"Life of Isaac"
(about 700 A.D.)
Bishop of Pshate, wrote in Coptic "Life of Isaac" - monophysite patriarch of Alexandria (686-689 A.D.) - used some 300 years later by Severus in his Arabic "Lives of the Patriarchs".
Ed.: E. Amélineau, Vie d'Isaac Patriarch d'Alexandrie. Etude critique, texte et traduction, Paris 1890; Porcher, PO 11, 1916, with French translation.
T.: 1. Porcher
2. Evetts, PO 5, (1909): Severus, Arabic with English translation C:1
From the "Life of Isaac"
In those days, it happened that the king of Makuria sent some delegates to the archbishop (mparchiepiskopos) with letters to inform him how the bishops had decreased in number in his country, due to the long distance and the duration of the Journey, since they were not allowed, according to the order of the king of Maurotania, to make the Journey as long as peace was not made with him. In fact, there were two kings reigning over that land, both Christians, but there was no peace between them. For one of the two, viz. the king of Maurotania (pouro ntmaurotania) was at peace with the Sarrasins (pouro nnisarakinos), the other, namely that of the great country of Makuria, was not at peace with the Sarrasins. [p. 37] It happened, when the archbishop read the letters of the king (of Makuria), and understood the contents fully, he felt a deep sorrow in his heart, on account of the churches. He, at once, wrote letters to the king of Maurotania giving him advice and instructions in the words of the holy Scripture, also adding: "And both of you are Christians". After having addressed to him many words to strengthen his soul in the orthodox faith of the Son of God, he then wrote to forbid the people of the kingdom which lay upstream from crossing his own country to come to receive their bishop, so that the churches might not become deserted: that would be a great shame before God. The enemies of our faith, on learning that, accused the archbishop before the king (= the emir of Egypt) saying: "O king, we inform you that the king of Makuria has sent delegates with letters to Abba Isaac, the arch-bishop, requesting that he appoints for them a bishop, whom they will take to their own country. Not only that, but this (Abba Isaac) has also sent a message to the king of Maurotania, advising him to make peace with the king of Makuria who is our enemy. Should that happen, O king, they would become as only one heart; they will take up arms to fight against us". When the king heard that, he became very angry and, at once, sent messengers to Rakoti (= Alexandria) to the Augustal, with letters for him written as follows: "As soon as these messengers arrive, with these letters of mine, arrest the archbishop and send him to me in a great hurry". (PO 11, pp. 377 - 381). Then he (Isaac) gave an account onto the king. Having so satisfied the heart of the king, he sat at his [p. 38] side. After that, the king ordered the holy archbishop to build a church in the town of Helwan, which he had founded. (PO 11, pp. 383 - 385).
From Severus' "Lives of the Patriarchs"
In those days, the patriarch addressed letters to the king of the Abyssinians (al-habashah) and the king of the Nubians (an-nūbah), bidding them to make peace together and praying that there might be no ill between them; and he wrote this on account of a dispute which there was between the two. Thereupon certain intriguers seized the opportunity of slandering (Abba Isaac) before Abdel Aziz (the wālī of Egypt), who was greatly incensed, and sent his officers to bring him, that he might put him to death. But the secretaries wrote letters different from the patriarch's letters, and gave them to the messengers whom he had sent to the Abyssinians, and took the other ones from them, as they feared for the life of the patriarch. They did so, only to avoid that evil befall the Church. Before the patriarch was brought into the presence of the amīr, they informed him that the messengers were there, and the letters with them. So he sent in haste to see them and took the letters. When he had perused them, he found nothing in them of what he had teen told. Thus his anger was pacified, and he sent orders at once and bade the patriarch to return to Alexandria and did not cause him again after this, to come up southwards. (PO 5, pp. 24 - 25; revised by Vantini).
- According to some, the date of the death of Patriarch Isaac is 692 A.D.
- Amélineau (op.cit.p.33) following Letronne, is of the opinion that "Maurotania" here indicates the Blemyes. Zyhlarz, (Rassegna di studi Etiopici III (1943), p. 258, n.2) argues that "Maurotania" may be compound of "ma" (a prefix indicating land) plus "urrotan" a Nubian word indicating the Sukkot territory lying south of the Second Cataract. Cf. also RSE, XXIII (1967-1968) pp. 232-271.
- The Arabs of Egypt.