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Lucy-Anne Hunt, Hero Granger-Taylor and Dominic Montserrat

A disputed term adopted by art historians to denote early and medieval Christian art in Egypt as well as art undertaken for pagan patrons in Late Roman and Early Christian Egypt. ‘Copt’ derives from the pharaonic name for Egypt via the Greek aigyptos and the Arabic qibṭ, the word used by the Muslim Arab invaders after ad 641 to refer to the Christian inhabitants of Egypt; in modern usage the term is also applied in a narrow sense to the Monophysite national church.

Lucy-Anne Hunt

According to tradition, St Mark brought Christianity to Egypt in the reign of Nero (reg ad 54–68). Its rapid spread was undoubtedly accelerated by the deteriorating conditions that had prevailed in the country since the Roman conquest of 30 bc. Already by ad 190 the first important institution of religious learning in Christian antiquity, the Catechetical School, had been established in Alexandria; its emergence coincided with the first direct attacks on the city’s Christians. These continued under subsequent Roman emperors, culminating in the persecutions under Diocletian (...

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In its most general sense, spolia (pl., from Lat. spolium: ‘plunder’) denotes all artifacts re-employed in secondary contexts, from building blocks reused in a wall to pagan gems mounted on a Christian reliquary. It is a matter of debate whether this broad application of the term is justified, or whether it should be restricted to the relatively small subset of reused objects that were taken or ‘stripped’ (like spoils) from their original context, rather than found, purchased, inherited or otherwise acquired by non-violent means. It is likewise debated when the use of spolia should be considered meaningful, if at all. Arnold Esch defined five possible motives for using spolia: convenience, profanation, Christianization, political legitimation and aesthetic attraction. Michael Greenhalgh has argued for reducing the motives to three (at least with regard to marble): pragmatism, aesthetics and ideology; while Finbarr Barry Flood cautioned against reductive interpretations generated by any taxonomy, insisting that reused objects are mutable in meaning and capable of multiple interpretations during their life cycle....