Page images

and the Copts commemorate it by dating their documents according to the “Era of the Martyrs," which was made to begin with the day of the Emperor's accession to the throne, i.e., August 29, 284. Under the patriarch Alexander (A.D. 295) the great Arian controversy took place.

Arius was born in the north of Libya about A.D. 256, and was ordained deacon and presbyter by the patriarchs Peter and Achillas respectively; with Achillas he was a candidate for the patriarchate. He taught that God is eternal, unchangeable, good, wise, and unbegotten; that He created the world not directly, but by means of the Logos, who was created for this express purpose; that the Son of God was created before all time, and before the world, and before all created things in it, and was in every respect the perfect image of the Father; and that He created the world and became in this sense God and the Logos. . Christ, however, Arius declared to be a creature, and not eternal, and not unchangeable, and further declared that there was a time when He did not exist, and that He was not made of the essence of His Father, but out of nothing. Arius ascribed to Christ a human body with an animal soul, and not a rational soul. The controversy between Arius and the patriarch Alexander began in 318, and lasted between their followers for one hundred years. Arius was excommunicated in 321 by one hundred bishops, and again at the Ecumenical Council of Nicæa in 325, and was banished by Constantine. In 331 Constantine ordered that he be restored to the communion of the Church, but Athanasius refused to receive him. Five years later Constantine repeated his order, but Arius died on the Saturday preceding the Sunday on which it was arranged that he should be received into the communion of the Church. His death was attributed by some to poison, but, judging by the account given by Socrates and Sozonien, he seems to have perished by a violent attack of cholera.

Alexander was followed in the patriarchate by Athanasius (A.D. 326), who succeeded in making many thousands of Jews profess Christianity ; during his rule Julian began to persecute the Christians severely, but under Jovianus the banished bishops were restored to their sees. A little before his death Athanasius fell into great disfavour with the Alexandrians, and they tried to kill him ; the aged patriarch fled, and Lucius, an Arian, was made to occupy the patriarchal throne. A few months later Lucius was excommunicated, and Athanasius was brought back, and continued to be patriarch until his death. Athanasius was succeeded by Peter (A.D. 372), Timothy (A.D. 380), Theo philus (A.D. 385), and Cyril (A.D. 412); under the rule of Cyril the Nestorian heresy broke out. Nestorius was patriarch of Constantinople A.D. 428-431, and he held the view that Mary the Virgin should not be called “Godbearer," because she was but a woman, and it was impossible that God should be born of a woman. Nestorius was excommunicated and banished, and is said to have died at Akhmîm in Upper Egypt. The next patriarch of Alexandria was Dioscorus (A.D. 444), who was appointed by Theodosius, and he taught that Christ was one substance out of two substances, one person out of two persons, one nature out of two natures, and one will out of two wills, but Marcianus held the view that the Messiah was two substances, two natures, and two wills in one person. To discuss this question a new Council was called together at Chalcedon on the 8th of October, 451 ; it was attended by 634 bishops, who advised Dioscorus to agree with the views of the king. As a result of this Council the Christians were divided into Melkites, i.e. Royalists, or those who accepted the views of Marcianus, and Jacobites, i.e., those who held the opinion of Dioscorus and his party. Dioscorus was succeeded by Proterius (Melkite), Timothy (Jacobite), Severus, Peter (A.D. 477), Athanasius (A.D. 486), John

(A.D. 498), John (A.D. 505), Dioscorus (A.D. 526), Theodosius (A.D. 545), Peter (A.D. 548), Damianus (A.D. 555), Anastasius (13.D. 604), Andronicus (A.D. 609), and Benjamin (A.D. 615).

About this time, Makrîzî declares, the land of Egypt was full of Christians, but they were divided both as regards race and religion. On the one side there were about 300,000 men who were attached to the service of the Government, their religious views being Melkite, and on the other were the rest of the inhabitants of Egypt, who were Jacobites. Each side hated the other, and the religious views of each prevented inter-marriage, and often led to murders and massacres. This state of affairs facilitated the task of 'Amr ibn al-'Âși, who set out from Syria to conquer Egypt in 638 ; he captured Pelusium without difficulty and marched on Memphis, which he besieged for seven months. The famous Fortress of Babylon was bravely defended by the Greeks or royalist soldiers, and although their efforts were apparently well supported by the soldiers generaliy, there is no doubt that the Jacobites were tired of the Byzantine rule, and that they were anxious to make terms with 'Amr and his Muḥammadan troops. One of the chief officers of state at that time was Mukawķis, " the prince of the Copts,” a Jacobite, whose sympathies had been alienated from his royalist masters. Mr. Butler has shown that he was no other than Cyrus, the Patriarch and Governor of Alexandria, who had been appointed to this important position by Heraclius, after the recovery of Egypt from the Persians. He had great influence in the country, and all the evidence goes to show that he used it against his employers; be this as it may, he used his position as governor of Babylon to negotiate terms of peace with 'Amr, and just as the city was on the point of being overrun by the Arabs, he bought off the disaster by agreeing to pay a tax of two dînârs on every male, and to submit to the other impositions which 'Amr had laid upon vanquished peoples. In return for the help of the Jacobites, the Arabs supported them against the Melkites or Royalists, and for nearly one hundred years a Jacobite sat on the patriarchal throne at Alexandria.

Benjamin, who was patriarch at the time of the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs, died A.D. 663, and he was succeeded by Agathon, Isaac (A.D. 680), Simon the Syrian (A.D. 693) and Alexander (A.D. 704). During the rule of this patriarch the Coptic Church suffered greatly at the hands of the Arab governors, for the patriarch himself was twice made to pay 6,000 dînârs, and a census of the monks having been taken, a tax of one dînâr was levied on each monk. The Copts were next stripped of their possessions, and every monk had his name branded on his hand, and the name of his convent and his number; any monk who had not this brand upon him had his hand cut off. In the monasteries those who were without the brand were either beaten to death or beheaded, and the crosses and pictures were destroyed, the images were broken and the churches pulled down. Every Christian and every animal possessed by him were branded with a number. The next patriarch was Cosmas (A.D. 722), and he was followed by Theodore (A.D. 727), and by Michael (A.D. 735), in whose days fighting went on continually between the Copts and Arabs; Mirwân burnt Old Cairo and the growing crops round about. During the patriarchate of Amba Mina (A.D. 766), the churches in Cairo were wrecked or burnt, and the Christians were obliged to eat the bodies of their dead. Amba Mina was followed by John (A.D. 775), Mark (A.D. 795), James (A.D. 826), Simon (A.D. 844), and Joseph (A.D. 849).

About this period it was ordered that the Christians should only ride mules and asses; that the men should wear a girdle, use saddles with wooden stirrups, and wear

patches of different colours on their garments; that the women should wear veils of yellow coloured stuff, and abstain from putting on girdles. Their graves were to be made level with the earth, they were to light no fire on the road on a journey, the cross was not to be exhibited in their public services, figures of devils were to be placed over the doors of their houses, etc. From the time of Joseph to that of Zacharias (4.D. 1002) the condition of the Christians became steadily worse, but in many cases they were themselves the cause of their misfortunes. The Muḥammadans employed them in official positions, sometimes of a very important character, and the Copts used every opportunity to harm their masters and to plot against them. The Muḥammadans retaliated, and not content with robbing and murdering the wretched Christians, they sacked, pillaged and burnt their churches and convents, and made such harassing regulations chat life for the Copts became well-nigh unendurable. Each man had to wear, hanging from his neck, a wooden cross, weighing at least ten pounds; his head shawl and turban were to be black; his goods were to be sold at auction and the proceeds handed to the Arabs; and every man was obliged to wear a cross when he went to the bath.

After Zacharias the patriarchal throne was occupied by Sanutius (1029), who was followed by Christodoulos (1049), Cyril (1078), Michael (1093), Macarius (1103), Gabriel (1131), Michael (1146), John (1147), Mark (1163), John (1180), David (1235), and Athanasius (1251). In the days of this last the tax upon the Christians was doubled, and every man was ordered to make way for a Muḥammadan on horseback; besides this, owing to a quarrel which took place between a Christian official and a Muḥammadan, a fierce onslaught was made upon the Copts, large numbers of them were slain, and their houses were sacked and burnt. An order was issued that all the Copts should either embrace

« PreviousContinue »