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The Megáli̱ Apódrasi̱ (μεγάλη απόδραση; translation: Great Escape), was the mass migration of the Greek population from Roman Greece, to the Egyptian Empire (Battle of Belusium) between the year 393-395. It was the result of the persecutions carried out against the Greeks by Emperor Theodosius, and the Roman religious hierarchy.
After the establishment of Christianity as the state religion, and the outlawing of non-Christian religions, the varying philosophies becoming increasingly controversial throughout the Roman Empire. Fearing that the counter philosophies could threaten the standing of both the Imperial family, and the religious hierarchy, the government began cracking down on philosophy schools and communities. As a result of this, many Greek philosophies began immigrating south to Egypt.
The religious hierarchy began pushing for the whole Greek population to be dealt with. The conversion of the Greeks was proceeding very slowly, and coupled with the continued philosophical ideas that were being spread, lessoned the bishops' power in that part of the Empire.
Timeline of Migration
At first, the persecution of the common Greek citizen was minor, with the commander of the legion stationed in Athens, being a Greek by blood, unwilling to fully act out the order. This changed abruptly, when a new commander was stationed there. After that, the Greek population had to pay large taxes, they were forbidden to join the military, and those who did not convert to Christianity were tortured until they did.
To escape the persecution, hundreds of Greeks began to travel south to the Egyptian Empire, who's policy of religious tolerance was very appealing. The reigning Pharaoh,Seti VI, who had a great admiration for Greek philosophy, gave full royal support to philosophical studies. As a result of that, Egypt was a popular destination for Greeks seeking to avoid Roman laws.
Burning of Athens
An unexpected side effect of the Greek immigration to Egypt, was the Roman officials, but not necessarily the Emperor, became more paranoid about the Greeks. The Egyptian and Roman Empires had always been rivals, and with Egyptian support for Greek thought, and the Greeks who were traveling there, fear about Greek spies for Egypt grew. Treatment to the Greeks became worse, as they were taxed even heavier, and Roman legionnaires were given permission to enter and seize Greek property.
All of this culminated when Greek commoners began to riot outside the legion barracks. During the chaos, a legionnaire was hit with a javelin, and while he was uninjured (the javelin had a broken tip, and was for athletic use), the legion began to attack the civilians. As the chaos grew, at least seven fires were started separately, until it combined in a massive inferno.
Much of Athens was destroyed in the process, and the entire surviving population traveled to Egypt. The destruction of Athens shocked many people across Greece, and immigration to Egypt greatly increased.
Migration in Other Provinces
Though other provinces in the Empire were never persecuted the way Greece was, people in Iberia and Gaul became very fearful about such violence in other places. With word about supposed better treatment in Egypt, hundreds of Gauls and Iberians began traveling to Egypt.
Though there was no official change of policy, after the death of Theodosius, and the removal of the commander in Greece, the persecutions petered out, and peace returned to the province. However, but that time, over 60% of the Greek population had left Greece, Athens was burned to the ground, and several other cities were completely abandoned. The remaining Greeks converted to Christianity peacefully.
In the other provinces, who were never affected the way the Greeks, life there remained more or less the same, despite the sight decrease in population.
Effect in Egypt
The mass migration, dramatically spiked the Caucasian population in the Egyptian Empire. While there was also a decent sized amount of people already there (even prior to the persecution, many Greeks moved to Egypt due to what was perceived as a more tolerant regime), it was still a notable minority. The arrival of the Greeks, Guals and Iberians increased the population rapidly, thought it still remained a minority. The first couple generations maintianed their cultural religions, but over time, they lessoned, as most converted to Kemetism.
Most of the immigrants entered into the Imperial Army, due to it being reputed as a good source of income for new citizens. Others traveled further south, settling along the banks of the Nile. Some of them settled as far south as South Africa.
The increase in the Caucasian population in both the Empire began to make gradual, but dramatic effects. In the military, over time, Caucasians rose in rank, until they reached high ranking positions in both the army, and the Imperial Court. This allowed the rise of the first "White Pharaohs".
The exact amount of Europeans who traveled to Egypt is still a subject of debate. While the Egyptian records generally estimate the number as being between one million and two million, there are some historians who maintain that the amount was much larger. While the Greeks were fully recorded in the immigrant census, the others were not, so records of them are more ambiguous. Based on Roman census, the amounts are estimated to be roughly a few thousand in Gaul and Iberia each.
The migration is formally recorded in Egyptian Imperial records, and was later adapted into a holiday that is now actively observed yearly throughout the Empire. The date came to be known as "Migrant Memorial Day". The migration made Egypt even more diverse than it already was.