1902 Encyclopedia > Africa > The Copts

Africa
(Part 14)



(G) AFRICA - ETHNOLOGY (cont.)


(b) The Copts

The Copts, or as they are correctly pronounced, either Ckoobt or Ckibt, are considered to be the descendants of the ancient Egyptians. They do not now compose more than one sixteenth part of the population of Egypt, their number not exceeding 145,000, about 10,000 of whom reside at Cairo. Conversions to the Mohammedan faith, and intermarriages with the Moslems, have occasioned this decrease in their numbers; to which may be added the persecutions which they endured from their Arabic invaders and subsequent rulers. They were forced to adopt distinctions of dress, and they still wear a turban of a black of blue, or a grayish or light brown colour, in contradistinction to the red or white turban. In some parts of Upper Egypt there are villages exclusively inhabited by the Copts. Their complexion is somewhat darker than that of the Arabs, their foreheads flat, and their hair of a soft and woolly character; their noses short, but not flat; mouths wide, and lips thick; the eyes large, and bent upwards in an angle like those of the Mongols; their cheek-bones high, and their beards thin. They are not an unmixed race, their ancestors in the earlier ages of Christianity having intermarried with Greeks, Nubians, and Abyssinians. With the exception of a small proportion, the Copts are Christians of the sect called Jacobites, Eutychians, Monophysites, and Monothelites, whose creed was condemned by the Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451. They are extremely bigoted, and bear a bitter hatred to all other Christians; they are of a sullen temper, extremely avaricious, great dissemblers, ignorant, and faithless. They frequently indulge in excessive drinking; but in their meals, their mode of eating, and the manner in which they pass their hours of leisure, which is chiefly in smoking their pipes and drinking coffee, they resemble the other inhabitants of the country. Most of the Copts in Cairo are employed as secretaries and accountants, or tradesmen; they are chiefly engaged in the government offices; and as merchants, goldsmiths, silversmiths, jewelers, architects, builders, and carpenters, they are generally considered more skillful than the Moslems. The Coptic language is now understood by few persons, and the Arabic being employed in its stead, it may be considered as a dead language.






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