A large town on the left bank of the Nile to the south of Asyut, 31 miles (50 km) away, and to the southwest of Tima. In the middle of the Roman empire and even in the Byzantine period and at the beginning of the Arab era, it was the capital of a nome (the tenth in Upper Egypt) and, judging from the mass of papyri discovered there, a very important city. In the sixth century A.D. this nome was swallowed up into the nome of the right bank, which had as its capital Antaeopolis (the present Qaw al-Kabir).
Information about the arrival and expansion of Christianity in this city is still lacking, but it is known that in the town and its environs were many churches and monasteries. It is impossible sometimes to distinguish one from another, because each is called simply topos (place). Like L. Antonini and P. Barison, A. Calderini, in his Dizionario (1935-1987), enumerated more than thirty churches, and an even larger number of monasteries, without counting the vague references to a topos.
One must take care not to confuse this Aphrodito with the (five or six) other cities in Egypt that bear the same name. The interested reader will find in the studies of Calderini (1972, Vol. 1, pt. 2, pp. 325-40), Antonini (1940, pp. 191-98), and Barison (1938, pp. 98- 122) the details of the churches and monasteries of this city and its immediate neighborhood. Since each site is simply designated topos, it is not known whether a church or a monastery is meant, although the appellation seems to relate to a church in the majority of cases. However that may be, the large number of religious buildings proves that Christianity was important in this town.
It was the discovery of a quantity of papyri relating to the town that allowed scholars to form some idea of the implanting of Christianity in this region, a discovery that took place at the end of the nineteenth century and was further investigated at the beginning of the twentieth century. This discovery has provided a better knowledge of the economic and social role that the Christians and their clergy were able to play before the ARAB CONQUEST OF EGYPT (cf. Wipszicka, 1972). As for the dialectal peculiarities, P. E. Kahle (1954, Vol. 1, pp. 51ff.) examines them, grouping them with those of the texts of Dayr al-Balayzah and Wadi Sarjah.
- Antonini, L. “Le chiese cristiane dell’ Egitto dal IV al IX secolo secondo i documenti dei papiri greci.” Aegyptus 20 (1940):129- 208, esp. 191-98.
- Barison, P. “Ricerche sui monasteri dell’ Egitto bizantino ed arabo secondo i documenti dei papiri greci.” Aegyptus 18 (1938):29- 148, esp. 98-122.
- Calderini, A. Dizionario dei nomi geografici e topografici dell’ Egitto greco-romano, 5 vols. Milan and Cairo, 1935-1987. Vol. 1, repr., 1972.
- Kahle, P. E., ed. Bala’izah, 2 vols. London, 1954.
- Timm, S. Das christlich-koptische Ägypten in arabischer Zeit, 3 vols. to date. Wiesbaden, 1984-.
- Wipszicka, E. Les Ressources et les activités économiques des églises en Egypte du IVe au VIIIe siècle. Papyrologica Bruxellensia 10. Brussels, 1972.