A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, November 5, 2012

Now That We Know Pope Tawadros II, Who Was Pope Tawadros I?

Newly-elected Coptic Pope Tawadros will be known as Tawadros II, and he is 118th in the line of Coptic Popes. But who, I found myself wondering, was Pope Tawadros I? I may be the only non-Copt who wonders about such things (being a historian of Egypt in my origins), but in case there are others of you out there who wondered the same thing (or will now that I've planted it in your mind), I decided to answer it. He was the 45th Patriarch, and his 12 year reign (731-743) was in the late Umayyad period during the Caliphate of Hisham.

From Severus of Ushmunayn (Sawirus ibn al-Muqaffa), History of the Patriarchs, the official collection of Patriarchal biographies (many close to contemporary in origin), Evetts translation:

And an assembly of the holy bishops met together and consecrated the holy Father Theodore patriarch by the command of the Lord Christ. And the affairs of the patriarchate and of the orthodox church grew and prospered during all his days, until they returned to their former state, and became still more flourishing, so that it seemed as if the church had never been plundered. And Theodore was a good man, tranquil, full of charity towards all men, beautiful in countenance like an angel of God; and in his days nothing evil was done.
But Ubaid Allah, the ruler in Egypt, brought punishments and trials and losses upon the people of Egypt, and added an eighth of a dinar to every dinar of the taxes; and through his oppression of the people the dinar grew rare and rose in value. Yet when he continued long in this course, God would not suffer him, but raised up against him some of the chief among the Muslims, who went to Hishâm the prince, and made known to him the evil which he did, and the troubles that he had caused in Egypt. Therefore Hishâm was filled with wrath against Ubaid Allah, and wrote at once to remove him, and despatched an officer with many attendants to Egypt in great anger. And he commanded that he should be banished with his younger son, Isma'îl, to the land of the Berbers in the province of Africa, |and that Isma'îl should be exiled thence to the land of the Setting Sun, and punished because he did not do what was commanded him. So this was speedily done to him. Hishâm made Ubaid Allah's elder son, Al-Kasim, governor in Egypt, and set him over her affairs instead of his father, who was banished to the Berbers. When he had remained there a short time he ruled over the Berbers in Africa, where his son Isma'îl was, until he was banished whither the prince commanded. For Ubaid Allah wrote to Hishâm, seeking to conciliate him, and expressing repentance of what he had done, and begging him to make him governor of that country; and so he was made governor over the Berbers in Africa. Yet his deeds were again evil, for he seized the daughters of rich men and the daughters of the chiefs and officers, and sent them to Hishâm the prince as maidservants, writing to him that they were slave-girls whom he had bought for him as maidservants. Likewise the sheep, when they- were near parturition, he ripped them open, and took out the lambs just covered with wool, and took their skins and made pelisses of them, and sent them to Hishâm, saying that he had bought them for him; so that he destroyed large numbers of sheep from that country. Therefore the Berbers conspired against him, forming a plot to kill his son Isma'îl and the people of his house; and they seized Isma'îl and his wives and concubines and all that belonged to him, and killed them all in his presence, while he looked on. And they ripped the women open, and took the infants from them, and threw them down before him.
Then they brought Isma'îl to Africa, taking him bound to his father, and killed him in his presence while he looked on, after ripping him open and striking his father on the head and face with his dead body; and afterwards they drove his father away from their country, following and insulting him, while he was sad and weeping. And our father Theodore lived to see all these things.
Then the Lord visited him, and he departed to him in a good old age and in the grace of the Lord Christ. And the Church was growing, without adversaries or internal divisions, all his days. He remained upon the apostolic throne eleven years and a half, and went to his rest on the seventh day of Amshir.
The governor Ubaid Allah mentioned here is the well-known (for those of us who do medieval Egypt anyway) Ubayd Allah ibn al-Habhab.

And from the Coptic Encylcopedia: 
THEODORUS, forty-fifth patriarch of the See of Saint Mark (731-743). Theodorus (Tawadrus) was a monk at Dayr Tamnurah on the fringe of Mareotis, west of Alexandria. The sources are silent about his early secular life as well as on the date and place of his birth and his activities before he took the monastic vow. However, the HISTORY OF THE PATRIARCHS is explicit about his saintly character and his humility, as well as his love of serving others throughout his life. He aimed always at the execution of Christ's words to his disciples: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave" (Mt. 20:26-27). He literally carried out the Lord's words by serving his fellow monks, and as patriarch he continued to serve the whole community in the same way.
His fame spread through Alexandria, and its notables and archons as well as its clergy nominated him for the patriarchal dignity. It is said in the History of the Patriarchs that his spiritual father, ALEXANDER II, had prophesied that Theodorus would succeed to the throne of Saint Mark.

His reign was marked on the whole by an atmosphere of peace and serenity, though for a short time at the beginning this was not so. ‘Ubayd Allah, the governor of Egypt at Theodorus' accession, proved to be a tough extortionist who doubled the capitation tax (JIZYAH) from one to two dinars and even imposed heavier taxation on his fellow Muslims. It is said that the Muslims, not the Copts, were the first to protest against his imposts to the lenient caliph Hisham, who listened to their complaint and removed ‘Ubayd Allah from Egypt to the Maghreb, where he met his end in Morocco. With ‘Ubayd Allah's disappearance from the country, peaceful coexistence prevailed and the people, both Muslims and Copts, lived together harmoniously with no fear of excessive and illegal taxation.

The Covenant of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab was observed by the new governors in relation to the Coptic people. The Coptic community kept growing under Theodorus owing to the return of many Chalcedonians to the mother church.
Now we know.

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