record which assigns a number to an indiction cycle. This unique example, though perhaps
only a curiosum to some because of its late date, invites some reflection.
The source in question is found in a Coptic manuscript now preserved in the
Vatican Library, Vat. copt. 69.6 This miscellany in the Bohairic dialect of Coptic was
brought to Rome by J.S. Assemani in 1715 from the Monastery of St. Macarius in the
Wadi Natrun.7 It belongs to a collection of texts translated from Sahidic Coptic, probably
in an effort to reconstruct the library of the Monastery of St. Macarius after its destruction
by nomads c. 817.8 In Southern Egypt, including the Faiyum, monasteries continued to
copy Sahidic manuscripts for another 300 years before they too turned to Bohairic. By
then, the Bohairic dialect had imposed itself as the liturgical language of the entire Coptic
Church, and Coptic was no longer a living language.
In line 20 on f.102v of Vat. copt. 69, a colophon in a cursive Greek hand dates
the manuscript to the 9th hour of the 10th day of the month Abib of the year 649 according
to the Era of the Martyrs (July 4, AD 933).9 The colophon contains the additional
indication KicvX i "the 43rd cycle".10 The number of the year within the cycle is not
indicated. The year 933 in the manuscript can only fall in the 43rd cycle if the indiction
cycles began in 297.
If correct, this information may shed light on the way the indiction system came
to be thought of, independent of how it actually developed at the end of the third and the
beginning of the fourth century. It was mentioned above that the regular indiction system
started only in 314, but was retrospectively considered to have begun in 312. Along the
same lines, it seems plausible that the beginning of the first cycle was backdated at some
6A. Hebbelynck-A. van Lantschoot, Codices Coptici Vaticani (Vatican City: Vatican Library 1937) 521.
In a work published some years before the turning point caused by Kase's contribution (n. 5), van
Lantschoot indicates the importance of this evidence, but this seems to have passed unnoticed (Recueil des
colophons des manuscrits chritiens d'tgypte. Tome I: Les colophons coptes des manuscrits sahidiques
[Bibliothdque du Musion 1; Leuven 1929] no. 1 n. 8).
7H.G. Evelyn White, The Monasteries of the Wadi 'n Natrun, vol. 1 (New York: The Metropolitan
Museum 1926 = 21973), xxxix.
8L. Th. Lefort, "Litt6rature bohairique," Le Museon 44 (1931) 115-135.
9The colophon is reproduced in H. Hyvemat's Album de paldographie copte (Paris 1888 = Osnabruck: Otto
Zeller 1972) pl. 24.
'0The word Kidko; obviously refers to the indiction cycle; cf. the expression IN TGOpnTT NpOMTT
MTlKYKXOC "in the first year of the indiction cycle" in the colophon of Pierpont Morgan M 579 (ed.
Lantschoot, Recueil, no. 1, 16-17). Although, in the collection of Bohairic manuscripts to which Vat.
copt. 69 belongs (Vat. copt. 56-69), dating years according to indictions seems to have gone out of use,
Sahidic manuscripts used this dating system correctly for at least another 80 years. The latest date in the
colophons from the manuscripts of the Monastery of St. Michael in the Faiyum now in the Pierpont
Morgan Library is AD 848. Manuscripts from Southern Egypt now in the British Library contain dates as
late as AD 1005 (cf. van Lantschoot 1929, 2nd fasc. 95-96 no. 120 = B. Layton, Catalogue of Coptic
Literary Manuscripts in the British Library Acquired Since the Year 1906 [London: The British Library
1987], no. 160). Other certain dates are 981, 987, 1003, and 1004 AD (= van Lantschoot, Recueil, nos.
110, 111, 112, 118, 119 = Layton, Catalogue, nos. 121, 159, 120, 152, 161).