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the squawks of crows in the courtyard of the Sarapeum in Alexandria, but ironically: as heralding the death of the emperor Julian.13

Athanasius' subtle insertion of the hermit Anthony into the field of Egyptian divination was therefore hardly peripheral to his overall promotion of the saint as an exemplary friend of God. Divination was the primary field in which desert saints seem to have made their marks on society - as interpreters of Christian authority in the framework of civic arbitration.14 The fourth-century John of Lycopolis is hailed in the Historia monachorum in Aegypto as a prophet for pilgrims from all over, informing them on matters identical to those once brought to temple oracles, and even on the kinds of political issues that had brought the wrath of Rome down on temples and diviners in earlier times: the fate of political conspiracies, the success of military campaigns, the safety of travellers, the culprits in village crimes, the timing of the Nile surge and the resulting crop-yield. Another fourth-century monk, in the village of Boushem, is recalled with somewhat less favour for telling people events that had not yet taken place and they would take place. In a word, he controlled them through these predictions. Indeed, if all the people's possessions were lost, he would say to them, 'Go to a certain place and you will find them,' and they would go and find them. He would also tell them when war was going to take place and how many people were going to die and it happened just as he had said.15

This monk's chief sin in ecclesiastical memory actually lay in teaching an extreme sexual renunciation for layfolk. His prophetic claims were not rejected outright but merely lampooned as overreaching. Holy men, indeed, were expected to provide such services. Through mediating otherworldly knowledge they demonstrated affiliations with God.

Egyptian Christian leaders worked within a religious worldview in which gods were assumed and expected to speak to their devotees, whether in dreams and visions, the prophetic utterances of holy men, or holy texts. The Bible should serve as the main source ofdivination, Athanasius argued against those tempted by arcane visionary texts purveyed by apocalyptic sects.16 But from about the fifth century on, pilgrims bringing their demands for clairvoyance

13 Apophthegmatapatrum Epiphanius; Sozomen, H.E. 4.10.

14 Cf.Peter Brown, 'The rise and function of the holy man'; Frankfurter, Religion in Roman Egypt, 145-97, esp. 184-93.

15 Palladius, H.L. 17, Coptic recension (ed. Chalne, 246); trans. in Tim Vivian, Four desert fathers, 110.

16 Athanasius, Festal letter 39; see David Brakke, 'Canon formation and social conflict'.

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