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Alexander settled in Constantinople; in due course, we will need to say more about the monastery that he established there.

These forms of Syrian monasticism often attracted condemnations, which had an impact on the literary evidence: even in the Life of Alexander the Sleepless one detects an unmistakable defensiveness. But not all contemporary writings on early Syriac monks reflect these controversies. For example, Theodoret of Cyrrhus (c. 393-c. 460), whose History of the monks of Syria provides the first detailed description of Syrian monasticism, is much more positive in his account of the early monks. According to him, the first monks were James of Nisibis, who lived as an ascetic hermit before he became bishop of the town before 325, and Julian Saba, who founded a community in the 320s. From his writings, it appears that the earliest tradition is to be found in Osroene and Mesopotamia, and that it was only towards the end of the fourth century that numerous monastic establishments began to appear around Antioch, Apamea and Beroe as well. But Theodoret's account focuses on the radical practices of hermits in northeastern Syria, and should not be taken as a trustworthy image of the entire monastic tradition in Syria.

The most famous monk depicted by Theodoret was Symeon the Elder, the first stylite.47 As a young man, Symeon became a monk at the monastery of Teleda in 403. But he was forced to leave the monastery after some ten years, on account of his severe ascetic practice. He established himself as an open-air solitary on a small hill. To manifest his persistence and immovable standing in prayer, he attached himself to a rock and later stood on a pillar. The height of his pillar was gradually increased until it reached approximately eighteen metres. Symeon's standing on a pillar attracted people not only from northern Syria but from all over the empire - even in his own lifetime, small statues of him were found in Rome! This does not mean, however, that Symeon lacked critics. Several sources reveal that his lifestyle was called into question. These criticisms were so significant that Theodoret devoted a section of his description to defending Symeon's actions. (It should be noted that Theodoret was writing while Symeon was still alive.) The emphasis here on the role of Symeon as a missionary to the pagans ofthe area and especially to the nomads is important. It places Symeon in the tradition of the apostolic preacher, albeit now not an itinerant ascetic, but someone who instead attracts the world to himself. The sources on Symeon also reveal a probably widespread tension in

47 Hans Lietzmann, Das Leben des heiligen Symeon Stylites, is still the only major analysis of the various Lives of Symeon. Also useful is Hartmut Gustav Blersch, Die Saule im Weltgeviert. For a more recent contribution, see Susan Ashbrook Harvey, 'The Stylite's liturgy'.

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