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 from Ancient Egyptian:  is a city in Middle Egypt. Located 100 kilometres (62 miles) southwest of Cairo, in the Faiyum Oasis, it is the capital of the modern Faiyum Governorate. Originally called Shedet in Egyptian, the Greeks called it Koinē GreekΚροκοδειλόπολις Krokodilópolis, and later Arsinoë.[1] It is one of Egypt's oldest cities due to its strategic location.[1]


Its name in English is also spelled as
FayumFaiyum or Al Faiyūm Or Fayoum . Faiyum was previously officially named Madīnet Al Faiyūm (Arabic for The City of Faiyum). The name Faiyum (and its spelling variations) may also refer to the Faiyum Oasis, although it is commonly used by Egyptians today to refer to the city.[2][3]

 
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in hieroglyphs


The modern name of the city comes from Coptic  ̀Ⲫⲓⲟⲙ /Ⲡⲉⲓⲟⲙ epʰiom/peiom (whence the proper name Ⲡⲁⲓⲟⲙ payom), meaning the Sea or the Lake, which in turn comes from late Egyptian pꜣ-ymꜥ of the same meaning, a reference to the nearby Lake Moeris; the extinct elephant ancestor Phiomia was named after it.

Ancient history[edit]

Archaeological evidence has found occupations around the Fayum dating back to at least the Epipalaeolithic. Middle Holocene occupations of the area are most widely studied on the north shore of Lake Moeris, where Gertrude Caton Thompson and Elinor Wight Gardner did a number of excavations of Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic sites, as well as a general survey of the area.[4] Recently the area has been further investigated by a team from the UCLA/RUG/UOA Fayum Project.[5][6]

In ancient Egypt, the city was called Shedet.[1] It was the most significant centre of the cult of the crocodile god Sobek (borrowed from the Demotic pronunciation as Koinē GreekΣοῦχος Soûkhos, and then into Latin as Suchus). In consequence, the Greeks called it "Crocodile City" (Koinē GreekΚροκοδειλόπολις Krokodeilópolis), which was borrowed into Latin as Crocodīlopolis. The city worshipped a tamed sacred crocodile called in Koine Petsuchos, "the Son of Soukhos", that was adorned with gold and gem pendants. The Petsoukhos lived in a special temple pond and was fed by the priests with food provided by visitors. When Petsuchos died, it was replaced by another.[7][8]

Under the Ptolemaic Kingdom, the city was for a while called Ptolemais Euergétis (Koinē GreekΠτολεμαὶς Εὐεργέτις).[9] Ptolemy II Philadelphus (309–246 BC) renamed the city Arsinoë and the whole nome after the name of his sister-wife Arsinoe II (316–270 or 268), who was deified after her death as part of the Ptolemaic cult of Alexander the Great, the official religion of the kingdom.[10]

Under the Roman Empire, Arsinoë became part of the province of Arcadia Aegypti. To distinguish it from other cities of the same name, it was called "Arsinoë in Arcadia".

With the arrival of Christianity, Arsinoë became the seat of a bishopric, a suffragan of Oxyrhynchus, the capital of the province and the metropolitan seeMichel Le Quien gives the names of several bishops of Arsinoë, nearly all of them associated with one heresy or another.[11]

The Catholic Church, considering Arsinoë in Arcadia to be no longer a residential bishopric, lists it as a titular see.[12]

Fayyum was the seat of Shahralanyozan, governor of the Sasanian Egypt (619–629).[13]

The 10th-century Bible exegete, Saadia Gaon, thought el-Fayyum to have actually been the biblical city of Pithom, mentioned in Exodus 1:11.[14]

Around 1245, the region became the subject of the most detailed government survey to survive from the medieval Arab world, conducted by Abū ‘Amr ‘Uthman Ibn al-Nābulusī.[15]

Faiyum mummy portraits[edit]

 
Portrait of a man, c. 125–150 AD. Encaustic on wood; 37 cm × 20 cm (15 in × 8 in)

Faiyum is the source of some famous death masks or mummy portraits painted during the Roman occupation of the area. The Egyptians continued their practice of burying their dead, despite the Roman preference for cremation. While under the control of the Roman Empire, Egyptian death masks were painted on wood in a pigmented wax technique called encaustic—the Faiyum mummy portraits represent this technique.[16] While previously believed to represent Greek settlers in Egypt,[17][18] modern studies conclude that the Faiyum portraits instead represent mostly native Egyptians, reflecting the complex synthesis of the predominant Egyptian culture and that of the elite Greek minority in the city.[19][20][21]