Minnesota in Egypt

Third Century

This page gives additional information about eventsmentioned in timeline

site map: or back to introductory page. ;inks for citations below are to bibliography.

Diocletian and the Coptic Calendar

During the period discussed here, there was no common system for counting years in the Roman Empire.

Our present system, counting from the supposed date of the Birth of Christ and called either AD, for Anno Domini, in the year of the Lord, or CE, for Common Era, only became widely established by about the ninth century.


In Egypt, years could be counted from the beginning in 284 of the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian, called the Diocletianic Era, or Period of Martyrdom. (See Great Persecution, on the Fourth Century page.) The earliest use of this system is late fourth century, but it only became common later (Bagnall 1993, 329: on the various systems see Bagnall and Worp 1979).


Apocalypse of Elijah

A late third century Christian text noted for its combination of elements from different traditions, i.e., its "integration of Egyptian with Jewish and Christian literary forms." (Frankfurter 1998, 263). It drew on the Egyptian priestly tradition to produce a work of Christian prophecy (Frankfurter 1993).

  Originally written in Greek, it was translated into Coptic. The Coptic text was popular in the fourth and fifth centuries. One copy entered the Library of theWhite Monastery.

St. Anthony and the Eremitic Life

St. Anthony may have been born around 251. After his parents died he gave away his property and retired into the desert, first near his native village, then farther away. He was not the first hermit, but his holiness attracted many followers during his life and became a lasting model.

A group of disciples joined him in the desert, each living alone but close enough to learn from him. Many lay people went to seek his counsel and he sometimes left the desert, once visiting Alexandria. He experienced many spiritual trials, described in his Life as combats with a variety of demons. He withdrew into a more remote part of the desert, and died at a great age in 356.


Saint Anthony's Life was written by his younger contemporary, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria (see Fourth Century). Athanasius may have drawn on a Coptic original. Writen to provide an example, the life may not be reliable in all details.

Some of Anthony's letters survive, and some of his sayings are preserved (Barnes 1986, Meyer 1950, Gregg 1980).

He was a very popular figure in both eastern and western art