Info

by Clement and Origen, and the subsequent tradition in Egypt and Palestine makes it clear that his influence was far-reaching.21

At the time of Anthony's death, monasticism in Lower Egypt - especially in the area known as Nitria and Scetis (the modern Wadi 'n-Natràn) - experienced an immense growth and the circulation of the Life of Anthony drew the attention of the wider Christian tradition to the Egyptian desert.22 In the last quarter of the century, a kind of'ascetic tourism' developed with numerous visitors from abroad coming to see, admire and emulate the fathers of the desert, some even staying in Egypt foryears. Among these were prominent Christian intellectuals like Rufinus, Melania the Elder, Jerome, Evagrius of Pontus, Palladius, John Cassian and the anonymous author of the History of the monks in Egypt. Through their writings and their own establishments the forms of life and the teachings of the monks had a deep impact throughout the Christian empire during the first decades of the fifth century. Of particular importance is Evagrius, who had served under Gregory of Nazianzus in Cappadocia and Constantinople and after a short stay in Jerusalem settled in Nitria. He was condemned in the sixth century on account of some esoteric speculations, but his ascetic writings have remained basic for Eastern monasticism to this very day. The most important and widely diffused source for the transmission of the ideals of the early Egyptian tradition, the Apophthegmata patrum, was collected and edited anonymously in Palestine in the second half of the fifth century and later enlarged, re-organised and re-edited in all the languages of early Christianity.23

The first-known monk to have organised and supervised larger monastic communities was Pachomius, who in the 320s established a series of monasteries for both men and women that were linked to each other at Tabennesi in Upper Egypt. Under his leadership and that of his successors, a series of rules developed which through translations came to influence the entire monastic tradition. Sharing many of the basic ascetic ideals and their biblical and theological foundations with Lower Egyptian monasticism, the Pachomian tradition is marked by a much stronger emphasis on communal responsibilities and

21 The various sources on Anthony are discussed in ibid., 163-84.

22 Rufinus gives the figure 3,000 for the monks in the area of Nitria, outside Alexandria, in 373 (H.E. 2.3), and fifteen years later Palladius counted 5,000 monks (H.L. 7.2); of course, these figures need not be taken as precise demographic calculations to appreciate the point: the desert had become a city

23 The first to record sayings of the desert fathers in writing was Evagrius in the 390s, but there is no evidence for larger collections before the mid-fifth century For a Palestinian original redaction see L. Regnault, Les p'eres du désert, 65-83 and the discussion and references in Graham Gould, The desert fathers on monastic community, 9-17.

0 0

Post a comment