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A less biased and more comprehensive view of the landscape of early monasticism makes it clear that there were in fact many varieties of monasticism in the first centuries. It seems possible to distinguish, at least theoretically, between six different kinds of monks on the basis of how and where they lived:

• Monks attached to a church, or a shrine; in our early sources these are primarily either female ascetics (known as virgins and widows) who lived attached, more or less closely, to a church and had certain rights and duties in the congregation, or else ascetic teachers and preachers who sometimes travelled from one congregation to another but did not adopt a permanent itinerant lifestyle. Celibate ascetics of this kind are known from all over the early church. They are acknowledged in the church orders from the Apostolic tradition onwards and are mentioned in apocryphal texts as well as Acts of martyrs.14 They were most probably a significant element in the Montanist movement as well as in congregations sharing the radically dualist views of Marcion or other teachers of gnosis, though they are also prominent in the major centres of the early church. In most texts, the urban male celibate ascetics are soon designated 'monks' under the influence of the rapid growth of monasticism outside the cities and the spread of monastic literature, whereas the female celibate ascetics continue to be called 'virgins'. In general, the urban monks and virgins attached to churches and shrines were responsible for prayer and charitable work, ideally under the supervision of the bishop.

• Members of an ascetic household; here, the head of the household turns the family estate into a kind of monastery. This practice is first visible in the mid-fourth century, the best-known example being the household ofthe widowed mother of the Cappadocian fathers Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa.15 There is, however, no reason to suppose that these were the first Christian households where a celibate ascetic life was a rule, at least after the birth of one or two children. These monastic households were, as far as our sources reveal, mainly established on the initiative of women, but could also include their husbands if they committed to continence. In some cases these household monasteries were made up of the family and their servants; in other cases non-relatives were invited to join, but the monastery remained the sole property of the founding family on whose wealth the establishment still depended. Due to continuous criticism and even complete rejection of

14 See Hippolytus, The Apostolic tradition, 10,12, 30.

15 See Gregory of Nyssa, Life ofMacrina.

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