A modern name of the city that was known in Greek as Oxyrhynchus and in Coptic as Pemdje. The city is located on the western edge of the Nile Valley about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Bani Mazar in the province of Minya.
Although al-Bahnasa is best known today as the site of one of the largest finds of Greek papyri ever made (see OXYRHYNCHUS PAPYRI), the area has a long and rich Christian tradition. Coptic- Arabic hagiographic literature mentions the city often as the birthplace of various saints and the place where many martyrs died during the persecutions of DIOCLETIAN in the early fourth century. The SYNAXARION indicated that al-Bahnasa was the seat of a bishop by the beginning of the fourth century.
Monasticism also made an early appearance in the city. The HISTORIA MONACHORUM IN AEGYPTO states that in the latter part of the fourth century the monasteries around al-Bahnasa were so numerous that they virtually constituted a city of their own. Not only did the city have twelve churches but monks also inhabited the buildings that had previously been pagan temples and shrines. The work goes on to say that there were some 5,000 monks within the city and an even greater number in the surrounding monasteries. Subject to the bishop of the diocese were 10,000 monks and 20,000 nuns.
- Amélineau, E. La Géographie de l’Egypte à l’époque copte, pp. 90-93. Paris, 1893.
- Timm, S. Das christlich-koptische Ägypten in arabischer Zeit, Vol. 1, pp. 283-300. Wiesbaden, 1984.