During the fourth century there seems to have been increasing tensions between parts of the monastic tradition and the ecclesiastical leadership in Alexandria. Bishop Athanasius (sed. 328-73) struggled to promote not only an ascetic tradition within the Church of Alexandria but also to connect the various forms of monastic experiments in Egypt to the orthodox tradition and to the Alexandrian patriarchate.29 He inaugurated a policy of ordaining leading monastic figures as bishops, which, although successful in the long run, was strongly resisted by many of the monks who regarded the bishop's office as in itself incompatible with a true monastic life. There are also signs of a growing conflict between a more powerful established church and monastic groups. In the last decade of the fourth century the tension erupted into a violent conflict, originating with monastic critique of Theophilus, the bishop of Alexandria (sed. 385-412), but manifested in a clash over the legacy of Origen as part of the so-called 'First Origenist Controversy'.30 The result was that, in 399, the intellectual leaders of Lower Egyptian monasticism were expelled from Egypt on the accusation of being Origenists. One of these monks, Evagrius of Pontus, whose writings afford us a privileged glimpse into the appropriation of Origen by these monks, had died a few months before.

During the fifth century, a rapid decrease in the anchoretic tradition in Egypt was caused by series of nomadic attacks on the often wealthy monastic establishments (especially on the unprotected communities in the deserts near Alexandria) and by the tightening of ecclesiastical control. In response to the nomads, monks gathered in larger monasteries with protecting walls and, in response to the patriarch, they began cultivating good relations with civic and ecclesiastical authorities. Close relations between the patriarchate of Alexandria and the monasteries was strengthened by the establishment of important monasteries near the city, which directly contributed to the almost universal monastic support for the patriarchs in the Christological conflicts and the strong monastic opposition to the Council of Chalcedon in 451. (A direct link between the ascetic ideals of the Egyptian monastic tradition and the rejection of any 'two natures' formula in Christology has also been suggested).31 During the persecutions of the non-Chalcedonians in Egypt in the sixth and especially the early seventh centuries, the monasteries became the centres of the Coptic church and its refusal to accept the policy of the emperors. According to the Coptic sources the monasteries became the refuge of

29 See David Brakke, Athanasius and the politics of asceticism.

30 See Elizabeth Clark, The Origenist Controversy, with references to previous literature. Still useful is H. G. Evelyn-White, The monasteries of the Wadi 'n Natnin, ii: 125-44.

31 See Jan-Eric Steppa, JohnRufus.

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