Skip to main content

Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

See other formats

Egypt and the Byzantine Empire             345
by tenants to their landlords are couched in practically identical
formulae whether the applicant came from a village of coloni
in the domain of an autopract noble or one of free landholders
subject to the authority of the pagarch. The only difference
is that in the one case the village is described as 'belonging to
your magnificence5, in the other as 'under the pagarchy of your
magnificence'. Indeed the lot of the colonus, to whom his
magnificence was patron, may well have been better than that
of the free landowner, who knew him but as a State official,
collecting the imperial taxes. The papyrus evidence becomes
scantier in the last half-century of Byzantine rule, but it is
probably due to no accident of discovery that municipal activi-
ties play hardly any part in it. The municipalities seem to have
been relapsing into the condition from which their develop-
ment began, as little more than overgrown villages. The Greek
language and culture were everywhere in decay; we find high
Church dignitaries unable to write anything but Coptic, and
finds of literary papyri from this period are rare. An unbridge-
able gulf separated the Egyptian people from the government.
The emperor might send orthodox patriarchs to Alexandria,
just as he appointed the Augustal prefect to be the head of the
civil administration, and a small wealthy and official class might
profess the Catholic faith and loyalty to the Empire, but the
mass of the people stood sullenly aloof, obstinately refusing any
compromise of their monophysite faith, resolute to withhold
co-operation with the imperial government.
Heraclius made an earnest effort at reconciliation, and com-
promised even to the extent of making terms with the mono-
thelite heresy, a modification of monophysitism, but once more
it was in vain; and his appointment of Cyrus to He at once
patriarch and prefect proved disastrous. The fierce persecution
of the monophysites on which Cyrus embarked yet further
alienated the very people whom it was his mission to win over,
and he proved an incompetent administrator and a weakling in