History of Al-Fayoum
A Short History of the City of Al-Fayoum
Based on excavations and studies by archaeologists, Al Fayoum played host to inhabitants even before the early Stone Age (the Paleolithic era). The combined work of archaelogists like Gertrude Thompson and Elinor Wight Gardner as well as studies by a UCLA/RUG/UOA Fayum Project team have uncovered relics from various periods including the Holocene era as well as the Neolithic sites in addition to the period before the early Stone Age.
The ancient Egyptians referred to Al Fayoum by the name Shedet. There are also speculations that it might have shown up in the bible. For example, the 10th century bible scholar, Saadia Gaon believes that Pithom, one of Pharaoh’s treasure cities mentioned in the first chapter of Exodus, was actually the city of Al Fayoum. The crocodile god, Sobek (pronounced in Latin as Suchus based on an adaptation from the Koine Greek, Σοῦχος Soûkhos) had a large following in the city which inspired its Latin nomenclature of Crocodilopolis based on the Koine Greek reference to the city as the “Crocodile City”
The inhabitants of Al Fayoum deified a sacred crocodile called Petsuchos in Koine Greek, it was decorated with gold and other precious stone ornaments. A sacred temple with a pond was built for the Petsuchos in which priests would feed it with food offered as sacrifice by various visitors. On the demise of a particular Petsuchos, another crocodile would be tamed and brought into the pond to replace the previous one.
While the reign of the Ptolemaic kingdom lasted, Al Fayoum was briefly referred to as Ptolemais Euergétis with a Koine Greek translation. The city was again renamed during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (309-246 BC) who called it Arsinoë in honor of his wife (and sister) (316-270 or 268). She would eventually be canonized after her death, making her a part of Alexander the Great’s Ptolemaic cult which was the kingdom’s prevalent religion at the time.
As at that time, Al Fayoum was not the only city that had the name Arsinoë, and so when the Romans took over, the city was classified under the Arcadia Aegypti province and was referred to as “Arsinoë Arcadia” in order to differentiate it from other cities with the same name.
Just like Qasr Ibrahim, Arsinoë also had a diocese created within it when Christianity became prevalent in Egypt. It was also the provincial capital, the suffragan of Oxyrhynchus, as well as the see of the metropolis. A list of many of the bishops that served at Arsinoë was released by Michel Le Quien and only a few of them were not involved in some sort of heterodoxy.
Rather than a residential diocese, Arsinoë was considered to be a titular see by the Catholic Church. It was also the administrative headquarters from which Shahralanyozan, the governor of Sasanian Egypt operated between 619 and 629.
Fayoum consists broadly of two ethnic groups; Egyptians who live in the central areas and the main city (the majority) and the minority Arabs, also called Bedouin, living in the Suburbs.
Updated On March 18, 2020