An area of considerable size in Upper Egypt, named from the capital at Thebes, and in ancient times extending as far north as Memphis. Under Roman domination, the province extended only as far north as Antinoë and was divided into Upper and Lower Thebais. This region had many martyrs in the persecutions under both Septimius Severus in 202 and Diocletian in 303 (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 6.1).
In the third century the Thebaid proper was the birthplace of Christian monasticism which was influenced by the lives of Paul the hermit (c. 230–341), St. anthony of egypt, St. Palamon, shenoute of atripe, doro theus of Thebes, and many other hermits. In the 4th century pachomius, a native of Esneh in the Thebaid, was inspired by its anchorites and gave it renown as the birthplace of cenobitic monasticism. Beginning in tabennisi (c. 320) Pachomius founded nine monasteries for men: Pbow, where he established himself permanently; Schenesit, Temouschons, Thebion; farther north (near the modern Akhmim), Monchosis, Hermopolis, Armoutim; and farthest south, Phenoum, near Esneh. He also established two monasteries for women, one under his sister Mary at Athribis. Soon after his death the monk Bgoul established a monastery at Atripe for greater austerity. His nephew and successor, Shenoute of Atripe, is noted for excessive austerities. rufinus of aquileia, palladi us, and Aetheria visited the monks of the Thebaid at the end of the fourth century; John cassian probably did not carry out his intention of going there. athanasius of al exandria spent his third exile (356–362) with the monks of the Thebaid.
In 450 the area of Upper Egypt was divided into three ecclesiastical provinces: Thebais I, with metropolitan at Antinoë; Thebais II, with capital at Ptolemais Hermiu; and Arcadia, with oxyrhynchus as metropolitan see. There were some 30 suffragan bishoprics in the area, and Palladius speaks of 1,200 monks and 12 convents for women (c. 400). The Thebaid had a strong influence on the development of the coptic rite and on the evolution of the Sahidic dialect, as well as on Coptic literature and art.
Bibliography: b. kÖtting, Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 10:13–14. h. junker, Oriens Christianus 6 (1906) 319–411; 7 (1907) 136–253; 8 (1908) 2–109. h. lietzmann, ibid. NS 9 (1920) 1–19. a. m. kropp, ibid. 3d ser. 7 (1932) 111–125. h. rosweyde, ed., Vitae Patrum, 2 v. (Antwerp 1628; repr. Patrologia Latina 73–74). ru finus of aquilea, Historia monachorum, PL 21:387–462. j. r. pa lanque et al., The Church in the Christian Roman Empire, tr. e. c. messenger, 2 v. in 1 (New York 1953) 2:421–512. f. van der meer and c. mohrmann, Atlas of The Early Christian World, ed. and tr. m. f. hedlund and h. h. rowley (New York 1958) 17, 34.
[m. c. mccarthy]