A city in the district of Suhaj. Called Iteb in the pharaonic period, and then in Hellenistic times Iton or Itos, Idfa is mentioned in the Christian period only in the summary that the recension of the SYNAXARION of the Copts from Upper Egypt devotes to the martyr hermits PANINE AND PANEU at 7 Kiyahk. Part of their Life is preserved in Coptic, but not the mention of this small town. After leading a wandering life in the Fayyum in the valley of Qalamun, they returned near to Idfa, in the desert of Adrbah, where later Shenute was to found his famous monastery. It was at Idfa, near a pool that has disappeared, that they were beheaded.
In the fifteenth century the Muslim historian al-MAQRIZI names this town several times. In his catalog of the names of the monasteries of Egypt, he speaks of the DAYR ANBA BISADAH, and places it “in the district of Itfa, opposite Minshat Akhmim, to the west.” In his list of the Christian churches, he mentions that of Pachomius “in the district of Itfa, and this is the last church, on the east side.”
This church is also named, perhaps following the passage from al-Maqrizi mentioned above, by ‘Ali Mubarak in his Khitat al- Jadidah. There remains one difficulty: al-Maqrizi places this church to the east, and ‘Ali Mubarak writes that it is the church of the town. The latter is situated on the left bank of the river, hence to the west.
The spelling of the name has to some extent been modified. Al- Maqrizi and also Ibn Duqmaq write “Itfa,” which with the “t” recalls the spelling of ancient Egyptian or of Greek, while the modern name is “Idfa.”
- ‘Ali Mubarak. Kitab al Khitat al Tawfiqiyyah al-Jadidah. Cairo, 1886-1888.
- Orlandi, T. Il dossier copte del martire Psote. Testi e Documenti per lo Studio dell’Antichità 61. Milan, 1978.
- Sauneron, S. Villes et légendes d’Egypte. (First appeared in large part in Bulletin de l’Institut français d’Archéologie orientale.) Cairo, 1974.