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Egyptian Contribution to Christianity 329
were left to the Copts to do or neglect as they would, at least
in Christian villages, and the Christian population must have
been well over 90 per cent.; indeed Egypt ranked as a Christian
country for some centuries, although garrisoned by a Muslim
army of occupation. Christians were forbidden to serve in the
army, a prohibition that they liked very much for conscription
was, and still is, their sorest grievance. Christian Copts remained
in control of the civil service, all government offices were run by
Christians who acted as tax collectors, accountants, &c., and still
do so. They were disliked by the Muslim population because
they were believed to feather their own nests. In fact they were
capable business men, the Muslim Arabs were not. The Arab
conquerors made one great mistake in supposing that Egypt was
a land of almost unlimited wealth and so 'milked it like a cow'.
The hardships and 'persecutions' endured by the Christians
under Muslim rule were mostly due to financial exactions by
their rulers.
Thus matters continued under the 'Umayyad khalifs of
Damascus and their successors the *Abbasid khalifs of Bagdad,
Egypt was simply a province ruled by governors and generally
ill-governed. During that period the old Coptic language had
been largely replaced by Arabic, and the native Christian litera-
ture relating the martyrdoms of those who suffered under
Diocletian and the lives of the famous hermits were mostly
translated into Arabic. The Saidic language of Upper Egypt
which Shenoute had brought into fashion seems to have become
obsolete about the ninth century. Only in the Wadi el-Natrun,
the monastic settlement around Shiet, did Coptic remain in
general use, but there in the dialect known as Bohairic, the
language of the shore, because it was spoken in the lowland near
the coast. Thus arose a new Coptic literature, much of which
shows obvious marks of having been retranslated from the
Arabic translations, the proper names in Arabic form, not
Coptic- There can be no doubt that with this was associated