I am referring to Lausus, the best of men, who by the favor of God has been appointed guardian of our godly and religious empire; it is he who is inspired with this divine and spiritual passion. Nevertheless, respecting in the first place the eager virtue of the man who urged us to obey the command, and considering the benefit accruing to the readers, and fearing also the danger of a refusal albeit with a reasonable excuse, I first commended the noble task to Providence and then applied myself diligently to it. Sustained, as if on wings, by the intercession of the holy fathers, I attended the contests of the arena. In the course of my journey on foot I visited many cities and very many villages, every cave and all the desert dwellings of monks, with all accuracy as befitted my pious intentions.
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Egypt, hail, thou faithful strand! Hail, thou holy Libyan land! Nurturing for the realm on high Such a glorious company! By what skill of mortal tongue Shall your wondrous acts be sung? Hymn for the Friday before Quinquagesima. Translated by J. Pilgrims came from all parts to visit the saints who lived there, and several wrote descriptions of what they saw and heard, which are among the most interesting documents of the early Church.
Palestine was so near that it was usually included in their tour; the glamour of its sacred sites, which remains with us still when that of Egypt has faded into oblivion, was already potent.
But Palestine was clearly second to Egypt in the affections of the pilgrims. The prevailing sentiment was expressed by Chrysostom with admirable clearness Hom. It was eminently appropriate, he explains, that the child Jesus should be taken to Egypt to escape Herod. Palestine persecutes Him, Egypt receives Him. This typifies the position Egypt was to occupy in the development of the Church.
The land which had oppressed the children of Israel, had known a Pharaoh, had worshipped cats, was destined to be more fervent than any other, to have its towns and even its deserts peopled by armies of saints living the life of angels, and to boast the greatest, after the apostles, of all saints, the famous Antony.
The following is an outline of his life, with the dates as established by Butler. He was born in Galatia in or , and dedicated himself to the monastic life in or a little later.
In he went to Alexandria; as Paul went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, James, and John, so, he says in the Prologue, did he go to Egypt to see the saints for himself.
About he passed on to Nitria, and a year later to a district in the desert known as Cellia from the multitude of its cells, where he spent nine years, first with Macarius and then with Evagrius.
At the end of the time, his health having broken down, he went to Palestine in search of a cooler climate. In he was consecrated bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia, and soon became involved in the controversies which centred round St.
John Chrysostom. The year found him in Rome, whither he had gone to plead the cause of Chrysostom, his fidelity to whom resulted in his exile in the following year to Syene and the Thebaid, where he gained first-hand knowledge of another part of Egypt. In he was restored, after a sojourn among the monks of the Mount of Olives. His great work was written in and was called the Lausiac History, being composed for Lausus, chamberlain at the court of Theodosius II.
Palladius was also in all probability the author of the Dialogue on the Life of Chrysostom. He died some time in the decade The character of the man stands out clearly in the History, He was sincere, simple-minded and not a little credulous. His deep religious fervour, of the ascetic type, needless to say, appears throughout the book, and especially in the concluding chapter, which almost attains eloquence.
But he had a fund of good 17 sense, so we learn from the Prologue, which predisposes us to a favourable judgment on the rest of the book.
What could be saner, for example, than his summing up of the question of teetotalism: "To drink wine with reason is better than to drink water with pride" Prol. We need not attach much importance to the accusation of Origenism which has been the slur on his reputation. If he admired Origen, that great and original thinker, it will hardly redound to his discredit to-day.
And he was in good company in his own day. Saints such as Basil, the two Gregories and Chrysostom shared his tendencies; if Chrysostom the master is forgiven his Origenism, Palladius the disciple may be forgiven also. THE TEXT OF THE HISTORY It has been the lot of many a scholar to grapple with the difficulties of an ancient text so successfully that the result of his labours has been accepted as substantially representing the original work of the author: few editors indeed can be credited with an achievement equal to that of Abbot Butler, who brought order out of confusion and rescued for the historian a document which had been regarded with the utmost suspicion.
His conclusions were at once recognized as correct, and much that had been written on early monasticism became obsolete, based as it was on an erroneous estimate of the original authorities. The document which was accepted till recently as the Lausiac History, called by Butler the Long Recension.
This is the text which, with some additions, is reprinted in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, xxxiv. In Sozomen, who used the Lausiac History see Hist. The early versions, especially the Latin and Syriac, confirm these results. There is no reason 19 to think that Palladius used Greek documents, or that he translated from the Coptic. He finds that the MSS. Ruling out the A group according to the rules of textual criticism, as between B and G, he pronounces in favour of the latter, which is supported by Sozomen and the versions, and is superior intrinsically as well.
B is a "metaphrastic" text, says Preuschen, and Butler styles it "rhetorical, turgid and overladen. Butler finds these in a MS. The two MSS. Asceticism was inherent in Christianity from the first; 4 it could hardly have been otherwise among the disciples of Him Who had not where to lay His head. In 1 Corinthians St. Paul teaches that in view of the shortness of the time before the end the unmarried state is preferable to the married.
John, convinced that it was the last hour, bade his little children keep themselves from idols, a command which in practice involved renunciation of the world. There was as yet no formal separation from the world; devotees of both sexes lived at home and were described as bearing "the whole yoke of the Lord. Two questions may be asked at this point: Why did monasticism begin when it did?
Why did Egypt witness its beginning rather than some other land such as Asia 21 Minor, which was perhaps the most Christian part of the empire at that time? In answering the first question one would be inclined to attach importance to the tradition which connects the origin of monasticism with the Decian persecution c.
Some at least of these must have been living the ascetic life at home, which they would naturally continue in the desert under more rigorous conditions. When a later tradition affirms that certain of these remained in the desert permanently and became the first Christian hermits, it is intrinsically so probable that one is justified in concluding that the Decian persecution was the historic occasion which led to the origin of monasticism.
The deliverance of the Church from this danger coincided with the adoption of Christianity as the State religion, the swamping of old landmarks by a flood of imperfectly instructed adherents, and the lowering of standards in the direction of worldliness.
Monasticism in one of its aspects was the reaction of the sterner spirits against the secularisation of the fourth-century Church. Hitherto there had been an intermittent warfare of the State against the Church which expressed itself in persecution.
When persecution ceased, a need was felt on the part of the Church for a "moral equivalent for war"; this the Church found in monasticism, which represented the Church militant against worldliness within. If we turn to our second question, it is not hard to see 22 why Egypt, rather than some other country, was the motherland of monasticism. The solitudes of Asia Minor with their rigorous winter climate were not suitable places for ascetic experiments.
Egypt, however, was ideal for this purpose. The climate was warm and practically rainless, the desert was never far away from the narrow strip of cultivable land, and the neighbouring mountain ranges abounded in natural caves.
Another reason may be suggested. The recent discoveries of papyri have thrown a flood of light upon the conditions of life in ancient Egypt. We can trace the ever-tightening hold of the Government upon the people and the process by which the peasants became ascripti glebae. Accordingly the pressure of taxes and public burdens was greatest in Egypt, and the temptation to escape from them by running away became very strong. In the second and third centuries whole districts became depopulated by the flight of their inhabitants.
Things became worse in the fourth century. In the village of Theadelphia became "utterly deserted"; so did that of Philadelphia in The peasants ran away from their intolerable burdens.
What some did from economic, others could do from religious motives; doubtless in some cases both causes operated. There is little to be said for such a theory, which is indeed now generally abandoned.
The resemblance of the so-called monks of Sarapis to the later Christian monks is merely superficial. Antony, who is justly reckoned as the founder of Christian monachism. Through the efforts of him and his disciples great colonies of monks arose, the most famous of which were at Nitria and Scete. The cells were grouped round a central church, where services were held on Saturday and Sunday, devotions otherwise being said in the individual cells.
The main feature of this type of monasticism was its voluntary character; each monk lived his own life, and the monastery had a number of solitary lives lived in common rather than a true common life. The first coenobium, or monastery of the common life, was founded by Pachomius at Tabennisi sometime in the years Here Palladius found a federation of monasteries constituting a true Order as understood subsequently in the West, with obedience to the Rule and the Superior as the main principle.
There is no need to discuss the two systems here, since the reader will find both modes of life fully described in the text see especially Chapters VII. By the side of the monks there were nuns of various kinds. The purely solitary life was clearly inappropriate to women, though it was attempted, as may be seen 24 from the story of Alexandra, who lived alone in a tomb for ten years Ch. When women were gathered into a monastery, the presence of men was necessary if only to administer the sacraments.
This institution, carefully safeguarded as it was and providing protection for women in a rough age, fell into suspicion in the East and was forbidden by Justinian. Little need be said about Palestine. The monastic life was introduced there early in the fourth century by Hilarion, a disciple of Antony; the original impulse continued, and the monasteries were mainly of the Antonian type.
His casual allusions to Church observances are of great value. Note, for instance, the continued use of the Agape XVI. Thus the tale of Sarapion Sindonita was originally told of some Cynic philosopher. It may be so, though the arguments are not cogent, only this scholar is too ready to assume a literary connection where none is needed. If the same stories were told of Egyptian peasants, heathen and Christian, the simplest explanation is that Egyptian peasants behaved in much the same way, whether before or after conversion.
The common background of life and thought is sufficient to explain the similarity of the stories. Palladius then tells what he saw and heard, his reminiscences in fact of what happened in some cases over twenty years previously.
Under such conditions the element of exaggeration and distortion cannot be excluded. But there is no reason to doubt his good faith when he describes what he saw for himself. Where he reports hearsay he is naturally at the mercy of his informants.
Those who told him that a virgin hid Athanasius in her house for six years Ch.
The Lausiac History
Contents [ show ] History The book was popular among monks all over the East , who appear to have added to it considerably in transcribing it. The first edition was a Latin version by Gentianus Hervetus. Meursius Leyden, , and a longer one by Fronton du Duc ,  , and a still more complete one by J. But the shorter text itself exists in various forms. A Syrian monk, Anan-Isho, living in the sixth-seventh centuries in Mesopotamia, translated the "Lausiac History" into Syriac with further interpolations. The chief authorities now Butler, Preuschen consider the "Lausiac History" to be in the main a serious historical document as well as an invaluable picture of the lives and ideas of the earliest Christian monks .
THE LAUSIAC HISTORY
Egypt, hail, thou faithful strand! Hail, thou holy Libyan land! Nurturing for the realm on high Such a glorious company! By what skill of mortal tongue Shall your wondrous acts be sung? Hymn for the Friday before Quinquagesima.