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Islâm or suffer death, and many of them did become Muḥammadans; many Christian churches were either pulled down or turned into mosques at this time. Soon afterwards an order was promulgated that the Christians should wear blue and the Jews yellow turbans; disobedience was to be followed by the confiscation of their property and death. A few years later, according to a prearranged plan, all the Christian churches were destroyed in one day, the excuse given being the arrogance and luxury of the Copts. The mob attacked the Copts in the streets, and beat them and robbed them, and lit fires to burn them in ; the house of any Christian which happened to stand a little higher than those of his neighbours was promptly pulled down. In Upper Egypt all the churches were destroyed, and in one town more than 450 Christians embraced Muhammadanism n one day ; intermarriage between the Copts and Arabs became the order of the day, and though the persecutions became fewer and less violent, the Copts lost gradually whatever riches and power they once possessed. After Athanasius, Gabriel became patriarch (1260), and he was followed by John (1262), Theodosius (1294), and John (1300), during whose patriarchate another severe persecution of the Copts broke out, and two of their churches were closed for nearly two years. From about 1350 to the middle of the 19th century the position of the Coptic Church has been one of weakness and poverty, but this is not to be wondered at if the peculiar characteristics of Coptic ecclesiastical officials be taken into account. In recent years, however, thanks to the labours of the American Missionaries, their children have become educated, and now the parents are beginning to see that the foolish and obstinate policy of their clergy which was in vogue in olden times can no longer be persevered in with personal success or benefit to the community.
In personal appearance the Copts resemble the ancient Egyptians as known to us by the monuments, but there are some remarkable differences in their features, which are due to intermarriage with Arabs and Ethiopians, and other tribes of the Eastern Sûdân. In Lower Egypt the Copts closely resemble the Arabs, to whom their best families are nearly related. The hair is black and often curly, the eyes are large, black, and elongated; the nose is straight, but flat at the end ; the lips are often thick, and the complexion varies from a pale yellow colour to a dark brown. The women blacken their eyelids with stibium, and stain their nails with ḥenna, and tattoo their faces with the cross and other devices. The Copts usually wear garments made of dark coloured stuffs, and their turbans, in the cities, are generally black or blue in colour; in this respect they seem to have adopted the colours for their dress which were prescribed by the sumptuary laws of their Arab conquerors in days of old. The Coptic women veil their faces in public and in the presence of men, but in recent years this custom has been considerably relaxed ; unmarried women generally wear white veils, and married women black.
The head of the Coptic Church is the Patriarch of Alexandria, but he now lives in Cairo. He is usually chosen from the monks of the Monastery of Saint Anthony in the desert near the Red Sea; he must be unmarried, and he ought to live a life of great austerity. The bishops are twelve in number, and although they need not of necessity be monks, they must lead very strict lives. The priests are ordained either by the patriarch or by a bishop, and they must not be under thirty-three years of age at the time of ordination. A priest must either be unmarried, or a man who has married one wife, a virgin, and he must have married her before he was ordained; he may not marry a second time. The deacon is either an unmarried man, or one who has only once married, the woman being a virgin ; a second marriage costs him his office. The Copts baptize their children, believing that the Holy Ghost descends upon them during the ceremony, and they attach the greatest importance to baptism, for it is thought that unbaptized children will be blind in the world to come. Boys are baptized when forty days old, and girls at the age of eighty days, but in the event of serious illness or impending death, the ceremony of baptism may be performed at any time. At baptism the sign of the cross is made on the forehead of the child, who is immersed three times in consecrated water, into which three kinds of holy oil have been poured.
The Copts, like the ancient Egyptians, circumcise their children, but they do not seem to attach any special religious importance to the ceremony, which may be performed at
any time between the ages of two and twenty; it is, no doubt, a survival of the blood offering which every male had to make to the tribal god, but to the Copts, as to many other peoples, it has lost its true significance. The Copts have always maintained schools for their boys, but until recent years very few girls or women could read. The boys were taught the Psalms, Gospels, and Epistles in Arabic, and then the Gospels and Epistles in Coptic ; but although prayers are said publicly and privately in Coptic, it is very doubtful if three per cent. of those who say them have any exact knowledge of their meaning. Coptic children are exceedingly intelligent, and the boys and young men make excellent clerks in Government offices, being especially quick and skilful at figures ; indeed they have inherited
many of the qualities of their ancestors, the scribes of the Pharaohs. At the present time they owe their ability to perform the duties of their appointments entirely to the American Missionaries, who have taught them English, and educated them on modern lines, and helped them to lead lives based upon a high standard of public and private morality. All classes of Egyptian society are deeply
anxious to have their children well educated, but no community in Egypt is so largely represented in the Government schools, in proportion to population, as the Copts. The proportion of Muhammadans in the entire population is 92 per cent., and of the Copts 6 per cent.; yet the pro. portion of Coptic pupils in the Government schools is 17 per cent., and that of the Muḥammadans 78 per cent. (Lord Cromer, Egypt, No. 1, 1900, p. 35.)
Like Jews and Muslims, the Copts say prayers several times daily, i.e., at daybreak, and at the third, sixth, ninth, eleventh, and twelfth hours, and at midnight; whilst praying they face the east, and many people wash before praying. The service in church usually begins at daybreak and lasts three hours ; the clergy, choir, and prominent members of the congregation occupy the part of the church next to that containing the altar, the ordinary members of the congregation occupy a second compartment, and the women, who sit by themselves, a third; and each compartment is separated from the other by a screen with one or more doors. The churches contain no images, but pictures of the saints are common. The men remove their shoes from their feet at the door, and each uses a crutch to lean upon, as he stands during the greater part of the service. The Copts make use of confession, which is obligatory before the receiving of the Eucharist, and they observe the following fasts :-(1) The Fast of Nineveh, which is observed a week before Lent, three days and three nights. (2) The Great Fast (i.e., Lent), fifty-five days. (3) The Fast of the Nativity, twenty-eight days. (4) The Fast of the Apostles, the length of which varies. (5) The Fast of the Virgin, fifteen days. The festivals are seven in number, and at the celebration of the Festival of the Baptism of Christ the boys and men dip themselves in a stream or in the river, and as each does this, one of his friends says, "Plunge as thy father and grandfather plunged, and remove Al-Islâm from thy heart.” The Copts may contract marriages with members of their own community only; he who would marry a woman belonging to another sect must either adopt her religion or marry her by a civil rite, which the Church does not acknowledge. The betrothal is brought about by an agent, or go-between, who arranges the details of the wedding contracı in the presence of a priest; two-thirds of the dowry are paid at this time, and when the business part of the ceremony is concluded all present say the Lord's Prayer three times. As with the Muhammadans, the bridegroom rarely sees his bride's face until marriage; the marriage rejoicings usually occupy about eight days, and nearly all Coptic marriages take place on a Saturday night.* The service in the church is a lengthy one, and the priest, or Patriarch, administers the Eucharist to the bridegroom and bride. After marriage the bride does not leave her house until after the birth of her first child, but it is said that in recent years the observance of this, and of many another marriage custom, is not so strict as formerly. Divorce can be readily obtained for adultery on the part of the wife, but it is also granted for much less grave causes. In burying their dead the Copts follow, in many respects, the custom of the country, and women wail in the house of the dead for three days; the friends and relatives of the dead visit the graves three times a year, i.e., on the festivals of the Nativity and Baptism and Resurrection of our Lord. After each visit the well-to-do give alms to the poor in the shape of food, and in this matter they seem to follow unconsciously the customs of their ancestors, the ancient Egyptians.