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Medieval Sourcebook:
Circus Factions in Egypt

The Constantinople Circus factions - the Blues and Greens - were not only involved in verbal sporting conflicts - sometimes there was greater violence. And the factions were spread throughout the Empire. Below John, bishop of Nikiu, describes party strife in Egypt shortly before the Persian conquest (c. 608-10)

A striking modern analogy exists with these fifth-seventh century factions. In the modern Scottish city of Glasgow, supporters of Glasgow Rangers Football club were blue and supporters of Glasgow Celtic wear Green. Within living memory this sports rivalry extended to street violence and politics: the green wearing Celtic fans tended to be Roman Catholic and to vote for the Labour Party; blue dressed Rangers fans were Protestant (indeed the club long would have no Catholics as players), and voted Unionist (ie. Conservative).


Chronicle of John Bishop of Nikiu, trans. R. H. Charles (London, 1916), p. 175.

And taking advantage of the war between Bonosus and Nicetas [rival Byzantine generals], artisan guilds [the Greens] arose and perpetrated outrages on the Blues and gave themselves shamelessly to pillage and murder. And when Nicetas was apprised of these facts he had them arrested,and reproved them, and said unto them: "Do no outrage henceforth to any one." And he established peace amongst them. And he named prefects in all the cities and repressed Plundering and violence, and he lightened their taxes for three years. And the Egyptians were very much attached to him.


Chronicle of John Bishop of Nikiu, trans. R. H. Charles (London, 1916), p. 187-88

And Menas who was the leader of the Green faction, and Cosmas the son of Samuel, the leader of the Blues, besieged the city of Misr [Egypt] and harassed the Romans [Byzantines] during the days of the Moslem. {invasion]

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(c)Paul Halsall, June 1997

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© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 20 January 2021 [CV]