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Collection Coptic Orthodox Liturgical Chant and Hymnody

3100 BC to 1517

  • ca. 3500 B.C.

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Settlement begins around the Nile Valley.

  • 3100

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Pharaoh Menes establishes the first Ancient Egyptian dynasty and unites the Upper and Lower Kingdoms into one centralized monarchy. Hieroglyphic system of writing emerges.

  • 2700

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Hieratic script emerges alongside Hieroglyphic.

  • ca. 2500 B.C.

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Pyramids of Giza are constructed.

  • 800

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Demotic slowly replaces Hieratic script.

  • 671

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The last Ancient Egyptian monarchy crumbles and is conquered by Assyrians from Mesopotamia.

  • 525

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Persian Conquest of Egypt.

  • 332

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Ushering in the Greco-Roman period, Alexander the Great conquers and names the city of Alexandria after himself. Ptolemaic rule begins.

  • 300

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The hieroglyphic writing system falls out of use. Greek script becomes the official script of government documents.

  • 196

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The carving of the Rosetta Stone.

  • 31 A.D.

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Romans defeat the Macedonians and Egypt becomes part of the Roman Empire.

  • 45-60

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Saint Mark the Apostle brings Christianity to Egypt and establishes the unbroken Patriarchal Seat of Alexandria sometime in 61 A.D. Today, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III is the 117th Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

  • 100

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Coptic script begins to develop.

  • 251

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Monasticism, "the gift of Egypt to Christianity," begins with St. Antony (ca. 251-356) in the eastern desert of Middle Egypt, then steadily spreads across Egypt to the Western Desert and up the Nile Valley, even into Nubia and eventually into Ethiopia.

    St. Anthony in the desert. Etching by Nicolas Guérard, fils. Detail from a map, L'Ancienne Thebaide…, by Nicolas de Fer, 1738.
  • 284

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Coptic calendar, following an Ancient Egyptian solar calendar, is formally established in September of this year. Known as the year of the martyrs, the very first year commemorates one of the bloodiest eras in Coptic Christian history under the Roman Emperor Diocletian between 245 and 313 A.D. September 11 is yearly celebrated as the start of the new Coptic year.

  • 285

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The Theban Legion (a contingent of the Roman Empire's Army forcibly recruited in Egypt) takes Egyptian Christianity, with its music and prayers, across the Alps into France and Switzerland.

  • 313-337

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Emperor Constantine the Great moves the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople. Henceforth Egypt comes under the hegemony of Christian Byzantium, which will grow ever more oppressive.

  • 451

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    After the schism of the Council of Chalcedon, the See of Alexandria is split into two lines of patriarchal succession: the Melkite (Greek royalist) line and the native orthodox (Coptic) line. For centuries, the Copts struggle to keep their indigenous liturgies intact, with surest success being in the isolated monasteries.

  • 452

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Under Roman rule, Demotic slowly gives way to a Greek-derived Coptic alphabet, borrowing seven extra letters from Demotic to represent Egyptian phonetics not found in Greek.

  • 642

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    'Amr Ibn al-'As enters into present Egypt in 640 A.D. and, in two years’ time, completes the Arab conquest of the country.

  • 685-705

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The reign of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. This Caliph established Arabic as the official administrative language for the public and government in Egypt. All Copts who wanted a government post had to learn Arabic.

  • 969-1171
    979-1003

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Meaning "The Triumphant," Al-Qahira, otherwise known as Cairo, is founded by the ruling Fatamid dynasty.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    It was under the tenure of Pope Philotheus that Arabic Bibles and church books were introduced in the Arabic language. However, many clergy, including Pope Zacharias (1004-1032), still celebrated the liturgy entirely in the Coptic language.

  • 1046-1077

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    During the reign of Patriarch Christodoulos, the patriarchal seat is moved from Alexandria to Cairo.

  • 1171-1250

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Great warrior, Saladin (Salah-al Din) begins the Ayyubid dynasty.

  • 1250-1517

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    The last Ayyubid Sultan is murdered and Mamluke rule begins.

    Coptic Music and Culture: Early Research

    As Arabic-speaking Christian intellectuals emerge beginning in the middle of the eighth century, Ishāq al-Mu`taman Abū ibn al-`Assāl (fl.1230–1260) dedicates a chapter to Coptic Church music in his book, Kitāb Majmū Usūl al-Dīn, which translates as "The Foundations of Religion." [1] By the mid-thirteenth century, another author, Yuhānnā ibn Abī Zakāriyyā ibn Sība' describes Coptic liturgical music of his time in the work al-Jawarah al-Nafīsah, which translates as The Precious Essence… [2] One more source appears from the early fourteenth century: Misbāh al-Zumlah fī Idāh al-Khidmah, The Lamp of Darkness, written by Shams al-Ri'āsah Abū al-Barakāt ibn Kabar. In this book, he lists Coptic hymns and defines how they are used in the Church.[3]

  • 1517

    Egyptian History: Major Events

    Syria, Palestine, Arabia, and Egypt fall under Ottoman rule.

Notes

  1. Georg Graf has translated and edited this chapter into German: "Der kirchliche Gesang nach Abū Ishāq...."Extracts from The Foundation of Religion by Ibn al-Assāl. Bulletin de la Société d'archéologie copte 13(1948-1949): 161-178. [return to timeline]
  2. In 1922, this work by Ibn Sibā' was edited and translated by Jean Périer as La Perle précieuse: traitant des sciences ecclésiastiques (chapitres I-LVI). Patrologia Orientalis 16, fasc. 4 (1922): [593]-760. Paris: Firmin Didot, 1922. A reprint of this translation was issued in Turnhout, Belgium: Editions Brepols, 1973. [return to timeline]
  3. In turn, this document was also edited and translated by Louis Villecourt: "Les Observances liturgiques et la discipline du jeûne dans l'église copte." (Chapters XVI-XIX from Misbah al Zulmah by Abū al-Barakāt ibn Kabar). Le Muséon: revue d’études orientales 36(1923): 249-292; 37(1924): 201-280; 38(1925): 261-320. All three of these early resources are listed in The Coptic Encyclopedia, edited by Aziz S. Atiya. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1991, vol. 6, p. 1735. [return to timeline]
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