Melchites And Copts


Melchites (almost all Greeks) and Copts (native Egyptians) lived in relative tolerance until the Council of CHALCEDON (451), when Rome and Constantinople, under the cloak of theological problems, inflicted the first sharp defeat sustained by the Copts in the ecumenical field.

The humiliation, deposition, and exile of the native Egyptian DIOSCORUS I (444-458), pope of Alexandria, were immediately followed by the installation of a as a successor on the patriarchal throne of Saint Mark. Proterius (452-457) revealed himself as a docile friend of Byzantine imperialism. The Egyptian Christians elected a native rival, TIMOTHY II AELURUS (458-480). Consequently, the hitherto united see of Saint Mark was split between two lines of patriarchal succession: the Coptic and the Greek, later called Melchite (or royalist), which originated from while obeying Chalcedon.

The split in the patriarchal see of Alexandria was consummated from the juridical point of view but not dogmatically, in spite of the appearances. Even up to the present the normal of the Coptic church is the Liturgy of Saint Basil. The Copts remained devoted to the national cause of the Egyptian people, while repudiating Byzantine-Melchite hegemony. The Melchites involuntarily developed within the emerging Egyptian nationalism as it became stronger. Thanks to a stubborn fidelity to Cyrillian Christology, the Coptic church stood firmly within the pre- Christological orthodoxy.


  • Atiya, A. S. A History of Eastern Christianity. London, 1968. Heiler, F. Die Ostkirchen. Basel, 1971.
  • Karalevsky, K. P. Histoire des patriarcats melkites (Alexandrie, Antioche, Jérusalem) depuis le schisme monophysite du sixième siècle jusqu’ à nos jours, Vol. 2, fasc. 1; Vol. 3, fasc. 1-2. Rome, 1909-1911.