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Syrian monasticism between the celebrated solitary ascetics and the communities. Several other sources also show a strong emphasis on the individual and describe the role of the monastery as largely consisting in being a preparatory arena and a source of support for the most celebrated ascetics.

In Syria (as in Palestine), the monastic tradition generally sided with the opposition against the Council of Chalcedon in 451; further east, monks were already aligning themselves against the Council of Ephesus in 431. Even taking into consideration the theological issues involved, it is clear that the monks were largely concerned to express dissatisfaction with the close collaboration between the bishops, who were often well-educated men from the wealthy classes, and government officials. The Syrian monks described in our sources were usually at home in the rural areas or among the poorer strata of society. Those who were settled in monasteries or as hermits at the outskirts of the towns were deeply attached to the local population and acted on their behalf in the time of crisis. Our best source for monasticism in Syria after 451 is the account by John of Ephesus (c. 507-86).48 By his time, the coenobitic tradition seems to have overshadowed the earlier forms of monastic life. The monasteries were well-developed and autonomous centres. Within them, both ecclesiastical leaders and recluses found their place and support. The monasteries functioned as both schools and hospitals and a refuge in time of crisis -an important consideration for inhabitants of eastern Syria, which was after all border country between the Roman and the Persian empires during a period often at daggers drawn. Although persecuted by the authorities for their opposition to the Council of Chalcedon, the monasteries remained strongholds in the conflicts with the Persians.

Asia Minor

The rise of monasticism in Asia Minor is linked to Eustathius of Sebaste, an ascetic leader who became bishop of Sebaste in the 360s. By that time, he was already a famous figure and highly regarded as a monastic pioneer in Constantinople as well as in Caesarea.49 The canons of the synod of Gangra, most probably held in 340, give us a glimpse of the practices and views of his followers.50 In addition to wearing special clothes, not cutting their hair and allowing male and female ascetics to live together, there is a radicalisation of

48 See Susan Ashbrook Harvey, Asceticism and society in crisis.

50 Our source for Gangra is the epistula synodica, which is found in P.-P. Joannou, ed. Discipline générale antique. For the date, see J. Gribomont, 'Saint Basile et le monachisme enthousiaste', 126. T. D. Barnes, 'The date of the Council of Gangra', argues for 355.

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