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Roman Egypt

Egypt under Roman Control

Roman control in Egypt historically occurred after the coming of Octavian (Augustus) during 30 BC it is listed on the Biblical Timeline with World History under 1-250 AD with World History. This was after his victorious battle with Marc Antony and Cleopatra in Actium.

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‘Temple of Denderah. Back wall where can be seen: Cleopatra and her son, Cesarion Image taken by Alex Lbh in April 2005.’

Augustus then proclaimed himself to the Egyptians as successor and Pharaoh. He abolished the Ptolemaic monarchy and declared the realm as his own. Then he announced a temporary ‘prefect’ or ‘governor’ that efficiently took politics out of the area; thus neutralising competitions to take over amidst the influential citizens of Rome.

For nearly 12 years, Egypt was maintained by Rome’s armies till the country was stabilised. Everything was done in line with the laws and stages of Rome’s laws. The structure of the government was remade to acknowledge the rights linked with ‘Greek’ history. This was an incredible addition to the Roman Empire and proved a great asset to the country. There was an abundance of farming with shipments of grain to Rome. Egypt made papyrus, glass, and varied delicately made crafts. The deserts held many different kinds of raw materials such as ore, porphyry, and granite.  Business with central Africa, the Arabian Peninsular, and India thrived down the Nile, desert, and sea routes from the Red Sea port of Berenike. Valuables and cultural traditions spread from Egypt to Rome by Alexandria, a place Diodorus of Sicily spoke of as “the first city of the civilised world”. It’s amazing library and society of authors, philosophers, and scientists were recognised all over.

One of the first major problems the Roman Empire came across was the contentions between the Greeks and Jews during the rule of Caligula ( reigned 34-41). There was also the Jewish rebellions under Trajan (reigned 98-117), and the people’s rebellions in Coptos during 293 AD. Christianity was brought to Egypt during the first century AD from Saint Mark, who was martyred afterwards by the Alexandrians in 67 AD. Ever After the Christian missionaries started working and the vast church of Alexandria was created and is still present today.


Surprisingly the Christian belief spread very quickly to the point that most of Egypt was converted by the end of the 3rd Century AD. They were categorised along with Jews as a cult. This lasted till the Christians grew in number and acquired a distinctive position. Their place was increased after they rejected the culture to offer sacrifices to the Romans’ pagan gods. In addition, they opposed Roman teachings, particularly towards those policies that counteracted their beliefs. This was thought of by the Romans as dangerous for the safety and unifications of the empire. Resulting in the great persecutions and intensifying towards the largest recorded maltreatment towards Christians at the time.

It was prepared and enacted in violent order especially by rulers Septimus Severus (193-211), Maximinus I (235-238), and Decius (249-251). The climax of these terrible events occurred under Diocletian (284-306). His reign was labelled ‘The Martyrdom Era’ by today’s Christian-Egyptians (Copts). Romans had displayed harsh actions towards them with well-developed tools intended for only that. Torture became a common violence towards Christians such as lashing, sloughing, stoning, tearing off organs, pulling out eyes and so forth.  At first, the Romans were attempting to persuade the Christians that the Roman faiths (especially the ones contrary to Christians) were right. If unsuccessful they would then implement torture and eventually killed them.

However, their actions had a reverse effect, spreading Christians and enacting more conversions. The standard Christian attitude was to stand their grand, proclaim their beliefs and ask to be martyred. This was an ideal that many were, in fact, hoping for. There was even a time in the Roman Empire that regular society was obligated to bear an official document proving that they believed in the Roman traditions and offered sacrifices on a regular basis to the pagan gods. This violent attitude against Christians was followed by harsh deconstructive standards against the Coptics. Religious books were burnt, along with sacred scripts, liturgies, and churches; really any item or place that had a connection to that faith. This continued until the open-minded rule of Constantine the Great (306-337); a ruler who at last acknowledged Christians as the official religion of the kingdom.


At the time of the Roman Rule, an altered language was adapting into the Egyptian manner called the Coptic language. “Copt” was from the Greek word “Aigyptos” which stands for Egyptian. The root of the language is not dated but looks to have started in the 2nd Century AD. It is taken from the historical Egyptian language and is thought of as its last phase. Coptic adds onto the Greek alphabet with 7 demotic letters taken from the writings basically a simpler take on hieroglyphics.

This manner of speaking lasted for a long time until the arrival of the Arab conquest during the 7th Century. Afterwards, the Arabic language slowly took over. Despite this, the Coptic language made it through until current time to be used by the Coptic Church in ‘liturgies’. The growth of the Coptic language added in literature into Egypt’s infamous past. Along with Egypt’s contributions to society’s culture, they also pioneered the world into Christianity.  They were the ones to start today’s ‘monasticism’. It began when Rome was discriminating any believer of the Christian way of life. The first to enter Monasticism was Saint Anthony (251-356). He abandoned his riches and left for the desert in search of religious freedom despite the threat of barbers who just like the Roman’s promised certain death. He pioneered the religion into ‘asceticism’ and created an order that provided monks with a self-governing culture. Saint Pachomious (292-346) created the cenobitic monasticism. He made the first policies for their gatherings and started many monasteries for both men and women. Along with the ascension of Constantine Pachomious, these events led to a period where the Mediterranean was labelled under the Byzantine Era, a branch of the Roman Rule but with varied qualities.

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