the Ptolemic capital of Egypt, was a great center of Greek learning
throughout Antiquity. It was famous for its Pharos (Light-tower),
Royal Library, and Mouseion (Museum) which was a major research institution.
Eratosthenes and Ptolmaeus or Claudius Ptolmey, the greatest geographer-astronomers
of antiquity, Euclid, the greatest Greek geometrician, and Archimedes,
the famous mathematician all studied and taught at Alexandria.
The Roman fortress which stood on the eastern bank of the Nile and
guarded the head of the Delta. It was built by the emperor Trajan
(end of the 1st century CE) midway between the old Egyptian cities
of Memphis, on the eastern bank, and An or Heliopolis (the City of
the Sun) to the west. Taken over by the Arab Muslims in 641 CE, it
became the nucleus for the later development of the Islamic capital
of Egypt. It is unclear, however, whether any of the Coptic churches
standing today near the remains of the fortress of Babylon existed
before the Arab conquest. Many of them, such as St. Sergius,
St. Bacchus, St. Barbara, incorporate
early fragments within their 9-10th century structures.
The name by which Arabs (and other Semites) called Egypt, which
was otherwise called by its own people, Kemet,
"the Black Land." Misr is also the name used in
colloquial Egyptian until today to refer to the capital city of
al-Qahira (Cairo), perhaps in
deference to the city that dominates the political and economic
life of the country and embodies its cultural identity. The term
Misr was also used to designate many of the early Islamic garrison
towns, examples of which were founded in all the conquered regions:
Busra and Kufa in Iraq, Jabiyya in Syria, Fustat
in Egypt, and Qayrawan in Tunisia. Most of these settlements grew
from more or less informal encampments around a central mosque space
to sophisticated capital cities within the first century Hegire
(7th-8th century C. E.).
Alexander the Great of Macedonia conquered Egypt
from the Persian and soon laid out the plans of Alexandria located
on a natural harbor west of the Western branch of the Delta from which
could be controlled the Mediterranean trade of the country.
Ptolemy, a general in Alexander's army, declared
himself king. Thus begun the Ptolemic (Hellenistic) period which was
to last until 30 B.C. When Egypt was annexed by the Romans after the
death of the famous Cleopatra VI and her son from
Caesar, Caesarion. The Ptolemies tried to create some syncretism between
the Greek and Egyptian systems of beliefs, but most Egyptians remained
outside these developments and continued to live according to their
traditions in the countryside. One of the few major changes occurred
in the writing of the Egyptian language, called Coptic, which slowly
shed its old Demotic style and adapted a modified Greek alphabet.
The name given today to the Christian Egyptians. The English word
derives from the Arabic Qobt, itself derived from Kyptaios,
the Coptic form of the Greek Aigyptus, meaning simply "Egyptian."
The Coptic church, following the Monophysite creed (believing in a
single nature of Christ, both human and divine), developed a nationalistic
streak from 451 CE onward in opposition to the Orthodox creed of Constantinople,
the Byzantine capital on the Bosphoros.