Oxyrhynchus (/ɒksɪˈrɪŋkəs/ ok-sih-RINK-əs; Greek: Ὀξύῤῥυγχος, translit. Oxýrrhynkhos, lit. "sharp-nosed", Koinē Greek: [okˈsyr̥r̥yŋkʰos]; Ancient Egyptian: Pr-mdjd; Coptic: ⲡⲉⲙϫⲉ or ⲡⲙ̅ϫⲏ, romanized: Pemdje),[1][2] also known by its modern name Al-Bahnasa (Arabic: البهنسا, romanizedel-Bahnasa), is a city in Middle Egypt located about 160 km south-southwest of Cairo in Minya Governorate. It is also an important archaeological site. Since the late 19th century, the area around Oxyrhynchus has been excavated almost continually, yielding an enormous collection of papyrus texts dating from the Ptolemaic Kingdom and Roman Egypt. They also include a few vellum manuscripts, and more recent Arabic manuscripts on paper (for example, the medieval P. Oxy. VI 1006[3]).

Al-Bahnasa Martyr district, a cemetery of 5,000 prominent early Muslims during Early Muslim conquests
Al-Bahnasa Martyr district, a cemetery of 5,000 prominent early Muslims during Early Muslim conquests
Oxyrhynchus is located in Egypt
Coordinates: 28°31′52″N 30°38′49″E / 28.531°N 30.647°E / 28.531; 30.647
Country Egypt
Time zoneUTC+2 (EST)


The medjed or oxyrhynchus worshipped as a deity

Ancient Egyptian era

pr mꜥḏ[1]
in hieroglyphs
pr mḏꜣ[2]
in hieroglyphs

Oxyrhynchus lies west of the main course of the Nile on the Bahr Yussef, a branch that terminates in Lake Moeris and the Faiyum oasis. In ancient Egyptian times, there was a city on the site called Per-Medjed,[4] named after the medjed, a species of elephantfish of the Nile worshipped there as the fish that ate the penis of Osiris. It was the capital of the 19th Upper Egyptian Nome.

Ptolemaic era

Location of Oxyrhynchus in Egypt.

After the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 BC, the city was reestablished as a Hellenistic town called Oxyrrhynchoupolis (Koinē Greek: Ὀξυρρύγχου Πόλις, lit.'town of the sharp-snouted fish'). In the Hellenistic period, Oxyrhynchus was a prosperous regional capital, the third-largest city in Egypt. After Egypt was Christianized, it became famous for its many churches and monasteries.[4] Saints Sirenos, Philoxenos and Ioustos were venerated and had shrines dedicated to them in the city.[5]

Roman era


Oxyrhynchus remained a prominent, though gradually declining, town in the Roman and Byzantine periods. From 619 to 629, during the brief period of Sasanian Egypt, three Greek papyri from Oxyrhynchus include references to large sums of gold that were to be sent to the emperor.[6]

Arab era

Map showing the path of the Islamic armies and their conquest of Egypt and Nubia during the reign of the second Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab.

During the era of Rashidun Caliphate, the town of Oxyrhinchus was invaded and conquered by Rashidun army under the leadership of Khalid ibn al-Walid.[7][8][9][10] At first, the Rashidun sent emissary of Al-Mughira to negotiate with the garrison commander of the city named Batlus, however, as the negotiation ended badly, the Rashidun forces then sent their troops to attack Bahnasa.[11]

At that point, the town's name was changed to Al-Bahnasa. The town subsequently contained a cemetery of 5,000 companions of the Islamic prophet Muhammad who had participated in the conquest of Oxyrhynchus.[7][8][9][10] After the Muslim conquest of Egypt in 641, the canal system on which the town depended fell into disrepair, and Oxyrhynchus was abandoned. Today the town of el Bahnasa occupies part of the ancient site. The Arabs called the city as "Al-Baqi' of Egypt",[10] as the city was known for having 5,000 Sahaba buried in it.[9] The large number of fallen Muslim soldiers buried in this city was due to major battles against the Roman army and their fortifications in this area.[7] Various early Islamic chroniclers, such as Al-Waqidi in his F̣utūh al-Bahnasā, and Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Mu"izz in The Conquest of Bahnasa, reported that the Muslim armies under Khalid ibn al-Walid entered Bahnasa in 639,[12] besieging the town for months before they can subdue the 50,000 Byzantine and Beja Sudanese garrison defenders.[13][14]

Before it was renamed as "al-Bahnasa", Oxyrynchus were renamed as "Al-Qays town", by Maqrizi or "town of martyrs" in honor to one of the Muslim commander that participated in the conquest of Oxyrynchus.[15] Ali Pasha Mubarak mentioned it in the compromise plans that it was a city that had great fame and its flat was about 1000 acres and the golden curtains were working and the length of the curtains was 30 cubits and its territory included 120 villages other than the plantations and the hamlets. The northern is Kandous, the western is the mountain, the tribal is Touma, and the eastern is the sea. Each gate had three towers, and there were forty ribats, palaces, and many mosques, and at its western end there is a famous place known as the Dome of Seven Maidens.[16]

Among the most notable tombs were allegedly belong to the Muslim martyrs were the tombs of the children of Aqil bin Ali bin Abi Talib (brother of Ali, fourth Rashidun Caliph), Ziyad bin Abi Sufyan bin Abdul Muttalib (son of Abu Sufyan ibn Harb), Aban ibn Uthman bin Affan, Muhammad ibn Abi Abd al-Rahman bin Abi Bakr al-Siddiq (grandson of Abu Bakar), and Hassan al-Salih ibn Zayn al-Abidin bin al-Hussein (great-grandson of Ali).[17]

Ibn Taghribirdi, a Mamluk era historian, also writing the history of Bahnasa conquest in his book, Al Duhur fi madaa al 'Ayaam wa al shuhur[18]

The Muslims army settled in the town for three years as their base after the conquest, while launching occasional raids on the black and the coasts. Al-Qa`qa` bin Amr, Hashem, Abu Ayyub al-Ansari and Uqba ibn Nafi Al-Fihri, the future conqueror of Maghreb, and went with two thousand of Persians convert who now fight under the caliphate, and raided the border of Barqa.[14][13]

Modern era


Today, there is the mosque of Al-Hassan bin Saleh bin Ali Zain Al-Abidin bin Al-Hussein bin Ali bin Abi Talib which allegedly built in honor for the venerated Muslim that also participated in the conquest of Bahnasa.[19] and it is the only mosque in Egypt that has two qiblas.[19]

Aside from Al-Hassan mosque, there are other structures erected by locals which still stand to 20th century in honor of the Muslim conqueror personalities which regarded as heroes by the locals, such as Sidi Fath al-Bab tomb, and the Sidi Ali al-Jamam mosque.[19] According to the local imam, Dr. Abdel Halim Mahmoud, the locals of Bahnasa were very proud that their town contained so many landmarks of early Muslim heroes, which including 600 person that participated in the battles of Islam since the time of Muhammad.[19]

Salama Zahran, director of al-Bahnasa district excavation research team, says that the region was in the ranks of second-class cities after Alexandria, the capital of Egypt at that time, which is indicated by the domes on the land of Bahnasa, which are attributed to the martyrs of the companions such as Muhammad bin Uqbah bin Amer Al-Juhani, and Ubadah bin Al-Samit.[19]

There was also a particular mosque called Dome of Seven Maidens, which allegedly was built to honor seven Oxyrhynchus Coptic girls who defected and helped the Muslim armies under 'Amr ibn al-As and now venerated for their effort in the conquest of the city.[19] As the town of al-Bahnasa now contained thousands of historical structures in memoir of the conquests, including the 5,000 graves of companions of the prophet and Tabi'un martyrs of the battle of Bahnasa, the town are regarded by locals as "al-Baqi' of Egypt",[9][19] which became the point of interest for many foreign tourists particularly from the Muslim majority country.[9]

Archaeological excavation


In 1882, Egypt, while still nominally part of the Ottoman Empire, came under effective British rule, and British archaeologists began the systematic exploration of the country. Because Oxyrhynchus was not considered an Ancient Egyptian site of any importance, it was neglected until 1896, when two young excavators, Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt, both fellows of The Queen's College, Oxford, began to excavate it. "My first impressions on examining the site were not very favourable," wrote Grenfell. "The rubbish mounds were nothing but rubbish mounds."[20] However, they very soon realized what they had found. The unique combination of climate and circumstance had left at Oxyrhynchus an unequalled archive of the ancient world. "The flow of papyri soon became a torrent," Grenfell recalled. "Merely turning up the soil with one's boot would frequently disclose a layer."[21]

The classical author who has most benefited from the finds at Oxyrhynchus is the Athenian playwright Menander (342–291 BC), whose comedies were very popular in Hellenistic times and whose works are frequently found in papyrus fragments. Menander's plays found in fragments at Oxyrhynchus include Misoumenos, Dis Exapaton, Epitrepontes, Karchedonios, Dyskolos and Kolax. The works found at Oxyrhynchus have greatly raised Menander's status among classicists and scholars of Greek theatre.[citation needed]

There is an on-line table of contents briefly listing the type of contents of each papyrus or fragment.[22]

Another Oxyrhynchus papyrus, dated 75–125 AD. It describes one of the oldest diagrams of Euclid's Elements.[23]

Since the 1930s, work on the papyri has continued. For many years it was under the supervision of Professor Peter Parsons of Oxford. Eighty large volumes of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri have been published,[24][25]

Since the days of Grenfell and Hunt, the focus of attention at Oxyrhynchus has shifted. Modern archaeologists are interested in learning about the social, economic, and political life of the ancient world. This shift in emphasis had made Oxyrhynchus, if anything, even more important, for the very ordinariness of most of its preserved documents makes them most valuable for modern scholars of social history. Many works on Egyptian and Roman social and economic history and on the history of Christianity rely heavily on documents from Oxyrhynchus.[citation needed]

A joint project with Brigham Young University using multi-spectral imaging technology has been extremely successful in recovering previously illegible writing. With multi-spectral imaging, many pictures of the illegible papyrus are taken using different filters, finely tuned to capture certain wavelengths of light. Thus, researchers can find the optimum spectral portion for distinguishing ink from paper in order to display otherwise completely illegible papyri. The amount of text potentially to be deciphered by this technique is huge. A selection of the images obtained during the project and more information on the latest discoveries has been provided on the project's website.[26]

On June 21, 2005, the Times Literary Supplement published the text and translation of a newly reconstructed poem by Sappho,[27] together with discussion by Martin L. West.[28] Part of this poem was first published in 1922 from an Oxyrhynchus papyrus, no. 1787 (fragment 1).[29] Most of the rest of the poem has now been found on a papyrus kept at Cologne University.[30]

In May 2020, an Egyptian-Spanish archaeological mission headed by Esther Pons and Maite Mascort revealed a unique cemetery consisting of one room built with glazed limestone dating back to the 26th Dynasty (so-called the El-Sawi era). Archaeologists also uncovered bronze coins, clay seals, Roman tombstones and small crosses.[31][32][33]

In February 2023, 16 individual tombs and 6 funerary complex from the Persian, Roman and Coptic periods and 2 deposited frogs were discovered by the Egyptian-Spanish archaeological mission. Majority of the bodies preserved with decorated shrouds were revealed alongside the pottery vessels and lamps.[34][35]

Archaeological structures of Muslim conquest


The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities expressed their interest in a project to restore the tombs of the Al-Bahnasa, an ancient city, in which many papyri dating back to the Greco-Roman era were found, as well as a number of tombs for the companions of Muhammad.[7] In 2021, Egypt's head of Islamic, Coptic, Jewish antiquities sector followed up on the progress of the restoration.[17]

In March 2020, archeological researchers from the Antiquities Inspection of Al-Bahnasa District located archaeological evidence of the encampment of Khalid ibn al-Walid and 10,000 soldiers under him, including 70 veterans of the Battle of Badr.[8] The excavators said the Muslim armies' encampments were located in the current location of the village of Beni Hilal, Minya District, west of Bahnasa.[8]

See also



  1. ^ a b E. A. Wallis Budge (1920). An Egyptian hieroglyphic dictionary: with an index of English words, king list and geological list with indexes, list of hieroglyphic characters, coptic and semitic alphabets, etc. Vol II=. John Murray. p. 987
  2. ^ a b Gauthier, Henri (1925). Dictionnaire des Noms Géographiques Contenus dans les Textes Hiéroglyphiques Vol .2. p. 83.
  3. ^ "Oxyrhynchus Online Image Database". Oxyrhynchus Online Project Metadata. Retrieved 27 March 2017. Document Location: The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt. Material: Paper. Image: Unavailable.
  4. ^ a b "Where is Oxyrhynchus?". Oxyrhynchus Online. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
  5. ^ "Results | The Cult of Saints". csla.history.ox.ac.uk. Retrieved 2024-01-05.
  6. ^ "EGYPT iv. Relations in the Sasanian period" at Encyclopædia Iranica
  7. ^ a b c d "The city of Bahnasa .. Why is the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities interested in restoring it?". Egypt Forward. 2020. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d Omar, Samir; Muslim, Mahmoud (2020). "باحث أثري يكشف سر إقامة 10 آلاف صحابي ومعركة خالد بن الوليد في البهنسا" [An archaeological researcher reveals the secret of the residence of 10 thousand companions and the battle of Khalid ibn al-Walid in Bahnasa]. Mahmoud Muslim. El-Wattan News. El-Wattan. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d e Harits, Deffa Cahyana (2019). "Bahnasa; Objek Wisata yang Menyimpan Jejak Sejarah Islam". KMA mesir. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  10. ^ a b c Shahine, Gihan. "For love of the Prophet's companions". Ahram online. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  11. ^ Abdel Aziz Munir 2012.
  12. ^ Blumell, Lincoln H. (2012). Epilogue. The Demise of Christian Oxyrhynchus. Brill. pp. 295–300. ISBN 9789004180987. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  13. ^ a b Waqidi, Muhammad ibn Umar (1934). F̣utūh al-Bahnasā al-Gharāʻ. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  14. ^ a b "Haḏā Kitāb" Qiṣṣat al-Bahnasā wa-mā fihā min al-ʿaǧā'ib wa-l-ġarā'ib (digitized Austrian National Library ed.). Maṭbaʿat al-Wahabīya. 1873. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  15. ^ Al Shinnawy, Mohammed (2019). "مدينة الشهداء خارج حساب محافظ المنيا" [The city of martyrs is outside the account of the governor of Minya]. Shada al-'Arab. Shada al-'Arab. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  16. ^ Abdul Ghafur, Hassan (2020). ""البهنسا" البقيع الثانى بالمنيا.. هنا يرقد أبطال غزوة بدر.. دفن بأرضها نحو 5000 صحابى.. وبها مقام سيدى على التكرورى.. السياحة ترصد ميزانية لأعمال ترميم وصيانة آثارها وأبرزها قباب الصحابة وسط مدافن البسطاء (صور)". al-Yaum al-Sab'a. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  17. ^ a b Karima, Hanya. "Egypt's head of Islamic, Coptic, Jewish antiquities sector follows up on progress of project of restoring archeological village of Al-Bahnasa in Minya". Egypt Today. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  18. ^ Ali, Mohammed (2015). أقاليم مصر الفرعونية. ktab INC. p. 215. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Abu Al-Saud, Mahmoud (2020). ""البهنسا".. طقوس فرضتها شمس "البقيع الثاني" ورمال ارتوت بدماء الصحابة". al Madain. al Madain. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  20. ^ Quoted in A.M. Luijendijk, "Sacred Scriptures as Trash: Biblical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus" Vigiliae Christianae, 2010.
  21. ^ Grenfell, Bernard (1898). "Oxyrhynchus and Its Papyri". In Griffith, F.L. (ed.). Archaeological Report: 1896-1897. Egypt Exploration Fund. pp. 1–12, (7). Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  22. ^ Search by table of contents Archived 2009-06-02 at the Wayback Machine; "Oxyrhynchus Online Image Database". Imaging Papyri Project. Retrieved 25 May 2007. A listing of what each fragment contains.
  23. ^ Bill Casselman. "One of the oldest extant diagrams from Euclid". Department of Mathematics, University of British Columbia. Retrieved 30 May 2007.
  24. ^ "Publications: Full List". Egypt Exploration Society. Archived from the original on 28 January 2008. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  25. ^ "Publications" (PDF). The Egypt Exploration Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 August 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2016.
  26. ^ "Multispectral imaging". Oxyrhynchos online. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
  27. ^ Martin West (24 June 2005). "A New Sappho Poem". Times Online. Archived from the original on 28 June 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2007.
  28. ^ Discussion by Martin West Archived September 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ "P.Oxy.XV 1787". Archived from the original on 2007-03-25. Retrieved 2006-03-23.see the third pair of images on this page
  30. ^ "P.Köln Inv. Nr. 21351_2". Archived from the original on 2007-03-17. Retrieved 2006-03-23.Image of papyrus fragment
  31. ^ "StackPath". dailynewsegypt.com. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  32. ^ "Unique cemetery dating back to el-Sawi era discovered in Egypt amid coronavirus crisis". Zee News. 2020-05-28. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  33. ^ Mahmoud, Rasha (2020-05-26). "Egypt makes major archaeological discovery amid coronavirus crisis". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  34. ^ "Group Of Persian, Roman and Coptic Tombs Discovered In Egypt". 2023-02-26.
  35. ^ "In Photos: 22 Persian, Roman and Coptic tombs discovered in Upper Egypt's Minya - Greco-Roman - Antiquities". Ahram Online. Retrieved 2023-03-03.

Further reading