History Of Al-Fayoum
Archaeological evidence has found occupations around Al-Fayoum dating back to at least the Epipalaeolithic. Middle Holocene occupations of the area are most widely studied on the north shore of Lake Moeris, where Gertrude Caton Thompson and Elinor Wight Gardner did a number of excavations of Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic sites, as well as a general survey of the area. Recently the area has been further investigated by a team from the UCLA/RUG/UOA Fayum Project.
In ancient Egypt, the city was called Shedet. The 10th-century Bible exegete, Saadia Gaon, thought Al-Fayoum to have actually been the biblical city of Pithom, mentioned in Exodus 1:11. It was the most significant center of the cult of the crocodile god Sobek (borrowed from the Demotic pronunciation as Koine Greek: Σοῦχος Soûkhos, and then into Latin as Suchus). In consequence, the Greeks called it “Crocodile City” (Koine Greek), which was borrowed into Latin as Crocodīlopolis.
The city worshipped a tamed sacred crocodile called in Koine Petsuchos, “the Son of Soukhos”, that was adorned with gold and gem pendants. The Petsoukhos lived in a special temple pond and was fed by the priests with food provided by visitors. When Petsuchos died, it was replaced by another.
Under the Ptolemaic Kingdom, the city was for a while called Ptolemais Euergétis (Koine Greek: Πτολεμαὶς Εὐεργέτις). Ptolemy II Philadelphus (309–246 BC) renamed the city Arsinoë and the whole nome after the name of his sister-wife Arsinoe II (316–270 or 268), who was deified after her death as part of the Ptolemaic cult of Alexander the Great, the official religion of the kingdom.
Under the Roman Empire, Arsinoë became part of the province of Arcadia Aegypti. To distinguish it from other cities of the same name, it was called “Arsinoë in Arcadia”.
With the arrival of Christianity, Arsinoë became the seat of a bishopric, a suffragan of Oxyrhynchus, the capital of the province and the metropolitan see. Michel Le Quien gives the names of several bishops of Arsinoë, nearly all of them associated with one heresy or another.
The Catholic Church, considering Arsinoë in Arcadia to be no longer a residential bishopric, lists it as a titular see. Al-Fayoum was the seat of Shahralanyozan, governor of the Sasanian Egypt (619–629).
The People of Al-Fayoum usually classify themselves in two main ethnic groups, a majority of Egyptians in towns and central areas, and a minority of settled “Bedouin” or Arabs in peripheral areas.