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Old June 17th, 2017, 05:46 AM   #1

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What was Roman/Byzantine Egypt like?


Culturally what was Roman/Byzantine Egypt like? Were they still dominated by Greeks? By the late Roman period many of the Egyptians converted to Christianity but were there still pagans by the time of the Muslim conquest? Was Greek or Aramaic the lingua franca of Egypt at the time?
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Old June 17th, 2017, 06:37 AM   #2

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Culturally what was Roman/Byzantine Egypt like? Were they still dominated by Greeks? By the late Roman period many of the Egyptians converted to Christianity but were there still pagans by the time of the Muslim conquest? Was Greek or Aramaic the lingua franca of Egypt at the time?
I will speak mainly about the Byzantine times now. The Greeks were still the dominant in society, especially since they were mostly Chalcedonian Christians and so were considered more loyal to the Emperor, but most Egyptians were Copts and so technically heretics. This caused some tension in Egypt, and is even considered one of the reasons of the quick Muslim conquest of Egypt. Now the ancient religion was still present, although it was fading away, at least until the 6th century, when Justinian closed down Philae, the last old Egyptian temple. Now the official language was Latin at the time, but Coptic language was the most widespread one. Coptic was esentially a continuation of the old Egyptian language. Of course, Greek was also widely used, especially among the city dwellers.
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Old June 18th, 2017, 11:29 AM   #3

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Most people spoke Coptic in the countryside, while in the cities Greek was the language of the elite and the wealthy, especially in Alexandria.

Coptic continued for centuries and was still spoken until the 17th century iirc. It was gradually replaced by Arabic. Greek probably fell out of use much sooner
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Old June 19th, 2017, 03:13 AM   #4
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... especially since they were mostly Chalcedonian Christians and so were considered more loyal to the Emperor, but most Egyptians were Copts and so technically heretics.
That really depends on what period and what emperor. Ė If we look at the 500ís and onwards Anastasius liked the Monophysitians. Justin I did not. Justinian did not initially but changed the stance otherwise later. Empress Theodora liked them. Justin II and Sofia are difficult to determine what their stance is giving the confusing sources, but giving their relationship with Justinian/Theodora it would not surprise me if they had sympathy. Tiberius Constantine II liked them. So did Maurice Tiberius. Phocas I think persecuted them if my mind serves me right, but since the sources about him are made by the Heraclians who had an interest in portraying him in negative way I could have my doubts. Heraclius on contrary launched a third doctrine where he tried to united all sides in one so he certainly did not persecute Monophystians, and neither did Constans II.

In the 400ís and onwards I really donít remember how about Theodosius IIís approach to the monophysitians, but his wife did not like them but his sister Pulcheria liked them and he had a strong influence on him. That long reigned Empress Ariadne had symphaty with them, so did both her husbands of Zeno and that aforementioned Anastasius.
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Old June 19th, 2017, 03:55 AM   #5

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In the 400ís and onwards I really donít remember how about Theodosius IIís approach to the monophysitians, but his wife did not like them but his sister Pulcheria liked them and he had a strong influence on him. That long reigned Empress Ariadne had symphaty with them, so did both her husbands of Zeno and that aforementioned Anastasius.
Well, Leo I deposed the non-Chalcedonian Patriarch of Alexandria and imposed a Chalcedonian, Timothy Salophakilos (I'm probably butchering that name). It's quite ironic that the final split between the two came in Justinian's time, after the deposition of Patriarch Theodosius I and the Chalcedonian Patriarch came, either Gainas or Paul. It was interesting because in this matter, Justinian actually went against Theodora who was a supporter of Theodosius.
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Old August 28th, 2017, 10:54 PM   #6

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As I know, Egypt was also the fief of the gnostic sects, which brought lot of confusion among Christians, paving the way for islam victory
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Old August 29th, 2017, 12:49 AM   #7

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The city of Alexandria was the most significant city of Byzantine era egypt. It had theater and hippodrome which had 4 teams like in Constantinople. Spectacles and games like chariot race were some of the events. After the muslim conquest the city of Alexandria declined and the lifestyle changed later on.
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Old August 29th, 2017, 01:03 AM   #8

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Was Coptic language completely unrelated to Arabic? Cud the two not hv mutually influenced each other, even in pre-Islamic times, through trade, cultural, political etc. interactions over the centuries?

One similarity I hv noticed (just my own impression) is that both Arabic & ancient Egyptian display a certain penchant for doing away with vowels.
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Old August 29th, 2017, 01:51 AM   #9

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It's very, very difficult to imagine all of North Africa prior to the Arab Empire, given the way things are today. You have to throw yourself into a different mindset, sort of thing.
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Old August 29th, 2017, 06:35 AM   #10
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Both Coptic and Arabic are afro-asiatic languages, so they're related, however distantly, as they belongs to different branch of afroasiatic languages (Arabic is semitic language, meanwhile Coptic is egyptian). I think that relation between Hindi and German would be good analogy (Hindi and German are indo-european languages, however from different branches).


Egyptian dialect of arabic language has many loanwords from Coptic.
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