the unreconciled Egyptians fared not so ill. Encouraged by her
the Egyptian Church sent down missionaries to Ethiopia, and
so the Ethiopian Church was founded as an offshoot of the
Egyptian. Its head, the Abuna, is always a Coptic monk con-
secrated in Egypt and sent to rule in Ethiopia: some of these
dignitaries have learned the Ethiopian language, others have
not considered it at all necessary. We hear also of missions in
Arabia and a flourishing Arabian Church: that has now totally
disappeared, but Christian monks and clergy were well known
in the Arabia of Muhammad and have laid their mark on the
Qur'an and early Arabic poetry. The Churches of Nubia and
Sinai were not akin to the Coptic but purely Greek.
In 641 came the Muslim conquest, the enterprise of an
ambitious chieftain cAmr ibn al-'As, in the face of the khalifs
opposition. The country fell to the invaders chiefly because the
Byzantine government did not support its representatives and
the Christian population generally regarded the Arabs as de-
liverers. After conquering the country the Arabs removed the
seat of government from Alexandria to a camp-city called Fustat
which they built at the apex of the Nile Delta, the strategical
key to the land of Egypt. The secular government had moved
to Fustat, the patriarch to the Wadi el-Natrim, and not long
after the Muslim conquest the famous School of Alexandria,
which had by then become exclusively a medical school, came
to an end, so Alexandria was left entirely to the pursuit of
The Muslims allowed the Christians to follow their own
religion on condition that they paid regular tribute; they were
left to govern themselves and, as the Byzantine officials were
withdrawn, the clergy were entrusted with the leadership. All
police duty, repair of bridges and roads, and such-like things