After Nicaea

Athanasius continued to battle for the Nicene cause. He also wrote a propagandists Life of Anthony, one of the first monks in Egypt. For Athanasius Anthony stood against Arius, a questionable claim, but the rest of the Life seems trustworthy. Letters that Anthony wrote indicate his strong Trinitarian position. When he decided to abandon his former life, he made arrangements for his orphaned sister and went to the desert. As he left the village he passed monks already following that life at the edge of his village.12 Indeed, some monks and nuns of the fourth century lived within cities not villages. In about 315, Amoun (d. c. 350) had gone from Alexandria to the desert around Mt Nitria in the Nile delta, leaving his wife from an arranged continent marriage. She stayed put and organised her urban household into a convent.13

Early Egyptian monasticism depended upon the social climate ofthe country. Farmers could be displaced from their fields because of weather or in some areas by raiding desert tribes. Monasteries early and late drew from the displaced as well as those well established. The call to the disciplined life of a monk, whether as an itinerant, a hermit or in a community (koino-bion), attracted people who could neither read nor write. Yet educated people retreated to the quiet places in order to pursue investigations of what troubled them religiously. That early Egyptian monasticism was educationally and

11 R. Williams, 'Arius and the Meletian schism', has demonstrated that there is no proven connection between Arius and the Meletians.

12 See chapter 27, below.

13 J. Goehring, Ascetics, society and the desert, 122-3.

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