Rosshofgasse (Schnitz), Seminarraum S 01
Fachbereich Alte Geschichte, Sabine Huebner
The Early Christian Community of Heracleopolis Magna in Middle Egypt (3./4. c. C.E.)
Forget Bethlehem – a Medieval Arabic tradition holds that Maria gave birth to her son Jesus in the Middle Egyptian city of Ehnas, Roman Heracleopolis magna. Heracleopolis was a stronghold of Coptic culture under Byzantine and Arabic rule; The origins of its Christian community, as of Egyptian Christianity in general, are rather obscure, though. Bringing forward all the available evidence – above all literary (Coptic acts of the martyrs, Historia Episcopatus Alexandriae, Sozomenus) and papyrological (Christian names, letters, and literary manuscripts) – this lecture will spotlight the early years of Christianity in Heracleopolis (c. 200-350 C.E.). Special attention will be paid to P. Oxy. XXXVI 2785, a formulaic letter of recommendation from the presbyters of Heracleopolis, on the date of which the recently edited Historia Episcopatus Alexandriae – which also provides the names of some pre-Byzantine Heracleopolitan bishops – sheds new light, and to the crucial role of Heracleopolis in the Melitian schism. The evidence from the Heracleopolite nome – which includes some of the earliest extant Christian literary manuscripts – will be taken into account as well.
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