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The Lausiac History Of Palladius by Palladius Of Galatia

[1] TABENNISI is a place, so-called, in the Thebaid, in which there lived a certain Pachomius, one of those who have lived in the straight way, so that he was counted worthy both of prophecies and angelic visions. He was exceedingly devoted both to his fellow-men and his brethren. Accordingly, to him as he sat in his cave an angel appeared and said: “You have successfully ordered your own life. So it is superfluous to remain sitting in your cave. Up! go out and collect all the young monks and dwell with them, and according to the model which I now give you, so legislate for them;” and he gave him a brass tablet on which this was inscribed—

[2] “Thou shalt allow each man to eat and drink according to his strength; and proportionately to the strength of the eaters appoint to them their labours. And prevent no man either from fasting or eating. However, appoint the tasks that need strength to those who are stronger and eat, and to the weaker and more ascetic such as the weak can manage. Make a number of cells within the enclosure and let three dwell in each cell. But let them all go to one building for their food. [3] Let them sleep not lying down full length, but let them make sloping chairs easily constructed and put their rugs on them and thus sleep in a sitting posture. And let them wear at night linen lebitons and a girdle. Let each of them have a worked goatskin cloak, without which they are not to eat. When they go to Communion on Saturday and Sunday, let them loosen their girdles and lay aside the skin cloak and go in with the cowl only.” And he prescribed for them napless cowls, as for children, on which he ordered an imprint, the mark of a cross, to be worked in dark red. [4] And he ordered that there should be twenty-four sections, and to each order he assigned a letter of the Greek alphabet—alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and so on. So when the Superior asked questions, or busied himself with the affairs of the great multitude, he asked the second: “How is the Alpha section?” or, “How is the Zeta?” or again: “Greet the Rho,” and they followed a private meaning assigned to the letters. “And to the simpler and more unworldly thou shalt give the Iota, and to the more difficult and perverse thou shalt assign the Xi” [5] And so, in correspondence with the nature of their dispositions and manners and lives, he fitted the letters to each section, only the spiritual knowing what was meant. And it was written on the tablet: “A stranger of another monastery which has a different rule is not to eat with them, nor drink, nor enter into the monastery, unless he happens to be on a (genuine) journey.” However, the man who has come to remain with them they do not allow to enter into the sanctuary for three years. But after a three years’ probation and performance of the more toilsome labours, then he enters. [6] “As they eat let them cover their heads with their cowls lest one brother see another chewing. A monk is not allowed to talk at meals nor let his eye wander beyond his plate or the table.” And he ordered them during the whole day to make twelve prayers, and twelve at the lamp-lighting, and twelve at the night-vigils, and three at the ninth hour. But when a group was about to eat he ordered a psalm to be sung before each prayer.

[7] When Pachomius objected to the angel that the prayers were few, the angel said to him: “I gave this rule so as to make sure in advance that even the little ones keep the rule and are not afflicted. But the perfect have no need of legislation, for by themselves in their cells they have surrendered the whole of their life to the contemplation of God. But I have legislated for as many as have not a discerning mind, in order that they, like house-servants fulfilling the duties of their station, may live a life of freedom.”

Now there are a number of these monasteries which have observed this rule, amounting to 7000 men. But the first and great monastery is that where Pachomius himself dwelt, which itself also is the parent of the other monasteries; it has 1300 members. [8] Among them there was also the noble Aphthonius, who became my intimate friend, and is now second in the monastery. Him they send to Alexandria, since nothing can make him stumble, in order to sell their produce and buy necessaries. [9] But there are also other monasteries two hundred or three hundred strong. One of these, with 300 monks, I found when I entered the city of Panopolis. [In the monastery I found fifteen tailors, seven smiths, four carpenters, twelve camel-drivers, and fifteen fullers.] But they work at every kind of craft and with their surplus output they provide for the needs both of the women’s convents and the prisons. [10] [They keep pigs too, and when I blamed the practice, they said: “In our tradition we have received this, that they are to be kept because of the chaff, and the refuse of the vegetables and other scraps that one throws away, lest they be wasted. And the pigs are to be killed and their meat sold, but the tit-bits are to be devoted to the sick and aged, because the neighbourhood is poor and populous; for the tribe of the Blemmyes live near.] [11] But those who are to serve that day rise early and get to their work, some to the kitchen, others to the tables. They spend their time then until the meal-hour in arranging and preparing the tables, putting loaves on each, and charlock, preserved olives, cheese of cows’ milk, [the tit-bits of the meat], and chopped herbs. Some come in at the sixth hour and eat, others at the seventh, others at the eighth, others at the ninth, others at the eleventh, others in the late evening, others every other day, so that each letter knows its own hour. [12] So also is it with their work. One works on the land as a labourer, another in the garden, another at the forge, another in the bakery, another in the carpenter’s shop, another in the fuller’s shop, another weaving the big baskets, another in the tannery, another in the shoemaker’s shop, another in the scriptorium, another weaving the young reeds. And they learn all the scriptures by heart.








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