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The Paradise Of The Holy Fathers Volumes 1 and 2 by Saint Athanasius Of Alexandria

THE principal facts of the life of Palladius we owe to the famous biographer of the monks himself, and nearly all of them are to be found in the History of the Acts of the Holy Fathers, which he dedicated to his patron Lausus, and entitled Paradise. He was born, probably in Galatia (see Vol. I, p. 170), about A. D. 364, but of his family, and of his boyhood and early manhood nothing is known. He appears to have embraced the ascetic life, to a greater or lesser degree, when he was about twenty years of age.

Soon after Palladius became a monk, he went and lived with the “blessed priest Innocent” on the Mount of Olives for a period of three years (386–388). Innocent had formerly been a court official “in the kingdom of the Emperor Constantine,” and he had a son, but he “withdrew himself from marriage” (Vol. I, p. 184) and became a monk. Palladius describes Innocent as a man of most merciful disposition, and he tells us that he used to steal things from the brethren in order to give them to the poor and needy; all the same he considered him to be a man “lacking in sense.” Innocent possessed a small martyrium in which he kept a blessed [relic] of St. John the Baptist, and by means of this he cast out from a young woman a devil which vexed her exceedingly, and caused such writhing and contortions of her body that “when she spat the spittle fell on her side,” instead of away from her.

When Palladius was about twenty-three or twenty-four years of age he visited Alexandria for the first time; this event took place, as he himself tells us (Vol. I, p. 89), in the second Consulate of the Emperor Theodosius the Great, i.e., in 388. Here he met Isidore, the secretary of the hospital which was supported by the Church of Alexandria, who had lived as a monk in Nitria, and was at that time about seventy years of age. Isidore was a wealthy man, and gave large alms to the poor and needy (Vol. I, p. 90), but he fared hardly. He never wore a linen shirt, or put a covering on his head; he never ate meat, never partook of a full meal, seated comfortably at a table, and never washed, yet his body was strong, sound and healthy. With him Palladius lived for a short time, but finding that he required “not the Word only but also the labour of the body, and severe physical exercises, even like the young unbroken animal,” and that he had no great need of doctrine, but did need the power to subdue the passions of his early manhood, he besought Isidore to let him go and live by himself. Isidore granted his request, and then took him to a place about six miles from Alexandria, and placed him in the hands of Dorotheos the Anchorite, who had lived in a cave for sixty years, and had been a friend and associate of St. Anthony in the desert in the days of the Emperor Maximinus [II] (305–314) (Vol. I, p. 93).

Of the manner of the life which this Dorotheos led we obtain a good idea from Palladius (Vol. I, p. 91). He lived on a daily allowance of six ounces of bread, a little bundle of green herbs, and a limited quantity of water. He spent his days in collecting stones in the desert near the sea, and in building cells for the monks who could not build cells for themselves. He did not sleep by day, and he occupied himself during the nights in weaving palm-leaf baskets, from the sale of which he bought his daily bread and herbs. He never laid himself down to sleep on a bed of palm leaves, but slept in snatches as he sat at work, or whilst he was eating his scanty food (Vol. I, p. 92).

When Isidore left Palladius with Dorotheos, he told him to stay with that stern old man for three years so that he might slay his passions, and then to come back to him to receive the completion of his spiritual education. Palladius, however, was unable to complete his period of three years, for the want of sleep and food, and exposure to cold brought on a severe illness, and he was obliged to return to his friend Isidore, who cared for every one but himself. About this time Palladius became acquainted with Didymus of Alexandria, who was at that time eighty years old, and had been blind since the fourth year of his age. In spite of his blindness he was well versed in the Scriptures, and was thoroughly acquainted with the “belief of the truth,” and he “comprehended so deeply all heresies that his knowledge was more excellent than that of many who were before him in the Church” (Vol. I, p. 94). He was a friend of St. Anthony, who visited him three times in his cell. Thus, before he was twenty-five years old Palladius had made the acquaintance of two great monks who had known St. Anthony.

During the three years which followed his return to Isidore, Palladius passed his time in going about from monastery to monastery in the neighbourhood of Alexandria, and he says (Vol. I, p. 99) that he met about “two thousand of the great and strenuous men” who lived in them. After this he departed to Mount Nitria, that is to say, to the district commonly called “Wâdî an-Natrûn,” the “Nitre Valley,” or “Birkat an-Natrûn,” the “Nitre Lake,” which lies between 30° and 31° North Lat., about two days’ journey from the Rosetta arm of the Nile. A tradition which seems to rest on fact asserts that the oldest home of Christian asceticism in Egypt was in this place. Between Nitria and Alexandria lies Lake Mareotis, and having sailed across this in one-and-a-half days, Palladius came to the “Mountain of the Mazaki and Mauritanians.” Here he found a society which consisted of some six hundred monks, who lived either in communities or as solitary dwellers in the mountain, and he stayed in this place for a year. We may note in passing that several of the monks whom he met possessed purely Egyptian names, e.g., Arsisius = Heru-sa Ast, Busiris = Pa-Asar, Petâ-Bast, Serapion = Asar Hapi, etc., and it is probable that they were pure Egyptians. Having learned from these many facts about Ammon and “the first spiritual fathers” who had lived there, he departed to “the inner desert, wherein is Mount Nitria” (Vol. I, p. 99), probably in the year 391, when he was about twenty-five years of age, and he remained there for nine years.

In the inner desert of Nitria, I alladius heard of Hor, who never uttered a lie, or cursed, or swore an oath, and who never spoke except when it was absolutely necessary to do so, but did not see him. Pambo died on the day of the arrival of Palladius in Nitria (Vol. I, p. 103), but many of the sayings of this famous monk have come down to us. Whilst in Nitria Palladius became a a great friend of Macarius the Alexandrian, who was originally a merchant in dried fruits, and of Evagrius of Pontus. The former lived in that portion of the Nitrian Valley which was called “The Cells,” and for three years Palladius enjoyed close intercourse with him, and learned much concerning the true spirit of Egyptian asceticism from him. Macarius lived “a sad, stern life of self-denial,” (Vol. I, p. 117), and could not endure the thought that any monk surpassed him in the exercise of ascetic rigours. On one occasion he heard that the monks in the Monastery of Tabenna did not eat any food which had been cooked by fire during the Forty Days’ Fast of Lent, whereupon he determined that for seven years he would eat nothing which had been cooked by fire, and he carried out his intention to the letter. On hearing that a monk in a certain monastery only ate one pound of bread per day, he reduced his own allowance to four or five ounces of bread, and to water just sufficient to enable him to eat the bread. On another occasion he determined to vanquish sleep, and for twenty days and nights he never took shelter under a roof, but sat in the sun all day. Once he crushed a gnat in his hand and killed it because it had bitten him, therefore, because this act made him despise himself, he went to Scete and sat in the inner desert naked for six months, where the gnats were large and resembled wasps (Vol. I, p. 118). At the end of this time his skin was so bitten and swollen that it was like the hide of an elephant, and when he returned to his cell, the monks only recognized him by his voice.

Yet once again he heard of the great self-denial of the monks of Tabenna, who were under the direction of Pachomius, and having disguised himself as a farm-labourer, he walked in fifteen days to the monastery where, having proved that he could fast for a week at a time, he was admitted. Soon after the season of Lent drew nigh, and he fasted the whole of the forty days, weaving ropes of palm fibre as he did so; on Sundays he ate a few moist cabbage leaves, so that he might pretend that he was taking food. His success, however, betrayed him, for Pachomius knew that none but Macarius could have fasted with such strenuousness for so long a time (Vol. I, p. 121). Though such exercises must have interested Palladius very much, it is quite clear from some of his remarks that both physically and mentally he was unable to emulate them. In connexion with Macarius he tells us that the “chills of fever” came on him at times, and that at others, when weariness of the ascetic life laid hold upon him (Vol. I, p. 124), his thoughts would say to him, “Thou art doing nothing here, get thee gone.”

From the “inner desert” Palladius paid visits to several of the great ascetics, and the details which he gives of their lives are full of interest. On one occasion he went to Scete, a distance of forty miles, and saw and conversed with Pachomius who had lived there for forty years. On another he and Albinus travelled to Scete in company with Nero the Alexandrian, who only ate a meal once every three months (Vol. I, p. 134). Palladius also found his way to that portion of the Nitrian Valley, which was beyond Scete and was called “Klimax”; it was a wild and rugged place, and the nearest drinking water was twelve miles distant. Here dwelt Ptolemy, the Egyptian, who for fifteen years drank nothing but dew which he squeezed out of sponges (Vol. I, p. 136).

Having explored the Nitrian Valley Palladius turned his steps towards the south, and made himself acquainted with the lives of the ascetics who lived there. At Atrêpe, near Akhmîm, he visited the nunnery which had been built by Elijah, a wealthy landowner (Vol. I, p. 142). Elijah’s successor was Dorotheos, who lived in an upper chamber which had no staircase; from this place he kept watch over the nuns, but no woman ever went up to his chamber, and he could not go down to any. At Tabenna Palladius visited the monastery of Pachomius, whose rule he describes at some length (Vol. I, p. 144). At Antinoë he found twelve nunneries, in one of which he found the aged nun Talîdâ and her sixty virgins (Vol. I, p. 153). At Lycus he visited John, who had received the gift of prophecy, which he demonstrated on several important occasions. This famous recluse was an object of great interest to the followers of Origen, and especially to Evagrius, who was the most intimate friend of Palladius at this time. One day he heard Evagrius say that he desired greatly to find out what manner of man John was, but that it was impossible for him to go to visit him because he lived so far away. Palladius said nothing at the time, but after pondering the matter for two days, he committed himself to God, and set out for the Thebaïd. His journey occupied eighteen days, on some of which he walked, and on others he sailed in a boat. The season of the year was the beginning of the Egyptian summer, when the Nile was rising, and many folk were falling sick (Vol. I, p. 170), and Palladius himself suffered from illness. At length he arrived at Lycus, and at the proper time obtained speech with John, who convinced him that he could read his thoughts, and understand the things which were passing in his mind. John knew that Palladius was anxious to leave the desert, and also that he was afraid for various reasons to do so, and he told him to remain in the desert, and to quench his desire to return to his kinsfolk, for his father would live for another seven years (Vol. I, p. 171).

In reply to John’s question, “Wishest thou to become a bishop?” Palladius replied that he had already been made the “bishop of the public eating houses, and of the taverns, and of tables, and of wine pots. My visiting,” he continued, “is my episcopate, and it is the love of the belly and gluttony which hath made me the visitor of these.” To these jesting words John made answer, “Quit jesting, for a bishop thou needs must be, and thou wilt have to labour, and to be troubled greatly; now if thou wishest to flee from tribulations and trials go not forth from the desert, for in the desert no man will make thee a bishop.” This prophecy was uttered about 397. Of the period between this year and that wherein he left Nitria to go southwards he spent four years in Antinoë (Vol. I, p. 180), where he found a society of about twelve hundred monks. Here also he met the famous cave-dwellers, Solomon, Dorotheos the priest, Diocles the grammarian and philosopher, and Kapitôn.

How far to the south Palladius travelled is not quite certain, but it is clear that he visited all the chief settlements of the monks in Upper Egypt. Three years after his visit to John of Lycus, which probably took place in 394 (Butler, Lausiac History, p. 182), he was overtaken by a severe illness caused by his kidneys and stomach, and the brethren, fearing that he was becoming dropsical, sent him to Alexandria. Shortly before his return to this city he seems to have been present at the death of Evagrius of Pontus, who died in the year 400, aged fifty-four years (Vol. I, p. 222; Butler, Lausiac History, p. 181). The account of this monk’s career is one of the most interesting in the Book of Paradise, and it is easy to see that Palladius regarded him with great admiration and affection. The two men had passed several years together in the “inner desert,” at the place called “The Cells,” and Palladius tells us that his friend lived upon a daily allowance of one pound of bread, that a “box of oil” lasted him three months, that he lived by the labour of his hands, that he prayed one hundred prayers each day, and that he spent the rest of his time in writing books (Vol. I, p. 225).

When Palladius arrived in Alexandria the physicians advised him to leave the city and to go to Palestine, where the air was lighter and purer; and, in obedience to their counsel, he departed thither.

It seems that Palladius next made his way to Bethlehem, and lived there for a year with Possidonius the Theban, at a place beyond the Monastery of the Shepherds, which was near the town. Possidonius was a man of amiable disposition, and Palladius declares (Vol. I, p. 173) that he did not recollect ever meeting any other man in whom the qualities of patience, endurance and goodness were so highly developed. Possidonius, apparently, loved living alone, and on one occasion he said that he had not seen a man nor heard human speech for a whole year; his food was of the simplest, for he lived on the insides of palm leaves soaked in water, and wild honey whenever he could get it. For forty years he never ate bread, and he never allowed the sun to set upon his wrath. Whilst Palladius lived near Bethlehem he became acquainted with St. Jerome, whom he describes as a learned and eloquent man and one skilled in the Latin tongue; but he declares that his great abilities were obscured by the vices of “envy and evil-eyedness,” which he possessed to an extraordinary degree (Vol. I, p. 174). Because of his envy, none of the holy men would live in those districts.

From Bethlehem Palladius went to Jerusalem, where, no doubt, he found one of the numerous companies of ascetics from the monasteries, who were entertained by that famous woman Melania the Great, and by the Italian nobleman, Rufinus of Aquileia, her friend. The praise which Palladius bestows upon Melania and Rufinus is very great, and it is evident that he knew both of them well, and there is little doubt that the kindness and graciousness of these distinguished Christians and their kinsfolk had a considerable effect upon his character and disposition. We know from his own testimony that he travelled from Ælia to Egypt by way of Pelusium in company with Melania and “the gentle virgin Sylvania, the sister of Rufinus” (Vol. I, p. 159); and this being so, it follows, almost of necessity, that he was no ferocious, fanatical monk, to whom the companionship of women was an abominable thing. As Palladius had lived for a whole year with the gentle Possidonius, and he speaks of him with the warmth of a true friend, it seems justifiable to assume that he was himself a man of amiable and sympathetic nature, and one to whom the pathos of the ascetic life appealed more than its grim majesty.

A little later [400?] he passed over into Bithynia, where, as he says (Vol. I, p. 172), “for what reason I know not, whether by the care and solicitude of men, or whether by the Will of God, Who is exalted above all things, I was held to be worthy of the laying on of hands for the episcopacy, which was far above my deserts.” Thus we see that the prophecy of John of Lycus was fulfilled. Palladius tells us that when he returned to the desert from Lycus he related to the fathers what John had said, and that then he forgot all about it. Curiously enough, Palladius does not say who ordained him, neither does he give us the name of his see, but there is little doubt that it was St. John Chrysostom who ordained him, and that his see was Helenopolis, which was formerly called Drepanum.

In May of the year 400 Palladius was present at the Synod held at Constantinople, and very soon afterwards “he became an associate in the trial which rose up against the blessed John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople” (Vol. I, p. 172). In July, 403, Chrysostom appeared in the church of a suburb of Chalcedon to answer before a council of thirty-six bishops a series of charges which had been formulated against him by John the Archdeacon and Isaac the monk. The chief offence with which he was charged was that he had spoken words against the Empress Eudoxia, whom he was declared to have likened to Jezebel. After much unseemly wrangling Chrysostom was condemned by his enemies unanimously, and he was deposed, the Emperor confirming the decree of the council, and ordering him to be banished. Three days later Chrysostom surrendered to the Emperor’s soldiers, and he was carried to a vessel and sent to Hieron at the mouth of the Euxine. Within a few days, however, he was brought back in triumph to Constantinople, in response to letters from the Emperor Arcadius and the Empress Eudoxia, who had been frightened out of their wits by a severe shock of earthquake which was felt in the city on the night following his departure to Hieron. In September, 403, Chrysostom fell again under the displeasure of Eudoxia, and in June of the year following Arcadius decreed his banishment to Cucusus, a mountain on the border of Cilicia. It was most likely about this time that Palladius was “secluded for a period of about eleven months in a dark cell” (Vol. I, p. 172), wherein he probably hid himself to escape the fury of the triumphant enemies of his friend John Chrysostom.

Some authorities think that at this time he betook himself to a river valley near Jericho, where a large number of ascetics lived in the rock-hewn caves, the making of which tradition assigned to those who fled from before Joshua, the son of Nun. In one of these dwelt Elpidius the Cappadocian, who practised the habits of a strict asceticism, and was eventually ordained priest. This man only ate food on Saturdays and Sundays, and he was wont to rise up many times during the night to pray. With him, for a time, lived Palladius (see Vol. I, p. 185), and from the description which he gives of this wonderful man it is clear that he regarded him with affection and admiration. Palladius tells us that Elpidius possessed power over noxious reptiles, and that on one occasion, whilst he was reading the service for the night, a scorpion stung him; without shewing the least sign of pain, and without leaving his place, or making any break in his reading, Elpidius put forth his hand and crushed the scorpion. Such an incident could not fail to impress the imagination of Palladius, and he must have felt that the holy man possessed the power which would enable him to “put his hand on the cockatrice’s den,” and to draw it away unharmed.

In 405 we find that Palladius had succeeded in escaping with other fugitives to Rome at the time when Innocent, Bishop of Rome, was enquiring into the appeal which had been made to him by many friends on behalf of Chrysostom. As the result of this enquiry Innocent annulled the deposition of Chrysostom, and declared that the council of hostile bishops who had condemned him was irregular. Whilst in Rome Palladius and his companions were entertained by Pinianus, who received them “with the greatest good will, and supplied them with provisions for the way in great abundance, and they sent them on their way in joy and gladness” (Vol. I, p. 163). From Rome Palladius journeyed to Constantinople in company with the members of the mission sent by Honorius to Arcadius, asking that a general council should be convened to investigate the charges brought against Chrysostom. When Palladius arrived in Constantinople he and his companions were treated with great harshness; each of them was condemned to solitary confinement, and every effort was made to induce them to break their adherence to the views of Chrysostom. The friends of Chrysostom, however, stood firm, and finally, as the result of an imperial decree, all were banished. The place of banishment chosen for Palladius was Syene, and on his way thither his journey was made as unpleasant as possible by the petty spite and malice of the imperial servants; he was not allowed to have a servant, and his notes and writing tablets were taken away from him by force. How long he remained at Syene, or in its neighbourhood, cannot be said, but it is tolerably certain that between 406 and 412 he spent four years at Antinoë, and also some time in the monastery at Akhmîm and neighbouring towns. Some authorities think that he may have been allowed to end his exile in Egypt on the death of Theophilus, the bitter foe of Chrysostom, which took place in 412, and it is probable that he travelled about Galatia and visited Ancyra between 412 and 420, the year in which he wrote the Book Paradise. According to Socrates he was translated to the see of Aspuna, in Galatia Prima; this event happened probably in 417. How long he remained there cannot be stated, but he certainly died before 431, for the bishop of Aspuna in that year was called Eusebius.

As to the period of his life in which Palladius wrote the book Paradise there is, fortunately, no difficulty, for in his Counsels to Lausus (Vol. I, p. 82) he says that at the time of writing he had lived a life of rule and had been in a monastery of solitary brethren until the thirty-third year of his age, and that after that he served the office of Bishop for twenty years. He was therefore fifty-three years of age when he wrote the book Paradise, and as he was ordained Bishop in 400, he produced his work in 420.

Nowhere in Paradise does he tell us anything about his parents or family, though in his “further remarks” (Vol. I, p. 315), he speaks of “my beloved brother, who hath lived with me from my youth up until this day.” It is, however, a little uncertain whether he refers to an actual or to a monastic brother. In praising his manner of life he remarks that, “he never arrayed himself in fine and costly apparel,” and this seems to suggest that the brother was a man of some fortune. Moreover, as this brother, “in his coming in and going out, walked through one hundred and six cities (or provinces) several times, and in the greater number of them tarried for some time,” we must assume that he possessed means sufficient to allow him to travel wheresoever he pleased. On the whole, we may conclude that the parents of Palladius were people of some standing, and that they could afford to give him money enough to travel from place to place in comfort. That he was never a very robust man is proved by the fact that he was unable to serve his term of three years with Dorotheos of Thebes, and by the allusions to the sickness and fever which attacked him when travelling, and to the troubles caused by his kidneys and stomach, which eventually compelled him to forsake the desert and to go to Palestine. On the other hand, it must be confessed that few young men of gentle bringing up could emulate successfully Dorotheos, who lived on dry bread and wandered about in the sun all day on the seashore collecting stones for building, or could endure the hardship of walking for days at a time, to say nothing of the heat by day, the chills by night, rough lodgings, and rough food which could only be obtained at irregular intervals.

ii. The Book “Paradise”

THE book Paradise was composed by Palladius in the year 420 at the request of Lausus, a man who held high rank at Constantinople, and who is generally thought to have been a chamberlain of the Emperor Theodosius II, who ascended the throne in 408; for this reason the work was called the Lausiac History of Palladius. According to some authorities, Lausus, the friend of Palladius, is to be identified with “Lausus præpositus,” who received the lady Melania when she visited Constantinople about 435. Be this as it may, the friend of Palladius was, as we know from his testimony (Vol. I, p. 79), a man whose mind was “full of doctrine, whose habits were those of a lover of peace, who feared God in his heart and loved Christ in his mind,” and elsewhere (Vol. I, p. 80) he describes him as the “ornament of this believing and God-fearing kingdom,” and the “true friend and servant of God.” Nowhere does Palladius tell us what the bond was which united him in friendship with Lausus, or why the great court official entreated him to write down the histories of the lives of the Fathers of the Egyptian desert, and of other holy men. To guess at the origin of their friendship is useless, and whatever his motive may have been in urging Palladius to compile his histories, the thanks of every student of religion is due to Lausus as being the immediate cause of the production of a work which gives a true account of the origin and development of one of the most remarkable phases of Christianity which the world has ever seen.

In the brief account of the book Paradise which will be given in the following paragraphs, no attempt will be made to consider the difficulties which exist in connexion with the investigation of the original Greek text of the work, or to outline the chronological sequence of the versions which are based upon it. A general discussion of these matters will be found in Dom Cuthbert Butler’s Lausiac History (Cambridge, 1898), and in the learned notes which he has appended to his critical edition of the Greek text published at Cambridge in 1904. These works contain an honest description of the difficulties which have beset the paths of earlier editors and translators of Paradise, together with solutions of many of them. As the result of the scholarship, clear thought and well-balanced judgement which Dom Cuthbert Butler has bestowed upon Paradise, Palladius stands forth with an enhanced reputation, and the reader may once and for all rest assured that he is perusing the work of a man who described truthfully the things which he had seen and the men whom he had known.

The translations of Paradise and of the Sayings of the Fathers collected by Palladius, which are printed in the following pages, are made from the fullest Syriac versions of these works known to us, namely, those which we owe to Rabban Ânân-Îshô, a monk who flourished in Northern Mesopotamia in the latter half of the sixth and the first half of the seventh century. Of this man we possess a tolerably full account, written by Thomas, Bishop of Margâ, about A. D. 840 (see The Book of Governors, ed. Budge. 2 vols. London, 1893). Writing in this work (Book II, chap. xi), Thomas says:

It is not right that the glorious memory of the holy Abbâ Ânân-Îshô should drop from our mind, or that we should suppress the mention of his indefatigable zeal; on the contrary, let us place his noble acts among [those of] his companions, for happiness at the right hand of our Lord Christ is laid up for him with them. Now this blessed man, and his brother Îshô-Yahbh, came from the country of Adiabene. They were both trained in doctrine in the city of Nisibis, being children of the school and household of the blessed Mâr Îshô-Yahbh. They became disciples in the Great Monastery [of Mount Îzlâ, about ten miles from Nisibis], as the books which belonged to them [and are now] in the library of this monastery (i.e., Bêth Âbhê) testify, for they show that they were written by their hands there. Now Ânân-Îshô, having lived the life of an ascetic with all excellence, and having had his mind constantly fixed upon the works of the ascetic fathers, determined to go and worship in Jerusalem. And from there he went to the desert of Scete, where he learned concerning all the manner of the lives of the ascetic fathers, whose histories and questions are written in books, and concerning their dwellings and the places in which they lived. And when he turned to come back he made his journey by way of [the place of] holy Mâr John, the Bishop of the Scattered, of whom I have made mention a little way back, that he might be blessed by his holiness and enjoy his conversation. And after he had come to his own monastery (i.e., Mount Îzlâ) he took his brother, and they came to this monastery (i.e., Bêth Âbhê) by reason of the annoyance and contention which had taken place there, for certain slanderous men who had set themselves against holy men, had risen up there, and they drove out the holy Rabban Narsai, the disciple of Mâr Bâbhai, who finally became head of the monastery and was renowned for a life of excellence.

Now when they came to this monastery, and were living in silence, according to the rule of ascetics, Rabban Ânân-Îshô, the wise of understanding, laboured so hard in the study of books that he surpassed all who were before and after him in his knowledge. And when Mâr Îshô-yahbh was Metropolitan of Arbel and wished to draw up in order a book of the Canons that he might send copies of it to all the countries of his patriarchate, he made the wise Ânân-Îshô, the love of whom is very dear and sweet to me, to sit with him during the drawing up of the Canons, because he had composed Institutes and Rules, and because he found that he alone possessed, in a sufficient measure, a clear mind and a natural talent for the art of music and a knowledge of how to arrange words.

“And the noble Ânân-Îshô composed Definitions and Divisions of various things, which were written upon the walls of his cell. And when his brother Mâr Îshô-yahbh came to pray in this monastery (i.e., Bêth Âbhê), and saw the divisions of the science of philosophy of his brother, Ânân-Îshô, he begged him to write a commentary on them for him, and to send it to him, which Ânân-Îshô actually did. And he wrote to him a clear exposition in many lines, from which will be apparent, to every one who readeth therein, the greatness of his wisdom; now the title of the work is, ‘A Letter which a Brother wrote to his Brother.…’ He also wrote a work on the correct pronunciation of the words, and of the difficult words which are used with different significations in the writings of the Fathers; a copy of this work exists among the books in the library of this monastery, and it surpasses all other collations in its accuracy.”

The above extract is of great interest, for it proves that Ânân-Îshô, who edited the Syriac version of Paradise which is translated in these volumes, prepared himself for his great work by visiting the Scete desert, in order that he might see for himself the conditions under which the monks lived, and the dwellings and places wherein they abode. Knowledge, at first hand, and experience went side by side with great learning and literary skill, and the more his translation is studied, the greater its accuracy is found to be.

A little further on in his Book of Governors (Bk. II, chap. xv) Thomas, Bishop of Margâ, gives us some details of the “Compilation of the Book which was called Paradise.” From these we learn that Ânân-Îshô undertook this work as a result of an order which he received from the Patriarch Mâr George. Having asked for the “Prayers of Mâr Catholicus and of the holy old men of his congregation, he began and finished the command wherewith he had been commanded. And with an enlightened mind and a wise understanding—especially as the Spirit had manifested in him the efficacy of His gifts—he arranged and grouped together in smooth order (i.e., consecutively), 615 ‘Heads’ (or Chapters), in Canons and Sections, [with] each ‘Head’ a ‘Question’ giving information concerning the subject matter of the ‘Head’ which preceded it. So that if a brother was labouring in any [spiritual] warfare whatsoever, and he wished to pluck consolation or to take counsel on the matter which was troubling him, he might find it close at hand. And the Counsels were arranged and classified according to the subject matter, so that he might very quickly be consoled in his tribulation, and find relief, and might also lay a soothing plaster on the wound which was causing him pain.”

“And besides these [615 ‘Heads’] there were 430 others, which would give a man information in general upon all kinds of spiritual excellence, and there were many others which he did not arrange in numerical order, and which he did not group or classify. And he took from the ‘Commentary’ on the blessed Matthew, the Evangelist, the Discourse which was composed by Mâr John [Chrysostom] on the praises of the monks who were in Egypt, and the Questions of the blessed Mâr Abraham of Nephthar, and demonstrations and other histories which he himself had collected from the writings of the Fathers.”

“And he arranged the whole book [Paradise] in two Parts. In the First Part were the Histories of the Holy Fathers, which were composed by Palladius and Hieronymus (Jerome), and in the Second Part were the Questions and Narratives (or Matters) of the Fathers, which he had arranged and classified. And he called this Book Paradise and under this name hath it been handed down and accepted in all the monasteries of the East, and the Fathers in every place have praised his ability and applauded his work.”

It may be mentioned in passing that the word “Paradise” means “garden,” and there is no doubt that Palladius intended to suggest to his readers that his compilation resembled a spiritual garden, the flowers of which were the Histories of the famous monks which he had collected therein, just as the monks themselves were the flowers of the Garden of God.

Prefixed to the translations of Paradise and the Sayings of the Fathers printed in these volumes will be found a rendering of the Syriac version of a Life of St. Anthony, which is attributed to Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria. This work is of very great interest, and it is of considerable importance for the study of Christian monasticism in Egypt. The original was written in Greek, but the Greek text now extant is different from that used by the translator into Syriac (Butler, Lausiac History, p. 227; Schulthess, Probe einer syrischen Version der Vita S. Antonii, Leipzig, 1894). Many authorities have denied the authenticity of this Life of St. Anthony, but there is really no good reason why Athanasius should not have taken part in the preparation of some portions of the work, or in its revision, and until proof is brought forward that such a thing is impossible, we shall be justified in believing that the framework of the narrative is historical. The character of St. Anthony, as drawn by the author of the Life in the form wherein we now have it, is wholly lovable, and it is easy to understand how the words and deeds of the great monk drew all men to him. His manner of life was as simple and as strenuously ascetic as it could well be, and yet his manners towards all men were kind and gentle. He ate bread and salt, and drank water only, and on certain occasions passed three or four days, and sometimes whole weeks, without eating (Vol. I, p. 12). He passed most nights in vigil, and when he slept his bed was a palm-leaf mat. He never used oil and he never washed. He wore an untanned leather garment with the hair next his skin (Vol. I, pp 40, 73), and he slept, when an old man, with a skin covering over him. Before his death he gave his leather tunic to Athanasius, and his leather coat to Bishop Serapion. He remained healthy to the last, and his eyesight failed not, and not a tooth dropped from his head; he died aged 105 years. Before his death he ordered the brethren to bury him in a grave, and not to embalm him, for, said he, [“there shall I be] until the Resurrection of the Dead, when I shall receive this body without corruption” (Vol. I, p. 73). He spoke Egyptian, and knew neither Greek nor Latin, but his speech was dignified, austere, pungent and “seasoned with salt”; his mind was alert, and his shrewdness and sagacity won the admiration of the crowds of ascetics of all kinds who visited him. Though kind to all, and gracious even to those with whose opinions he disagreed, his quick intelligence enabled him to defeat the worldly-wise in argument, and to shew the superiority of his religion over that of the pagan philosophers who propounded problems to him. His disposition was happy, and his faith in God as firm as a rock; no devil, fiend, or phantom could undermine his trust in the goodness of God, and no wickedness of man made him to doubt it. We hear nothing of his torturing his body, as was the custom of later monks; nevertheless he was willing to suffer hardship, imprisonment, and even martyrdom, if by so doing he might help his fellow man. During the persecution of Maximinus he left the desert and went into Alexandria, and visited the prisons and ministered to the wants of the blessed confessors who were shut up there. He comforted those who were condemned to hard labour in the mines in the Sûdân, and those who were to be banished to the islands, and those on whom the sentence of death had been passed, and he went in and out among the prisoners fearlessly. At length the governor heard of him and his ministrations, and ordered that he should in future be kept out of the city. In spite of this prohibition he made his way into the judgement hall of the governor, intending, no doubt, to make a vigorous protest against his treatment of the confessors. His friends, however, saw him there, “and prevented him that day from appearing before the judge,” and thus he escaped certain condemnation.

We may now proceed to the consideration of the contents of the First Part of Ânân-Îshô’s Syriac recension of the book Paradise. After the Epistle to Lausus, the high official at whose request the original work was compiled, we have a description of the plan of Paradise and a series of “Counsels” to Lausus, and then comes the first history, namely, that of:

Book I

1. ISIDORE, who had been a monk in Nitria, and died fifteen years after Palladius met him, aged 85 years. With his sisters lived a company of about seventy nuns. His history is followed by those of:

2. DOROTHEOS, who lived in a cave for sixty years.

3. POTAMIAENA, the virgin, who was boiled to death at Alexandria in a cauldron of bitumen by the order of the prefect Basilides.

4. DIDYMUS. He was a friend of St. Anthony, who had visited him in his cell thrice, and he received through the Spirit the news of the death of Julian the Apostate on the very day on which he died. He was 80 years of age when Palladius met him.

5. ALEXANDRA of Alexandria, who shut herself up in a tomb and saw neither man nor woman for twelve years. Her history was told to Palladius by Melania.

6. The AVARICIOUS VIRGIN, who gave Macarius 500 dînârs to buy emeralds and jewels; he spent the money on the sick poor.

7. The MONKS OF NITRIA. Palladius mentions the monks Petâ-Bast, Arsisius, Chronius, and Serapion, and describes the life led by the monks there.

8. AMMÔN, one of the early monks of Nitria, who died aged 62 years.

9. HOR, a monk of Nitria, who died before Palladius came there.

10. PAMBO, who died on the day of the arrival of Palladius in Nitria, aged 70 years. Palladius received his history from Melania, Ammonius, and Origen, the priest and steward.

11. AMMONIUS, the Tall Brother, the disciple of Pambo. He cut off his left ear to prevent the brethren from making him a bishop; and he never ate any food which had been cooked by fire.

12. BENJAMIN, of Nitria, the physician, who died of dropsy; he was 80 years old when Palladius visited him.

13. APOLLONIUS the merchant, who lived in Nitria for twenty years, and purchased with the money he earned necessaries for the 5,000 brethren who dwelt in the mountain.

14. PAESIUS and ISAIAH, the sons of a merchant, who spent all their money in charity.

15. MACARIUS [the Younger], the “Child of his Cross,” who lived for three years in the open desert, and for twenty-five in a cell.

16. NATHANIEL, who died fifteen years before Palladius visited Nitria. He lived for thirty-seven years in his cell, and never passed outside its door.

17. MACARIUS the Egyptian, who lived in the desert for sixty years, and died aged 90; he is said to have raised a man from the dead.

18. MACARIUS the Alexandrian, who was famous for his fasting and vigils, and self-abnegation; some of his cells had no windows, and at one time he walked about in the desert carrying a basket with two or three bushels of sand in it on his shoulders. He performed many cures, and worked miracles.

19. PAUL THE SIMPLE, who became a disciple of St. Anthony when he was 80 years of age (Butler’s Greek text, chap. 22).

20. PACHOMIUS of Scete; he was 70 years of age when visited by Palladius (Greek text, chap. 23).

21. STEPHEN the Libyan, who dwelt in the desert for sixty years (Greek text, chap. 24).

22. VALENS the Palestinian, who went mad, and was put in fetters for a year by the fathers (Greek text, chap. 25).

23. HERO the Alexandrian, who became a drunkard and whoremonger, but returned to the desert, repented, and died (Greek text, chap. 26).

24. PTOLEMY the Egyptian, who dwelt in the portion of the Scete desert called “Klimax” for fifteen years, and went mad (Greek text, chap. 27).

25. ABRAHAM the Egyptian (Greek text, chap. 53).

26. A VIRGIN in Jerusalem, who fell (Greek text, chap. 28).

27. A VIRGIN in Caesarea, who fell. A fuller form of this history is given in chapter 29.

28. A certain VIRGIN, who fell (Greek text, chap. 69).

29. A VIRGIN in Caesarea, who fell (Greek text, chap. 70).

30. THAIS, or THAISIS, the harlot. According to the Syriac version of this chapter Thais, the harlot, was converted by Abbâ Bessarion. She burnt all her possessions, and was introduced by Bessarion into “a religious house of sisters” (Vol. I, p. 141), where she lived on one pound of dry bread daily and water for a period of three years. At the end of this time Bessarion went and asked St. Anthony whether God had forgiven her her sins or not, and Anthony told his monks to shut themselves up in their cells all night in order that the matter might be revealed concerning which Bessarion had applied to him. After a long time Paul, the disciple of Anthony, saw a vision in the heavens of a splendid couch with a crown of glory laid thereon, and three angels with three lamps standing by its side. Paul thought that the couch was prepared for Anthony, but a voice came to him from heaven, saying, “This couch is not for Anthony, thy father, but for Thais, the harlot.” When Bessarion heard the news of the vision from Paul, he returned to Thais and told her that God had forgiven her her sins. Fifteen days afterwards she died. In Book II, chap. 36 of the Syriac version (see Vol. I, p. 268) will be found the story of the conversion of a harlot by Abbâ Serapion, but it differs in many respects from the story of Bessarion and the harlot. Now according to the Greek versions of this history the monk who converted Thais was called Paphnutius, or Serapion (see F. Nau, Histoire de Thaïs, in Annales du Musée Guimet, Tome trentième, pt. iii, Paris, 1903), and some authorities identify this Serapion with “Serapion of the Girdle.” In 1899–1900 M. Gayet carried out a series of excavations on the site of Antinoë, and in the course of his work discovered the tomb of a woman which contained baskets made of plaited reeds, a chaplet made of wood and ivory, an object in the form of the ancient Egyptian symbol for “life” (ānkh, the crux ansata), palm branches, and a rose of Jericho. In the tomb, roughly traced in red ink, was the inscription:




which proved that it was the resting place of the “Blessed Thais.” In a neighbouring tomb was found a fragment of pottery, on which were inscribed the words:



which prove that the occupant was called “Serapion.” We knew that Thais, the harlot, was buried in Egypt, and there are fairly good reasons for believing that Serapion of the Girdle was buried there also. This being so, some have not hesitated to think that the Thais and Serapion whose tombs were excavated by M. Gayet, are to be identified with Thais, the harlot, and Serapion, who converted her. On the other hand, M. Gayet’s words (L’Exploration des Nécropoles Gréco-Byzantines d’Antinoë, in Annales du Musée Guimet, tome xxx, Part. II, Paris, 1902), are to be well considered: La question a été controversée; je me bornerai à redire ce que je n’ai cessé de répéter à ceux qui m’ont questionné à ce sujet: ‘Je n’ai “ ‘aucun document me permettant d’identifier Thaïs d’Antinoë ‘à la Thaïs historique; je n’en ai aucun, non plus, m’autorisant à nier la possibilité de cette identification.’ ” It seems, then, that the identification is not at present certain, but it is difficult not to wish that the bodies of the man and woman who now lie side by side in the Musée Guimet, may eventually prove to be those of the famous monk and the woman whom he converted.

31. ELIJAH of Atrêpe (Athribis) near Akhmîm, the builder of a nunnery (Greek text, chap. 29).

32. DOROTHEOS, who lived in an upper chamber.

33. PACHOMIUS the Great, of Tabenna, the Abbot of 1,300 monks, and the nuns (Greek text, chaps. 32–34).

34. The VIRGIN who hid Athanasius (Greek text, chap. 63).

35. PIAMON the Virgin (Greek text, chap. 31).

36. EMMÂ TALÎDÂ, the old woman of Antinoë (Greek text, chap. 59).

37. TAOR the Virgin (Greek text, chap. 59).

38. COLLUTHUS the Virgin (Greek text, chap. 60).

39. The VIRGIN and the MAGISTRIANUS, who was thrown to the beasts in her stead (Greek text, chap. 65).

40. MELANIA THE ELDER. She lived in exile for thirty-seven years (Greek text, chaps. 46 and 54).

41. MELANIA THE YOUNGER (Greek text, chap. 61). PAMMACHIUS (Greek text, chap. 62).

42. OLYMPIAS, daughter of Seleucus (Greek text, chap. 56).

43. CANDIDA, who lived on dry bread dipped in vinegar (Greek text, chap. 57).

44. GELASIA (Greek text, chap. 57).

45. JULIANA, who received Origen (Greek text, chap. 64).

46. HERONION and his wife BOSPHORIA (Greek text, chap. 66).

47. MAGNA (Greek text, chap. 67).

48. MISERICORS the monk (Greek text, chap. 68).

49. JOHN OF LYCUS, who foretold that Palladius would be made a bishop (Greek text, chap. 35).

50. POSSIDONIUS the Theban, who possessed the gift of prophecy (Greek text, chap. 36).

51. CHRONIUS of Tomârtâ, the priest, who lived in the desert for sixty years (Greek text, chap. 47).

52. JAMES THE LAME and PAPHNUTIUS KEPHALA (Greek text, chap. 47).

53. SOLOMON of Antinoë (Greek text, chap. 58).

54. DOROTHEOS of Antinoë (Greek text, chap. 58).

55. DIOCLES of Antinoë (Greek text, chap. 58).

56. KAPITON of Antinoë (Greek text, chap. 58).

57. The MONK who fell.

58. EPHRAIM of Edessa, who made an open-air hospital (Greek text, chap. 40).

59. INNOCENT of the Mount of Olives (Greek text, chap. 44).

60. ELPIDIUS of Jericho (Greek text, chap. 48).

ÆNESIUS (Greek text, chap. 48).

61. EUSTATHIUS (Greek text, chap. 48).

62. SISINNIUS (Greek text, chap. 49).

63. GADDAI (Gaddanus) (Greek text, chap. 50).

64. ELIJAH (Greek text, chap. 51).

65. SABAS of Jericho (Greek text, chap. 52).

66. SERAPION of the Girdle (Greek text, chap. 37).

67. EULOGIUS and the Crippled Arian (Greek text, chap. 21).

Book II

              1.              MARK the mourner.

              2.              PAUL, the prince of monks, who died at the age of 113 years, when St. Anthony was 90 years old.

              3.              History of A YOUNG ALEXANDRIAN.

              4.              History of AN OLD MAN IN SCETE.

              5.              History of A SOLITARY DWELLER.

              6.              History of THE DISCIPLE of a certain old man.

              7.              History of PETER, a disciple.

              8.              History of A DISCIPLE.

              9.              ADOLIUS of Tarsus (Greek text, chap. 43).

              10.              MOSES the Indian (Greek text, chap. 19).

              11.              PÎÔR (Greek text, chap. 39).

              12.              MOSES the Libyan.

              13.              A WANDERING MONK.

              14.              EVAGRIUS (Greek text, chap. 31).

              15.              MALCHUS of Mârônîa.

              16.              TWO FATHERS who went naked.

              16a.              An OLD MAN who went naked.

              17.              An OLD MAN who fed with the beasts.

              18.              An OLD MAN who lived forty-nine years in the desert.

              19.              A MONK who fed on grass by the Jordan.

              20.              A HOLY VIRGIN.

              21.              The YOUNG MEN who were with Macarius.

              22.              BESSARION, who went naked during the frost.

              23.              BESSARION’S acts.

              24.              The HOLY MAN with nine virtues.

              25.              MARIA, who assumed a monk’s attire.

              26.              A CERTAIN SAGE.

              27.              TWO BRETHREN in a Persian Monastery.

              28.              A VIRGIN.

              29.              STEPHÂNÂ of Scete.

              30.              EUCARPUS, who went mad and reviled Evagrius.

              31.              A FAMOUS DEACON.

              32.              A BISHOP who fell into fornication and repented.

              33.              The neighbour of POEMEN.

              34.              The APOSTATE BROTHER.

              35.              An OLD MAN in Scete.

              36.              SERAPION and the Harlot (see Vol. I, p. 140).

              37.              The HARLOT whom a subdeacon drove out of the Church.

              38.              APOLLO of Scete.

              39.              COSMAS of Mount Sinai.

              40.              MACARIUS, who was accused of committing fornication.

              41.              The OLD MAN who thought that Melchisedek was the Son of God.

              42.              MACARIUS, the disciple of Mâr Anthony.

              43.              MARK the Less.

              44.              PAULE the Simple, the disciple of St. Anthony.

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