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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

342            Egypt an& the Byzantine Empire
senate and assembly and all the paraphernalia of a city-state,
seems never to have been the seat of a bishopric, though the
nome-capitals, which did not win full municipal status till the
very end of the Roman period, had their bishops long before
the Council of Nicaea. In the University of Alexandria philo-
sophy, much of it of a pagan character, was eagerly studied. The
murder of Hypatia in 415 did not extinguish paganism there;
so late as the latter part of the fifth century we meet with a
group of pagan scholars, male and female, devoted to the study
of philosophy.
These pagan circles, however, were by no means always
Hellenic in their predilections. The old Greek deities had lost
almost all vitality, and later paganism, even in its more Hellenic
aspects, as exemplified by Julian the Apostate, was semi-Oriental
in its theology. In Egypt the native religion still retained an
appeal; and the group just referred to, whether in rivalry with
contemporary Christianity or under the unconscious influence
of the prevailing nationalism, cultivated Egyptian traditions
with an enthusiasm not merely antiquarian. One of them,
Horapollon, wrote a treatise on the hieroglyphic script.
The monasteries, which were the great centres of nationalist
feeling in its most uncompromising form, were often situated
on the desert fringes of the country, but they were found also
in the towns,, where their influence must have been potent.
Hellenism was indeed doubly threatened. In the country dis-
tricts the Egyptian elements, awakened to new self-conscious-
ness by Christianity, were becoming predominant; in the towns,
the decay of the institutions which had been the characteristic
expression of Greek life and the influence of the Church were
undermining the ancient culture. The great noble, in his town
house, loyal to the emperor and professing Catholic orthodoxy
(though as a matter of fact even the great Apion family was for
certain periods monophysite), might cherish the Greek tongue
and Greek culture, but the mass of the townsmen had probably