Eutychius on the events in Egypt in 820-30 AD

I’ve translated from the German the last portion of the Annals of Eutychius, who was Melkite Patriarch of Alexandria, and whose autograph manuscript has been edited in the CSCO.

33.  EVENTS IN JERUSALEM AND LOWER EGYPT (820-830 A.D.) 

[286]. When morning came, the Patriarch Thomas and his companions were brought.  The Muslims came and testified that the dome had enlarged (=been made larger).  Patriarch Thomas disproved this through the (above-mentioned) argument 1

 [287] Abdallah ibn Daher said to them: he is right.  Explain to me:  How big was the dome, before it was removed, and how big is it now?  They said:  We will think about this.  They went out and the meeting came to an end.  Abdallah ibn Daher then went to Damascus.  Thomas and his companions went merrily to the holy city. 

[288]  Thomas paid the Sheikh in question 1000 (dirhams).  To him and his children after him as well as his  children’s children the compensation was paid continuously, so long as (someone) from his descendants lived, until there was only one daughter (young woman).  Elias ibn Mansur, Patriarch of the holy city, presented her with the compensation. Patriarch Thomas died, and his pupil named Basila (= Basilios) became  Patriarch of the holy city.  It was in the 7th year of the Caliphate of al-Ma`mun.  Basila remained in the see 25 years and died.  Abdallah ibn Daher returned to al-Ma`mun and reported about Egypt and on what he had undertaken (there).  Then the (supporters of the) Emma (Yma) revolted.  Al-‘Emma is a coptic word and means “forty” 2. This is why: when the Romans left Egypt, in the time when the  Muslims arrived, forty men stayed.  In the lower part of the country (=Lower Egypt) they testified, multiplied and continued to do so and were called ‘Y MA, i.e.  the descendants of the forty (men).  They revolted and paid neither excise nor poll tax.  This event was announced to Mamun and he sent his brother  al-Mu`tasim, who was a Amir, to Egypt.  The Emma fought against him . . . 3

1 The previous sentence in Ch. 51, 56,20-22 reads:  A Muslim sheikh had secretly instructed him (to say):  May the Emir ask them,”How big was the small dome, which I took down as you requested, and how big now is the dome, which I have rebuilt  and enlarged?” 

2 If the rebels had been descendants of those Romans left, then they would have used a Greek name, not a Coptic one.  The letters given however do not permit the Coptic reading of HMA (for forty).  Later historians have confounded this revolt with that of the Copts in Basmur, which took place allegedly under Abdel Malek around 750-51.  Scholars are therefore divided on the exact date of the last Coptic revolt, therefore.  See Sylvestre Chauleur, Histoire des Coptes d’Egyple, Paris 1960, 107 (dating the revolt to 216 AH. = 831 AD); item: C. Detlef, G. Müller. Grundzüge des christlich-islamischen Ägypten, Darmstadt 1969, 146 (both giving around 828-30). 

3 The continuation of the sentence in Ch. (51, 57.17-18)  reads:  “and he fought them and killed very many of them.  He struck them down and drove out their wives and children and brought them with him to Baghdad.” 

32 Responses to “Eutychius on the events in Egypt in 820-30 AD”


  1. stephan huller

    I wonder if you can see a reference in Eutychius to the stealing of the relics of St. Mark in 828?

  2. Roger Pearse

    What you have is what there is.

    The continuator may have something, but I haven’t looked.

  3. stephan huller

    I think Boles might be interested in this because I suspect the revolt of the Emma and the translatio of the relics of St. Mark are somehow connected. It might explain Eutychius’ silence on the matter of the plunder (which couldn’t have taken place without the aid of the Muslim authorities) and the faux etymology of ‘Emma’ as a Coptic word (perhaps blaming the Copts for the loss of the relics). The Coptic records blame the Melkites for the loss. There might be something to this now. Thank you Roger! I wouldn’t have noticed this if you hadn’t posted this article. I have puzzled about this for a long time.

  4. Roger Pearse

    There may be more in Eutychius than I first realised.

    There’s a problem with the editions and translations of his work. There’s an Italian translation of the vulgate text, which is much fuller. Then there is a German translation, which seems to be only the material which is still preserved in Eutychius’ autograph, even though plainly a lot of pages have fallen out. The two have not been combined, with notes, which is most strange.

    I was translating from the latter, and I noted that it seemed to begin in the middle of an incident. I went to the Italian, and it has much more text. It’s also more full at various points. So the chapter 6 of the reign of al-Mamun starts:

    “6. While `Ubayd Allah ibn Zahir (78) was returning from Egypt, bound for Baghdad, the Muslims complained to him of the fact that the Christians had transgressed the rules given to them and had done what it was not lawful for them to do in demolishing the dome of the church of the Resurrection. There was in fact a small dome, but they had widened it so much that it had become much larger than it had been, exceeding in height the Dome of the Rock. `Ubayd Allah ibn Zahir (79) then sent for the patriarch Thomas and an other group of persons and locked them up in jail in wait while matters were verified: for if what the Moslems had complained of against them turned out to be true, he would have them flogged.

    While they were in prison, one night an old Moslem said to the patriarch Thomas:…”

    which makes sense of the bits I translated yesterday.

  5. stephan huller

    Sorry to keep going back to this but the translatio of the relics of St Mark to Venice has never been adequately explained. I wonder if the incident in Jerusalem had some connection with the Muslims effectively selling the relics to the Venetians in 828.

    I also wonder whether the revolt of the Emma was caused by the loss of the holy relics.
    Just speculation I guess but the problem for me has always been that I could never have believed the Venetians could have just walked away with this heavy stuff. The church of St Mark in Alexandria being empty or abandoned was equally puzzling.

    I am wondering now if there was a chain of events which started in Jerusalem

  6. Roger Pearse

    The thing to do is gather all the primary sources that refer to the event and inspect them. Then, and only then, will we know enough to talk about it.

  7. stephan huller

    I don’t think this is the history for the right period because
    Thomas was Patriarch (807-820)

  8. Roger Pearse

    Well, this is why we need a translation of Eutychius. But al-Mamun was Caliph to 833, so it should be in that section.

    Do you fancy translating some Italian? :-)

  9. stephan huller

    My secretary has a side job as a translator and teacher of Italian. She’s a native Italian, educated who lives in the US. She wouldn’t charge a lot. I could approach her about this. She’s very nice.

  10. Roger Pearse

    I’m not commissioning any translations from Italian.

  11. Dioscorus Boles

    1. The St. Mark’s Relics: Egypt during the reigns of the Abbasid Al-Amin (809-813) and his brother Al-Mamun (813-833), who bitterly fought each other (reflecting a wider conflict between Muslim Arabs and Muslim Turks), suffered so many distresses. Absolute chaos ruled Egypt, and the country was divided between two major Muslim contenders, Al-Siri Abdel Hakam and Abdel Aziz Algirwi whose battles were mainly fought in the Nile Delta. The instability, terrorism and financial mismanagement that resulted destroyed Egypt. The situation was further compounded by the advent of fanatic Arabs from Andalusia and other areas, who seized Alexandria between 815 and 827, and persecuted the Copts and their Church. Abdullahi ibn Tahir (Abdallah ibn Daher, in Roger’s translation), dispatched by Al-Mamun in 826 AD, was able eventually, to conclude an agreement with the Andalusians to evacuate Alexandria and go to wherever they wanted outside Al-Mamun’s territory. They sailed out of Alexandria, and went to Crete, where they wrestled Crete from the Byzantines. Ibn Tahir left Egypt to Baghdad, the Caliphs city, on 20 October 827 AD. Eutychius’ sentence, “Abdallah ibn Daher returned to al-Ma`mun and reported about Egypt and on what he had undertaken (there),” relates to his expulsion of the Andulesians from Alexandria.

    I think, though I have no direct evidence, that these Andalusians stole the body of St. Mark (the Copts always maintained that the head of St Mark was not taken) and took it with them to Crete. There, somehow, it is possible that they sold it to the Venetians. But the matter needs to be studied carefully.

    I do not think there is any relationship between this event and the dome of the Church of the Sepulchre in Jerusalem which Eutychius told us its story in the earlier paragraph.

    2. The Emma (Yma): Eutychius, in Roger’s translation, immediately after the above quoted sentence writes: “Then the (supporters of the) Emma (Yma) revolted. Al-’Emma is a coptic word and means “forty”.” The jump between the two sentences represents a time span of over three years. In June 831 AD, during the Patriarchate of Anba Yousab, the 52nd Coptic Patriarch (830-849), the Copts of the coastal areas of the Nile Delta revolted against the oppression of the Arabs. That was a major rebellion and involved several thousands of the Copts who managed initially to overthrow the yoke of the Muslims, but later, when Caliph Al-Mamiun mobilised the Empire’s resources and army, and came in person leading in army, managed to suppress the last major Coptic uprising in February/March 832 AD with grave consequences to the Coptic nation. The Coptic Revolt of 831/832 AD was mainly undertaken by the Bashmurites/Pashurites (as Coptic resources, particularly History of the Patriarchs of Coptic Church, calls them), residents of Bashmur/Pashmur in the coastal areas of the Delta. It is important to note that these were followers of the Coptic Church. Eutychius in his Annals (written in Arabic) calls them البيما او اهل البيما, which could be translated “the Bima (or the Pima) or the people of the Bima/Pima”. He says the word name البيما/Bima/Pima comes from a Coptic word that means “ نسل الاربعين “ , i.e. “the descendants of the forty”. The Latin translation (1658) renders the translation: “quadraginia virorum progenies”. St Michael the Syrian in his Chronicle (which is absolutely important in this history) calls the them Biamaye as Bat Ye’or in her The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam spells it. It may be that Biamaye is the Syriac form of the Arabic Bima/Pima. As we do not know the original Coptic word which Eutychius alludes to, it is difficult to study this word further. The B/Pashmurites had their special dialect of Coptic, and it is possible that B/Pima in their dialect meant what Eutychius says (the dialect is largely unknown now); however, the meaning given by him cannot be derived from any of the other major Coptic dialects known to us. I think Roger’s Emma (Yma) is the same as Eutichius B/Pima.

  12. Dioscorus Boles

    Notes:

    I tried to attach footnotes to the above but they did not appear. I add here only 3 notes:

    1. The B/Pashmurites also rose against their Arab oppressors in 750 AD during the reign of the last Umayyad Caliph, Marwan II (744-750), and the Patriarchate of Michael I (743-767). However, their last uprising was in 831/2 AD.
    2. The B/Pashmur area is also called Bashrud (Pashrud) as in The History of the Patriarchs by Anba Yousab, Bishop of Fawa.
    3. There is no mention in Coptic resources that the B/Pashmurites descended from Greeks.

  13. stephan huller

    Roger – I might think of paying Daniela to translate the Italian if I knew how much there was and how I can get a hold of it. It would be yours then to put on line.

    Dioscorus – I was just checking with the Continuato of the Samaritan Chronicle of Abu L-Fath (trans. Milka Levi-Ruben Studies in Late Antiquity and Early Islam) and it is interesting to note that the Samaritan history confirms that Egypt was the center of a major revolt. Here is the material which deals with the same period in question:

    After thirteen years of the reign of ‘Abd Allah al-Ma’mun he sent a man known as Khalid ibn Yazid and with him a great army. The people were unaware of his approach until he suddenly appeared in Palestine. All the Muslims were in great fear of him and despaired of their lives; the rebels decided to flee and abandon all their possessions but they saw [Khalid] leaving for Egypt, they were safe again, as they had been before; they harmed the Samaritans and killed a group of them. Khalid passed through and made his way down to Egypt, and the Egyptians waged war against him; he was a great warrior, and he killed a great many of them in battle and besieged and afflicted them. Then they took him prisoner, and when they captured him all his companions took to flight. The Egyptians detained him for some time, and when they let him go again he went to his country. All the years from Adam to the arrival of Khalid ibn Yazid in the land of Egypt were 5250 (or 825 CE).

    Translator’s note – this computation seems to be somewhat imprecise, since the author himself states several lines later that ‘Abd Allah ibn Tahir arrived in Egypt four years after Khalid ibn Yazid, in December 827.

    After four years ‘Abd Allah the king sent a man called ‘Abd Allah bin Tahir accompanied by a great army, the like of which in might and destruction had never been known in action against the rebels. When he went forth from Baghdad he conquered the lands before him; God gave him victory and worked good deeds through him, and he crushed all the tyrants of the land. Upon his arrival at Hims, Nasr ibn Shabbath rose against him with a great army of brigands, so [‘Abd Allah ibn Tahir] besieged Hims and beleaguered Nasr until he requested a guarantee of safety (aman) and left Hims. When he emerged, ‘Abd Allah seized and enchained him; he took all of his possessions and children, and sent him to Baghdad. He came to Palestine in the first year of the Sabbatical Year, in the month of Kanun al-Awwal, in the year 212 of the reign of Islam (827), and no one waged war against him.

    Then he went down to Egypt and waged war against it; the rebel there was called Sa’id ibn Sari (‘Ubayd Allah ibn al-Sari) and he took him prisoner and conveyed him to Baghdad to the king. He conquered the land to the frontier of Africa, God established mercy for the people in his heart, and he lightened the affliction which was upon them – except for what the rebels did before him, [an affliction to which] there was no limit: all the people had left their places vacant, run away and strayed from their beliefs. [‘Abd Allah] ordered that anyone who paid the kharaj would receive a certificate so that no one could take anything further from him, as he had been done previously. Because of that affliction many people were ruined; each [governor] who came was such an oppressor that many people were ruined and innumerable families perished, and towns and villages were vacated and fell into ruin. When relief came, a sadness came over anyone who had lost his family and relatives during the times of the oppression and hardship. (224 – 226 pp. 74 – 76)

    Translator’s note According to al-Tabari III, 1093, ‘Ubayd Allah ibn al-Sari was brought to Baghdad on 23 Rajab 211 (29 October 826)

  14. stephan huller

    Dioscorus – I am full of stupid questions and ideas. Could Bima be an Arabic preservation of βῆμα and a reference to the throne that was stolen in 828 AD? I am not sure if the Greek bema made its way into Coptic. Just curious if the rebellious Copts might have been identified as being ‘of the seat.’

  15. Dioscorus Boles

    Stephan – Bema (or Bima) is present in Coptic as a loanword from Greek. The English-Bohairic Dictionary by the Shenouda the Archimandrite Society [to be found here: http://copticlang.bizhat.com/coptdict.pdf gives the following meaning for bema: “(Gk); m. Step, pace; raised place or tribune, tribunal of a magistrate.” This might have been preserved in Arabic as you suggested.

    Researches into the physical history of mankind by James Cowles Prichard (1851); Volume 2‎, p. 204, [find clip here: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=gRYJAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA204&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U1grsuWbVtexPoCAC91EBCnvVhmBw&ci=168%2C652%2C708%2C517&edge=0 gives the Coptic word for Pashmur and then says it is the same area in the Delta called by Strabo, peraia (which he says meant the region to the westward of the Nile Delta). I looked for Old Greek and thought the rho letter (p)then might have been pronounced like the English m rather than r, and in this case it would sound similar to Eutychius’ Bemia/Pimai, but it does not seem so.

  16. stephan huller

    Discorus – Thank you for this most fruitful discussion. I has given me an idea for a follow up to my article in Journal of Coptic Studies which identifies the Sedia di San Marco in Venice as the original Episcopal throne of Alexandria. One note, if the loss of the relics caused the Coptic revolts in the subsequent period (a) it might explain Eutychius and Severus’ silence on the matter and (b) one would also expect Pashmur to be one and the same with the Boucolia, the region where the Church of St. Mark was located (which housed the relics originally). Just a guess on my part

    I should also mention that you might find Harry Tzalas’s work interesting. He is an underworld investigator and – since the coastline of Alexandria has shifted so much in recent years – has located the original church of Alexandria (as you know Severus says there was just one church in Egypt until Theonas; the Egyptian Christians apparently worshiped in caves). He has published a number of articles on this and was a native of Alexandria. He remembers seeing the ruins on the Chatby beach. He has done some preliminary digging under what is now Casino Chatby and found fourth century pottery and the synthronos from the old church.

    Of course as we know the original church was destroyed and rebuilt many times. However wouldn’t it be something to bring to life this fabled church from Coptic history! I am very excited about his future plans.

    What we need is to get some government to build a water barrier around the massive structure (he has noted that there wasn’t just one physical structure but a whole series of adjacent buildings – pilgrim’s hostels etc). Then we could excavate all around it. Who knows what we would find!

  17. Dioscorus Boles

    Stephan – Thank you. I find your writings very interesting and enlightening. Thank you also for alerting me to the important work of Harry Tzalas. I didn’t know about him before. His work seems very interesting, and I do hope that he is successful.

    The cause of the Bashmurite Revolt of 831/2 AD is mentioned in the History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria (HOPCCA). Yoa’anis (John) II who wrote the part that deals with the revolt says, after the mentioning of the chaos that seized Egypt during the reign of Al-Amin and Al-Mamun and led to the neglect of agriculture and the ruin of the countryside, :

    “Satan did not cease to stir up wars and murder. Two men at that time were overseers of taxes, one of whom was named Ahmad son of Al-Asbat, and the other Ibrahîm son of Tamîm. These two men, in spite of the troubles from which the people were suffering, persisted in demanding the taxes without mercy, and men were increasingly and incalculably distressed. Their greatest trouble arose from the extortion practised by the two overseers of taxes; for what they could not pay was required of them. After this the merciful God by his righteous judgment sent down a great dearth upon Egypt, so that wheat reached the price of one dinar for five waibahs. Many of the women and infants and young people, and of the old and the middle-aged, died of starvation, in fact of the whole population a countless number, through the severity of the famine. And the overseer of taxes was doing harm to the people in every place. And most of the Bashmurite Christians were severely chastised, like the Israelites; so that at last they even sold their own children to pay their taxes, because they were greatly distressed. For they were tied to the mills and beaten, so that they should work the mills like cattle. And their tormentor was a man named Ghaith. So, after long and wearisome days, death put an end to their sufferings.
    But afterward the Bashmurites, seeing that they had no means of escape, and at the same time that no troops could enter their country on account of the abundance of marshes which it contained, and because none was acquainted with the roads except themselves, began to rebel and to refuse to pay the taxes. And they came to an agreement and plotted together over this matter.” (1)

    Your theory about the cause of 831/2 Coptic revolts in the marshes of Bashmur in the eastern coast of the Nile Delta is also interesting. Bucolia, at the eastern side of Alexandria is said in some Coptic traditions where St Mark was martyred (2). The same word “Bucolia” is also given to the Bashmur (3). I don’t know the nexus between the two geographical locations [the first at Alexandria, and the other between Lake Burullus (which is located east of Rosetta/Rashid) and Damietta (4)], but it is certainly interesting. It is interesting also to note that the History of the Patriarchs mentions in the Live of St. Mark (Part 1, Chapter 2) that the Christians of Alexandria built a church (their first church) “in a place called the Cattle-pasture, near the sea, beside a rock from which stone is hewn.”(5) B. Evetts footnotes “the Cattle-pasture” with the Greek equivalent “Τὰ Βουκόλου, Bucolia” (6). That place (the cattle-yard; the cattle-shed) was where St. Mark was tortured and martyred. The Bashmur in the eastern coast of the Delta is known to be an area of buffalo-herding. It is possible that the similarity in names between the two geographical areas have led to the Bashmurite Revolt of 831/2 AD being connected to the robbing of St Mark’s body by the Arabs from Alexandria (where it was kept in his church built at Bucalia), and its later selling to the Venetians.

    But, as the Arabs say, “Allah knows more”!

    ————
    (1) History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria (IV): Mennas I to Joseph (849): Arabic text edited, translated, and annotated by B. Evetts; pp. 486-7 [Find it at: http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/severus_hermopolis_hist_alex_patr_04_part4.htm
    (2) See A Description, Geographical, Historical, and Topographical, of the Various Countries of the Globe by Josiah Conder (1830): Volume 1, Egypt, Nubia, and Abyssinia; page p. 209 [Find it at: http://www.archive.org/stream/moderntraveller05condiala#page/208/mode/2up/search/bucolia
    (3) Ibid; page 248 [Find it at: http://www.archive.org/stream/moderntraveller05condiala#page/248/mode/2up/search/bucolia.
    (4) See: http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&safe=off&q=Lake+Burullus,+Kafr+El_shiekh,+Egypt&ie=UTF8&cd=1&geocode=FRBF4AEdiY7WAQ&split=0&sll=53.800651,-4.064941&sspn=6.881357,14.941406&hq=&hnear=Lake+Burullus&t=h&z=10
    (5) See: http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/severus_hermopolis_hist_alex_patr_01_part1.htm
    (6) The Arabic of Severus of Ashmunin, the translator of this part of the History of the Patriarchs, is مرعى البهائم which literally mean the animals-pasture.

  18. stephan huller

    Thank you, Dioscorus. I have always suspected the connection between the Bashmurites and the Boucolia. Your reference here is most useful. The connection between the Church of St. Mark, the Boucolia, the nomadic herdsmen who lived in the region and Arius and the early ‘Arians’ is particularly interesting as well. Arius is always described as a ‘presbyter’ of this church. Scholars typically pass over the reference without a second look. I think it is highly significant and underscores that when people speak of ‘Alexandrian Christianity’ they quite literally was TWO traditions and TWO Patriarchal thrones in the fourth century. Christianity was not founded WITHIN the walls of the Greek city but just outside. The Boucolia was always identified as a particularly lawless region. The Arians maintained order with the held of these ‘herdsmen’ (who I suspect were the ancestors of the later ‘Bashmurites.’ Again it is impossible to prove any of this but it is very interesting to piece together some thread of logic through the ages.

  19. stephan huller

    On the residents of Boucolia taking on characteristics of the Bashmurites see the Life of Hilarion

    “When the latter returned he found Hilarion longing to sail again to Egypt, that is to the locality called Bucolia; but he persuaded him that, since there were no Christians there, but only a fierce and barbarous people.”

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Nicene_and_Post-Nicene_Fathers:_Series_II/Volume_VI/Treatises/The_Life_of_S._Hilarion

  20. Dioscorus Boles

    Hi Stephan, I think the Bucolia mentioned in the Live of St. Hilarion is the Buclia of the Bashmur in the eastern coast of the Delta, and not the Bucolia east of Alexandria. It is interesting to know that in the first half of the 4th century there were “no Christians there (in the Bashmur’s Bucolia), but only a fierce and barbarous people.” Finding when the Basmurites became Christians will be very interesting.

  21. stephan huller

    Or alternatively they were still aligned with Arianism and thus not (true) Christians.

  22. Dioscorus Boles

    Stephan – they would have described them as heretics (not that they would regard Arian heretics as better than non-Christians, but early Christians were keen in accurately classifying peoples).

  23. stephan huller

    Arguably but the Life of Hilarion is – shall we say – a very peculiar text. Not only fragmentary in parts but down right strange. The key question for me at least is why does Hilarion/Hilaria want to go to Boucolia if there are no Christians there? It was hardly a resort location. Its a strange text.

  24. Dioscorus Boles

    My understanding is that Hilarion wasn’t after a resort but after an isolated area to pursue an ascetic and monkish life like that of St. Anthony’s whom he met earlier. Remember that Hilarion’s place of residence before he became an ascetic was Gaza. The Bashmur (Bucolia) was closer to him.

    Dioscorus

  25. stephan huller

    I was just joking about the resort visit. I should mention a wonderful discussion about the location of Boucolia in Birger Pearson’s Gnosticism and Christianity in Roman and Coptic Egypt. He notes that there is great confusion over the location of Boucolia:

    There can be no doubt as to its location. According to the account in the Acts of Mark “in the eastern district” (10) “beside the sea, beneath the cliffs” (5) But since some confusion was introduced by Jorge Juan Fernadez Sangrador it is useful to take up his arguments in light of the evidence

    A description of Sangrador’s argument follows:

    Sangrador acknowledges that the Martyrium of St. Mark was located in the northeastern section of the city but argues that the earliest seat of the Alexandrian community, the area of Boukolou was located in the Rhakotis district in the southeastern section, near the ancient Serapeum.

    Pearson disposes of Sangrador’s arguments based on the reference to ‘herdsmen’ noting that:

    Strabo’s reference to herdsmen is of no use, however for Strabo mentions boukoloi in connection with other areas of Alexandria and the Delta as well.

    Pearson then emphasizes once again that the Acts of Mark identifies the martyrium of St. Mark as the Church in the Boucolia. Then he moves on to the Passio Petri Sancti and concludes:

    The topographical references in this account matches those of the Acts of Mark with additional amplifications. Ta boukolou, where the Martyrium of Mark was located is specified as a suburban area, but also near the sea. There are also tombs in that area. The tombs in question are clearly those now known as the Shatby Necropolis (fourth-third centuries BCE) part of the eastern necropolis that had been covered over during the city’s eastward expansion and no longer in use by the first century … There can be no doubt as to the location as to the area our texts refer to as to boukolou. By the fourth century, after massive destructions suffered by the city in the second and third centuries, this area was a suburb, located well outside the city. It could very well have been used for cow pastures (if that is what ta boukolou means). The cliffs referred to in the Acts of Mark are probably one of the hillocks that rose inland from the seacoast east of the city in the area around Shatby, long since obliterated by the cutting and filling associated with the construction projects in the modern city of Alexandria but known from old maps.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=c8m0eAMQ34sC&pg=PA106&dq=birger+pearson+passio&hl=en&ei=7EixS5vcDJ_stQPg9q3NAw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=&f=false

    I should say that Tzalas came to the same conclusions as Birger Pearson albeit without reference to Pearson’s work.

  26. Dioscorus Boles

    Thanks.

    There is a book, which I haven’t read, called Mark by Jurgen Schulze & Leonhard Kuppers (1966), which is said to discuss in detail the medieval legends surrounding St. Mark. You may be interested in. I will look for it.

  27. Dioscorus Boles

    You may be interested in this story that I re-read today in the Live of the Coptic Patriarch Mathew IV (1660-1675). The story deals with what the Copts regard as a miracle “Miracle of the Icon of Michael, the Archangel”: there used to be in the Church of St. Mark in Alexandria a beautifully painted icon of St Michael, which Coptic tradition says it was painted by St. Luke, the Evangelist.
    The story goes that the Venetians stole this icon (no exact date but during the patriarchate of Mathew IV), but when they tried to sail off to their city the ship found difficulties. The Venetians suspected the reason to be their stealing of the icon, and consequently they returned it back to the church.

    When the Arabs around Alexandria heard of the story, and the interest of the Franks (all Europeans were Franks “Frinja” to Arabs) in it, they thought of stealing it themselves, and then selling it to the Franks. So one night they broke into the church to take the icon by force, but as they were about to depart their legs would not support them. Scared, they returned the icon, and left without it.

    Johann Michael Vansleb (Wansleben) in his visit to Egypt in 1672 saw this icon. When Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Egypt in 1799, he destroyed St. Mark’s church fearing that the English might use it when landing. Its icons, books, etc., were taken by the Copts to the Church of Rashid (Rosetta), and the icon was fixed to its wall. It is still there.

    So the Venetians were after more than the body of St. Mark.

  28. stephan huller

    Thank you so much for this. I have been posting your comments at my site because I find them all so interesting. Lately I have been toying with the idea that the massive Jewish dyplastoon (double Stoa) building in Alexandria mentioned in Philo (who never calls it a ‘synagogue’ interesting) might have been taken over by the first Christians in Alexandria and rededicated to Christ.

    Of course it’s an outlandish theory one that can’t be proved ultimately. Yet anyone who is sensitive to Alexandrian history as I know you are has to grapple with the curious idea that there was only one church (and one ‘bishop’) in all of Egypt according to Severus until the end of the third century. This is a very strange fact which doesn’t get enough consideration by scholars (of course most just cynically write off the Alexandrian tradition of St. Mark and say it was invented at a later date which annoys me to no end).

    In any event, the information is very useful. Thank you. But speaking of articles I once came across the existence of an article in French in a very old journal which listed all the references to the martyrium of St. Mark in the Fathers which was only available in London as I remember. That might be useful too. Maybe I should order that through interlibrary loan.

  29. Roger Pearse

    Sounds like precisely the sort of list that might be useful to have online.

  30. Dioscorus Boles

    Thanks, Stephan, for your kind words and for posting my comments at your site, “Stephan Huller’s Observations,” which I enjoy visiting. The history of Christianity in Egypt in the first 120 years of it or so (from the 60s when St Mark was preaching there until 180 AD when Demetrius became Patriarch), and may be for a long time after that, is shrouded in myth, but there are so many facts in it that cannot be denied except by obstinate scholars with certain agenda – one of these facts is the evangelisation by St Mark of the Alexandrians and his later martyrdom in the outskirts of their city. You have all the right to get annoyed by these cynics. As Roger has said, I think a complete reference list of the martyrdom of St. Mark would be very useful to have online.

  31. stephan huller

    I agree with everything you are saying Mr. Boles. Here is the article I am told has all the references to the Martyrium of St Mark which I can’t seem to get in America:

    J Faivre, ‘Le Martyrium de Saint Marc,’ Bulletin de l’Association des amis de l’art copte 3 (1967) 67 – 74.

  32. Dioscorus Boles

    Thanks, Stephan.



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