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Palme, Bernhard: Political Identity versus Religious Distinction? The Case of Egypt in the Later Roman Empire. (published)

Published in: Political Identity versus Religious Distinction? The Case of Egypt in the Later Roman Empire. In: W. Pohl, C. Gantner, R. Payne (Hrsg.), Visions of Community in the Post-Roman World: The West, Byzantium and the Islamic World, 300–1100. Surrey, Burlington 2012, 81–98.
Abstract: Many modern studies of the Arab conquest of Egypt claim that in the sixth and seventh centuries the country was divided by religious-dogmatic strife. A polarization between Chalcedonian Rhomaioi and Monophysite Copts had led to a "national" away-from-the empire movement, and the Copts finally welcomed or even helped the Arab conquerors. However, a survey of the papyrological evidence shows no sign of religious controversies outside Alexandria in the Egyptian Chora. “The Coptic stab in the back legend”, tellingly absent from contemporary Byzantine sources, belongs to the ninth and tenth century historiography, when in the substantially different political situation of the Abbasside rule it was convenient for both Arabic and Coptic intellectuals to emphasize a supportive role of the Egyptian populace and a Monophysite patriarch during the Arab attack. Religious dispute and denominational strife had not alienated Egypt from the Empire and had not questioned the political identity of the Rhomaioi at the Nile on the eve of the Arab conquest.