worldly goods; the reluctant assumption of the role of spiritual leadership; the saint's spiritual teachings; the battle against demons; persecution by secular authorities; his/her welcome death (often foretold by the saint), followed by miracles attesting to his/her holiness. A rare example of a female saint's Life is the Vita Macrinae, written by Gregory of Nyssa, Macrina's younger brother.

Some ofthese stock themes are also found in Porphyry's Vita Plotini,87 the Life of the third-century Neoplatonist philosopher Plotinus. Although Porphyry (232-305) was hostile to Christianity, and although his vita was directed at an elite pagan audience, his account of his teacher's life and teaching prefigures many of the characteristics of fourth-century Christian vitae, such as Plotinus' scorn of the body (1-2); his love of wisdom (philosophy) (3); his withdrawal to country estates to practise philosophy (5 and 12); and his attracting of disciples (7), including women (9). Even an element of the miraculous is found in Plotinus' demonstration of supernatural powers of clairvoyance (11). These similarities are testimony to the continuity of Neoplatonic and Stoic ideals within Christian asceticism.

Other popular literature included pilgrim journals, such as the account of the fourth-century nun Egeria's travels to the Holy Land, which remains a valuable source for Eastern liturgical practices.88 Jerome's Liber locorum and Liber nominum, based on Eusebius' Onomasticon, and describing the Hebrew names and sites of places of spiritual interest in the Holy Land, could also be included in this category. From the fourth century, monastic literature enjoyed a huge florescence. It included rules (regulae) and collections of holy sayings, as well as monastic histories such as Theodoret's Historia religiosa, consisting of the biographies of about thirty monks and three nuns of Syria,89 and the anonymous Historia monachorum inAegypto. These were also used in devotional contexts.

Poetry and hymns

Hymns could also be described as a form of popular literature. While the poetry of Gregory of Nazianzus was extremely polished and usually directed towards some dogmatic purpose (e.g., his poem on marriage is one of the most moving tributes to this institution in the whole Christian canon, all the more striking for its rarity), hymns were usually directed at a less learned audience, and were written for use in the liturgy. Ancient Greek and Roman influences on

87 An English translation is available in M. Edwards, Neo-Platonic saints; a partial translation by Richard Valantasis can be found in his Religions of late antiquity in practice, 50-61.

88 Egeria, Travels (SC 296).

89 On the place of ascetics in the life of the Syrian church, see Rousseau, 'Historia religiosa".

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