BUTRUS, thirteenth-century Melchite bishop of Misr. Butrus is mentioned twice in an anonymous Muslim work relating the life of al-Mansur Qalawun, king of Egypt (A.D. 1279-1290), entitled Kitab Tashrif al-Ayyam wa-al-‘Usur (History of Arabic Literature). In both cases, the context considers treaties of armistice between the Genoans and al-Mansur, following naval battles.
Both texts are written by the bishop, who signs himself Butrus usquf Misr al-Malki (Peter, Melchite bishop of Misr). The Genoan emissary was Alberto Spinola, accompanied by consuls and traders. On the Egyptian side, the witnesses are four Melchites: Bishop Arsaniyus, the abbot of the Melchite monastery of al-Qusayr near Cairo, the deacon Matta, and Mkha’il, monk of Sinai. The agreement was concluded on 14 Ayyar anno mundi 6798/14 May 1290. The Genoans swore on the Gospel and the cross, "standing, with their heads uncovered." The Arabic text was published by Habib Zayyat in 1953 on the basis of a manuscript written in Egypt at the end of the thirteenth century (National Library, Paris, Arabe 1704 [not 174 as said by the editor]), the first witnessing in fols. 338a-40b, and the second in fols. 341a-52b.
The official witnesses chosen on the Egyptian side are Melchites and not Copts, probably because the treaty was being concluded with the Genoans who, according to Muslim categories, were "Melchites."
KHALIL SAMIR, S.J.
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