Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

See other formats

338            Egypt and the Byzantine Empire
the authority of the- municipality in whose territory their hold-
ings lay. So much of the nome area was now withdrawn from
municipal control that in the course of the fifth century the
division into numbered pagi under praepositi was abandoned
and all that was left of the municipal territory was placed under
the control of a single official known as a pagarch (the Greek
equivalent ofthtpraeposituspagj). These pagarchs were drawn,
at least in the sixth century, from among the landed nobility.
Hence they were extremely jealous of the autopract villages, and
we hear of attempts by more than one pagarch to extend his
authority over a free community.
And what of the municipalities (the old nome-capitals) them-
selves ? The evidence concerning them is much scantier in the
later Byzantine period than in the third and fourth centuries.
This is hardly an accident. All the indications point to a con-
stant decline in their dignity and importance. The burden
placed upon them by their municipal status was too great for
the resources of an urban class already exhausted by the crisis
of the third century, and it was no doubt increased by the with-
drawal from their control of so much of the territory for which
they were responsible; for it is unlikely that the distribution of
the tax quotas between city and autopract estate was to the
advantage of the former. The land-owning nobles, who were
originally the richer members of the town council, lived, not
like then* feudal counterparts of the West in castles on their
estates, but in palaces within the city itself, and as their power
grew the city tended more and more to fall under their control.
The history of the office of ctefensor is highly significant of the
evolution. Originally appointed to protect the interests of the
humbler against the more powerful members of the com-
munity, of the humiliores against the potentiores, the defensor
developed into the chief municipal magistrate; but about the
end of the sixth century we find a defensor of Cynopolis in a
private letter referring to an agent of the local landowner as