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Roman Era
(30-324? AD)

By the defeat of Cleopatra and Antony in the battle of Actium 31 BC, Egypt was annexed to the Roman Empire.

Augustus, first Roman emperor
first Roman emperor
Octavian, renaming himself Augustus, was made the first emperor. He maintained his rule on Egypt. A remarkable phrase he said "I added Egypt to the empire of the Roman people".
To him Egypt was the most important province of the empire. A viceroyWhat does it mean? was appointed to govern Egypt. The first to rule Egypt was Cornelius Gallus, a Roman poet. Roman senators who wanted to visit Egypt were required to get the direct emperor's permission prior to their visit.

Thenceforth, Egypt became the main source of grain to the Roman Empire, thus giving it a vital importance. 3 Roman legions were left in Egypt to maintain security. These forces proved their importance later in securing the borders and curbing internal conflicts accompanied by the new rule.
Romans introduced a new system in Egypt dividing the country in few provinces, each was governed by a special ruler and each province was also divided into small centers.

Successive rulers bore the responsibility of quelling revolts that used to erupt from time to time.
First thing they face was to put down the riots that broke between the Greeks and Jews in the reign of Caligula (ruled 34-41) then the Jewish revolts under Trajan (ruled 98 - 117) and people's revolt in Coptos in 293 AD.

During the Roman rule, many cultures mingled. Citizens were of difference descents: Romans, Greek Alexandrians, Jews and Egyptians.
Romans started to introduce various tax categories to increase the empire's income and ergo making it harder for Egyptians to live.


In the first century AD, Christianity was introduced in Egypt by Saint Mark who later martyred at the hands of Alexandrians in 67 AD. Henceforth, the Christian missionaries began their activities and the great church of Alexandria was established to the current date. The current Egyptian church is still bearing the name of Alexandria, the city to where Christianity was first introduced in Egypt.

Amazingly Christianity was spreading very fast to the extent that Egypt became predominantly Christian by the end of the 3rd century AD.
Christians were regarded as a cult just like Jews were regarded. This was until they began to increase and adopted a unique attitude. Their role was amplified when they refused to present sacrifices to the Romans' pagan gods. They also resist the Roman teachings, especially those contradicting with Christianity.

Romans considered this attitude as a social revolt that could endanger the security and the unity of the empire.
This resulted in the commencement of the great persecution of Christians and the biggest in history.

Roman emperors launched violent and organized persecutions against the Christian population all over the empire. The biggest are recorded at reigns of Roman emperors; Septimius Severus (ruled 193 - 211), Maximinus I (ruled 235 - 238), Decius (ruled 249 - 251).

Diocletian, prime persecutor of Christians
Diocletian, prime persecutor of Christians

The persecution reached its peak during the reign of Diocletian (ruled 284-306). Copts, or Christian Egyptians, made the start of his reign as the first year of their Coptic calendar based on the Pharaonic solar year.
Diocletian's reign is called the martyrdom era by present-day Copts.
Romans showed brutality in their persecution of Christians. They had advanced equipment invented only for this purpose. They adopted very aggressive torture methods like: lashing, sloughing, stoning, ripping off organs, gouging out eyes, etc….

When dealing with Christians, Romans were first trying to convince them to admit the Roman beliefs, which was usually rejected by the believers. Romans were then imposing their aggressive torturous persecuting before putting their lives to an end.

Contrary to what Romans were endeavoring, this persecution was a way of diffusing Christianity and more pagans diverted to the new faith. The typical Christian brave manner in these times was to admit their faith and ask for martyrdom, something that believers were actually contending for.
At some periods citizens were required to carry a certificate that proves their Roman faith and that they regularly present sacrifices to the pagan gods.

The Roman whip used in torture
The Roman whip used in torture
Romans' aggressive attitude was usually accompanied by a brutal destructive policy towards the Coptic Christian culture.
They burnt religious books, sacred scripts, liturgies and destroyed churches and anything that relate to Christianity.
The persecution continued till the tolerant reign of Constantine the Great (ruled 306 - 337) who finally admitted Christianity as the official religion of the empire.

During the Roman era a new language spoken by Egyptians made its way into appearance; the Coptic language. The word "Copt" is taken from the Greek word "Aigyptos" which means Egyptian. The origin of the language cannot be dated but it seemed to have appeared in the 2nd century AD. It is derived from the ancient Egyptian language and is considered as its final stage. The Coptic language uses the Greek alphabet in addition to 7 demoticWhat does it mean? letters borrowed from the demotic script (a simplified form of hieroglyphicsWhat does it mean?). Coptic language survived for centuries until the Arab conquest in the 7th century when the Arabic language gradually replaced it. However, the Coptic language is still used by the Coptic church in liturgies.

The rise of a new language marked the start of the Coptic literature that is added to Egypt's glorious history.
And just as Egypt was the first to contribute to the human civilization, it was also among the first to contribute to Christianity.

It was the Egyptians who first established the current monasticism. It all started when Romans were persecuting the believers. Some of the people decided to leave their normal life and go away in the deserts for worshipping God. But going to the deserts didn't mean leaving behind dangers. Monks were facing frequent attacks of barbers who where not in less brutality than the Romans. Their attacks were usually leaving many martyrs.

The founder of Monasticism is Saint Anthony (251 - 356 AD) who left his wealthy life and departed to the desert. He was the first to adopt asceticism. He put the system by which a monk can live an independent life.
Saint Pachomious (292 - 346 AD) is the founder of cenobitic monasticism. He is the one who first put regulations for monks gathering. He founded several monasteries for men and women.

The pagan rule of Romans was concluded by the tyrant Diocletian. He introduced administrative reforms to the empire dividing it into sections to ease its control.

Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (ruled 306-337) ascended the throne and sanctioned the Christian worship. This was a start of a new era in the Mediterranean known as the Byzantine era which is considered an extension for the Roman Empire but with another attributes.

The Roman Empire
The Roman Empire

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