Coptic Revolts


refer to a number of revolts of the Copts against authorities between 693 or 694 and 832. Arab historians have seen these revolts as a reaction to the heavy taxes placed on the deterioration of their social status under Muslim rule. The most significant revolts are those of the Bashmurites, who settled in the marshy land of the Delta and lived by selling papyrus, fowling, and fishing. Thus they were not dependent on the central irrigation system controlled by the government.

Moreover, their swampy region with its thickets and reeds was not easily accessible for organized armies. When in 749 the Muslim authorities captured and abused the Coptic Patriarch Kha’il in Rashid (Rosetta), the Bashmurites burned that city and killed many of its Muslim inhabitants. Their most serious revolt, which flared up in the Delta in 832, was the last one of the Copts.

It required the personal intervention of the Caliph al-Ma’mun, who had to come from to Egypt and brought with him Dionysius of Tell Mahre, Patriarch of Antioch, to unite with the Coptic Patriarch Yusab in convincing the Bashmurites to surrender. They were offered a general pardon with the condition that they be resettled. When the Bashmurites refused, their rebellion was radically crushed, and churches and homes were burned. The Bashmuric who outlived the massacre were sold as slaves in Damascus.

and modern historians as well agreed that the ferocious repression of this last Bashmurite revolt was a turning point for conversion to Islam in Egypt. It would be misleading to place too much emphasis on the revolts of the Bashmuric Copts, who did not achieve any improvement of the conditions that caused their revolts. However, they tried without any organized army to protect themselves from foreign oppression.