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dissensions between them materially aided the Conquest of Egypt by the Arabs.
Side by side with Christianity there also sprang up in Egypt, under Roman rule, a number of sects to which the title “ Gnostic ” has been given. They derived many of their views and beliefs from the religion of the ancient Egyptians, and they admitted into their system many of the old gods, e.g., Khnemu, Ptah. Rā, Åmen, Thoth, Osiris, etc. The founders of Gnosticism, a word derived from the Greek gnosis, “knowledge," claimed to possess a superiority of knowledge in respect of things divine and celestial, and they regarded the knowledge of God as the truest perfection of knowledge. The characteristic god of the Gnostics was Abrasax, or Abraxas, and he represented the ONE who embraced ALL within himself. They attributed magical properties to stones, which, when cut into certain forms, and inscribed with legends, or mystic names, words, and letters, afforded, they thought, protection against moral and physical evil. An unusually fine collection of Gnostic Gems and Amulets is exhibited in Table-case N, in the Fourth Egyptian Room: No. I speaks of the “Father of the World, the God in Three Forms”; No. 18 shows us the lion-headed serpent Knoumis and the mystic symbol SSS ; No. 25 makes the Osiris-Christ to be Jah of the Hebrews, and also Alpha and Omega; Nos. 36, 37, and 44 have figures of Abraxas cut upon them; No. 87 mentions Solomon's Seal, No. IIO, the six Archangels; and of peculiar interest are No. 231, engraved with a representation of the Crucifixion, and No. 469, engraved with a representation of the Birth of Christ.
afforded with legendshich, when cutliny attributed me who
THE ARAB PERIOD.
A.D. 640-1517. As the Arabs were materially assisted in their conquest of Egypt by the Copts, the new masters of the country treated the latter with great consideration for about 100 years; but, from A.D. 750 onwards, they persecuted their Christian subjects at intervals with great severity. The non-Christian inhabitants of the country embraced Islâm, or the doctrine of Muhammad the Prophet, and, with the religion of the Muslims, the knowledge of the Arabic language spread throughout Egypt. It gradually superseded Egyptian, or Coptic, and about the end of the twelfth century it became
Sepulchral tablet set up in memory of Apa Pahomo, the head of a monastic settlement.
Saint Victor, and on the left a figure of Saint Apakene. [Southern Egyptian Gallery, Bay 30, No. 1103.]
On the right is a figure of VIIth to Xth century, A.D. the common language of the country, Coptic ceasing to be spoken except in monasteries and remote villages. In 642 the Arabs, under Abd-Allah bin Sa'd, occupied the Egyptian Sûdân, and ten years later they marched to Dongola, destroyed the church and the town, and levied an annual tribute, or Bakț, consisting of 360 or 365 men upon the Nubians, which was paid with more or less regularity for nearly 500 years. On several occasions the Arabs invited the Christians of Nubia to embrace Islâm, but the latter steadily rejected the offer, paid their tribute, and continued to worship God according to the teachings of their Jacobite priests, who were appointed to their office by the Patriarch of Alexandria. Many hundreds of churches were built in the Sûdân between A.D. 540, when the Christian religion was established by Silko, king of the Nobadae, and 1450, when the Christian kingdom of Alwa, on the Blue Nile, was destroyed. During the greater part of these 900 years the Liturgy was recited in Greek, and the services were conducted after the manner laid down by the spiritual authorities in Alexandria. Certain Books of the Bible and various Offices were translated into Nûbî, the language of the country ; but of these few remains are extant.
In Egypt the Copts founded and maintained many monasteries, and built many churches; and from these come two remarkable series of monuments, inscribed in Greek and Coptic, which are exhibited in Bays 28, 30, and 32 of the Southern Egyptian Gallery. The greater number of them belong to the period between 600 and 1000 A.D., and among them may be noted :— The stele of Isos (?), inscribed in Greek with a prayer to the “God of Spirits” (Bay 26, No. 1094); the stele of Paḥomo (see Plate LIII), the father of a monastic settlement, with figures of the military saints Apakene and Victor (Bay 30, No. 1103); the apse from the shrine of a saint, on which are sculptured vine branches, with doves seated on them, and figures of flowers, shells, fish, etc. : a very interesting object (Bay 32, No. 1104); the stele of John the Deacon, inscribed with a lament on the bitterness of death (Bay 30, No. 1105); an altar slab from a church (Bay 32, No. 1106); three stelae, inscribed with invocations to saints (Bays 30, 32, Nos. 1107-1109); apse from a shrine of a saint from a church at Philae (Bay 30, No. 1113); and a group of stelae commemorating the holy women Helenê, daughter of Peter, deacon and steward of the Church of St. John, in Esna, in Upper Egypt (Bay 30, No. 1115), Sara, Rachel, Teucharis, Troïs, and Rebecca
(Bay 32, Nos. 1116-1120). Many of the sepulchral stelae are richly sculptured with pediments of shrines, pillars with elaborate carvings, figures of doves, and everywhere are prominent the cross, which is assumed to be identical with the ănkh 7, the old Egyptian symbol of “life,” and the crown. On several of them also are seen Alpha and Omega, A 12. The most elaborately decorated stele is that which was set up for the child Mary in the old church at Şahâk. The
Sepulchral tablet of Abraam, the Sepulchral tablet of Rachel, a Christian “perfect monk."
lady. [Southern Egyptian Gallery,
[Southern Egyptian Gallery, Bay 30, No. 1136.]
Bay 32, No. 1117.) design is good, the cutting excellent, and it is one of the finest examples extant of this class of monument (Bay 32, No. 1123). A very interesting group of Coptic documents, consisting of affidavits, letters, invoices, contracts, extracts from the Scriptures and from liturgies, hymus, etc., is exhibited
i Copies and translations of most of the Greek and Coptic inscriptions have been published by the Trustees of the British Museum in “Coptic and Greek Texts of the Christian Period from Ostraka, Stelae, etc., in the British Museum." With ico plates. 1905. Foolscap. £2.