Coptic Christianity in Ottoman Egypt.

Author:Little, Donald P.
Position:Book review

Coptic Christianity in Ottoman Egypt. By FEBE ARMAN1OS. New York: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2011. Pp. xv + 254, map. $74.

A historian at Middlebury College, Armanios sets forth what it meant to be a Copt in Ottoman Egypt, 1517-1798, using three types of sources: records of communal events (chronicles, mainly those of al-Jabtut and al-Damurdashi); hagiographies/martyrologies; and sermons. Although the impact of external events is not ignored, so that Coptic relations with both the native Muslim majorities and foreign Christian minorities are observed and analyzed, the author focuses on inner expressions of Coptic experience, including martyrdoms, festivals, and rituals. Armanios presents these aspects of "Copticity," to coin a term, in the form of "snapshots" rather than systematic narrative; she supplements these, enriched by her family traditions, with extensive references to elusive materials held in libraries in Egypt and in Western institutions. In terms of sources, then, the book is rich, and valuable to scholars.

Two chapters are devoted to two Coptic martyrs, one a sixteenth-century male, St. Salib. His experience was recorded by the Muslim historian 1bn 'yds and by a Coptic hagiographer. While the facts of the two versions are surprisingly similar, the interpretations of the facts are not. As a chronicler Ibn Iyas refers to Salib's cursing of the Prophet, his interrogation by the sultan and a judicial council, and his brutal execution as a noteworthy episode among many events in his annals. The Coptic manuscript version is couched according to .stereotypical...

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