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The Place of the Holy Man in the Later Roman Empire

  • Ramsay MacMullen (a1)


The early centuries in the history of Christian asceticism, and of monasticism to which it gave rise, invite a short and accessible overview. The present article aims to supply this. It relies on a very large sampling of texts, mostly hagiographic. As ascetics are there to be seen described by contemporaries and near-contemporaries, they share many traits which can be grouped under principal headings and frequency of mention. A statistical profile emerges, presented under numerous headings and totals which in turn indicates the ascetics’ most salient aims and acts, and helps to explain the course of development of their institutions. The findings challenge a still-famous and almost universally accepted overview offered by Peter Brown (1971). This the present article seeks to replace at the outset, through calling in question Brown’s methodological assumptions, and second, in its closing pages, through challenging Brown’s picture of the holy man in other, more factual points.

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1 Brown, Peter, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity,” Journal of Roman Studies 61 (1971) 80101.

2 For this “natural death” Brown offers no support, only assertion; but a scenario quite the opposite is suggested by MacMullen, Ramsay, Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997).

3 The difference between a historian’s and a classicist’s style of thought is highlighted by Brown’s warm admirer, Howard-Johnston, James, “Introduction,” The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages: Essays on the Contribution of Peter Brown (ed. Howard-Johnston, James and Hayward, Paul Antony; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) 126, at 14, finding Brown’s essay reminiscent of John Constable’s paintings of “ever-varying cloud formations.” For a critical assessment, see rather Sheridan OSB, Mark, From the Nile to the Rhone and Beyond: Studies in Early Monastic Literature and Scriptural Interpretation (Roma: Pontificio Ateneo S. Anselmo, 2012) 173–74, protesting against Brown’s “sweeping generalization” about private-life morals, in his later publications, which can hardly “be called ‘history’ … the interpretation overwhelms the evidence.”

4 The population dealt with is that of the empire, times the number of generations within a century, that is, something over two. The writers discussed ranged from Aelius Aristides to Boethius, in Dodds, Eric RobertsonPagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), serving discussion of a “wave of pessimism that swept over the West” (18, see 26), accounting for “all this madness” of ascetic enthusiasm (33–34, 46–47), and taken as “a model” by Brown, , “S[ymbolae] O[sloenses] Debate: The World of Late Antiquity Revisited,” SO 72 (1997) 19; see Brown’s review of Dodds’ book, finding it “a masterpiece of precise analysis,” in the EHR 83 (1968) 543.

5 Exceptional, but passed over among Anglophone scholars of the early Church, is the essay focused on Egypt by Dunand, Françoise, “Syncretismi et forme della vita religiosa,” I Greci. Storia Cultura Arte Società (ed. Settis, Salvatore; Turin: Einaudi, 1998) 2,3: 335–78, made use of below at n. 36.

6 Referring to Peter Brown’s essay “Rise and Function,” Bowersock, Glen W., “The Vanishing Paradigm of the Fall of Rome,” Bull. Am. Acad. Arts Sci. 49. 8 (1996) 2743, at 47, called the essay “an immensely important paper,” quoting Ihor Sevcenko, leading Byzantinist of the time, who hailed it as “the Big Bang”; among early converts, see Drijvers, Hans J. W., “Hellenistic and Oriental Origins,” East of Antioch: Studies in Early Syriac Christianity (ed. Drijvers, Hans J. W.; London: Variorum Reprints, 1984) 25–33, at 25–26; the author himself called it “an academic breakthrough,” see Brown, Peter, “The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, 1971–1997,” JECS 6 (1998) 353–75, at 358; further, Elm, Susanna, “Introduction,” JECS 6 (1998) 343–51, at 343–44, seeing the article as “electrifying … a paradigm shift … a lightning bolt,” with synopsis 346; Andrew Howard-Johnston, “Introduction,” Cult of Saints 1–24, at 3–4, synopsis, terming Brown “the Master” (4, 8, and 24); Cameron, Averil, “On Defining the Holy Man,” Cult of Saints 27–43, at 27, “seminal”; Rapp, Claudia, “ ‘For next to God, you are my salvation’: Reflections on the Rise of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity,” Cult of Saints 63–81, at 65, where the holy man attracts “clients,” he is their “patronus and an arbiter. This is the model put forward by Peter Brown in his seminal article.” Further, Tim Vivian, ‘Histories of the Monks of Upper Egypt’ and ‘The Life of Onnophrius’ by Paphnutius with ‘A Discourse on Saint Onnophrius’ by Pisentius of Coptos, Translated with Introduction (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 2000) 31, “seminal discussion of the holy man”; Trzcionka, Silke, Magic and the Supernatural in Fourth-Century Syria (London/ New York: Routledge, 2007) 3233; Clark, Elizabeth A., “From Patristics to Early Christian Studies,” Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies (ed. Harvey, Susan Ashbrook and Hunter, David G.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) 1422, at 20, “Brown’s now classic article”; Rebecca Krawiec, “Asceticism,” Oxford Handbook 764–86, at 770, it “transformed hagiography”; Grey, Cam, Constructing Communities in the Late Roman Countryside (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011) 131, Brown’s article is “the locus classicus,” with a synopsis of its main findings; Millar, Fergus, Empire, Church and Society in the Late Roman Near East: Greeks, Jews, Syrians and Saracens (Collected Studies 2004–2014) (Leuven/Paris/Bristol, CT: Peeters, 2015) 271, “classic portrait of the Near Eastern holy man,” from which Millar, however, differs in important ways; and Testa, Rita Lizzi, “Introduction,” Late Antiquity in Contemporary Debate (ed. Testa, Rita Lizzi; Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017) vixlix, at xxx, from Brown’s article singling out the role of the patron to define the holy man.

7 Aside from common pre-Christian strictures against recent sexual intercourse before acts of worship, notice Philostratus, Vita Apollonii 7–8, and other passages in MacMullen, Ramsay, Paganism in the Roman Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981) 43, 55, 63 (quoted, Porphyry), 166 n. 7, and 191 n. 5; further, with several biographies examined, Drijvers, “Hellenistic,” at various points; and much discussion of Hellenistic and early Christian views, for example in Escolan, Philippe, Monachisme syrien du IVe au VIIe siècle: un ministère charismatique (Paris: Beauchesne, 1999) 6569 and elsewhere; in agreement, Finn OP, Richard, Asceticism in the Graeco-Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) 154.

8 See the often quoted mid-fourth century letter to an anchorite, Paphnutius, he being one of those ἀσϰούντων ϰαὶ θϱησϰɛυόντων, in Bell, H. Idris, Jews and Christians in Egypt: The Jewish Troubles in Alexandria and the Athanasian Controversy (London: British Museum, 1924) 108–9, No. 1926; on φιλόθɛος, for example, in Eusebius, Vita Const. 49, see the correct meaning “devoted to” or “loving,” rather than “loved by” or “friend of” God, as is pointed out by, for example, Bartelink, Gerhardus Johannes Marinus, Athanase d’Alexandrie, Vie d’Antoine, Introduction, texte, traduction (Paris: Cerf, 1994) 141; sometimes the term, ὁ τῷ θɛῷ φιλός, devoted to God; but giving an idea of distance, Simeon the Younger almost as often called “slave” of God (δοῦλος) as “saint.” For modern usage “ascetic” = “holy man,” see, for example, Brown, “Rise and Function” 82, 83, 84, 91, 93; Goehring, James E., Ascetics, Society, and the Desert: Studies in Early Egyptian Monasticism (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1999) 21 and elsewhere; or Millar, Empire, 271; for not only ascetics but also cenobites and monks as “holy men,” see, for example, Rousseau, Philip, Ascetics, Authority, and the Church in the Age of Jerome and Cassian (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1978 [2nd ed., 2010]) xix, the Introduction; and on the early institutionalizing of asceticism in Egypt, Sheridan, From the Nile, 48–49, 242–49.

9 Among many scattered ascetic-census mentions, see, for example, Theodoret, Hist. relig. 3.4 (400 in two monasteries); 30.4 (a nunnery with 250); in the Vita Hypatii 11.1, in Chalcedon, “many” monasteries, one with 150 monks; and to these figures, add those collected by Jones, Arnold Hugh Martin, The Later Roman Empire, 284–602: A Social Economic and Administrative Survey (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964) 930–31. In Egypt alone, in the years around 450–500, he finds above 60,000, though warning against exaggerations. Depending on life-expectancy estimates, there would be above 2 generations per century, therefore in three centuries in Egypt alone, my suggested total or much more, since all other provinces of the Near East must be considered also.

10 For a fine collection of statements of and about the remorse of eastern-empire πɛνθουντɛς (Matt 5:4), see Hausherr, Irénée, PENTHOS. La doctrine de la compunction dans l’Orient chrétien (Roma: Pont. Institutum Orientalium Studiorum, 1944), at various points. The first quoted statement is by a certain Thalelaios/Thallelaeus of Gabala near Syrian Laodicea, in Theodoret, Hist. relig. 28.4, in Théodoret de Cyr, Histoire des moines de Syrie ‘Histoire philothée,’ Introduction, texte critique, traduction et notes (ed. Pierre Canivet and Alice Leroy-Molinghen; 2 vols.; Paris: Cerf, 1977–79) 2. 228-29; the second declaration by a certain Pachon, Hist. relig. 23.3; the third, by Simeon Stylites, in his Life 7, see Doran S. J., Robert, The Lives of Simeon Stylites (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1992) 90; the third in the life of Aphrodisius, see Cyril of Scythopolis: Lives of the Monks of Palestine (trans. Richard M. Price; Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1991) 144; a fourth, “sit in your cell and weep for your sins,” quoted from the Apophthegmata in Rousseau, Ascetics, 44.

11 Lucian, Dea Syria, 29; compare Brooks, Ernest Walter, John of Ephesus, Lives of the Eastern Saints: Syriac Text Edited and Translated (Paris: Brepols, 2003 [1923–1925]) 57 §4, where the ascetic Abraham who mounts a pillar thereby receives “the gifts of the spirit.” For the pagination of this work, see the entry below in the Appendix. The general belief that there is a connection between Lucian’s account and pillar-saints is noted but resisted by Delehaye, Hippolyte, Les saints stylites (Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1923) 177–85, and similarly without engaging with the Lucian evidence, by mere dismissal, in, for example, van den Ven, Paul, La vie ancienne de S. Syméon stylite le Jeune (Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1962–1970) 1.132. For a survey of pillar-saints of the 6th–9th centuries (87 of them!), see Schachner, Lukas Amadeus, “The Archeology of the Stylite,” in Religious Diversity in Late Antiquity (ed. Gwyn, David M. and Bangert, Susanne; Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2010) 382 and elsewhere.

12 A degree of uniformity of practice across the Fertile Crescent, good enough to treat it all as one thing, is assumed by Millar, Empire, 271, as by myself, and by Brown, “Rise and Function,” 91 and elsewhere. Notice Soz., Hist. eccl. 1.13 (PG 67.900B), Antony’s disciples each “teaching many others” in Libya, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Arabia. On the variant sect of Messalians, however, see below at n. 64.

13 The derivation of this ethic is plain in the sources, as has long been established, though it is not likely to appear in modern accounts of Judaism or Christianity; see MacMullen, Ramsay, “Social Ethic Models: Roman, Greek, ‘Oriental,’ ” Historia 64 (2015) 487510; for the model not only in OT texts but in the thoughts of ascetics, see, for example, the scriptural citations in the Life of Theodore of Sykeon 147 (Job 29:12 and Ps 82:4).

14 Most broadly, see Smith, Morton, Jesus the Magician (New York: Harper and Row, 1978) 4 and elsewhere; Leone, Luigi, Gregorio di Nissa, Vita di Gregorio Taumaturgo. Traduzione, introduzione e note (Roma: Città nuova editrice, 1988) 20; MacMullen, “Social ethic models,” 491 n. 17; specifically on health matters, 491, 501–4; Festugière, André-Jean, “Épidémies ‘hippocratiques’ et épidémies démoniques,” Wiener Studien 79 (1966) 157–64; Vie de Théodore de Sykeon (ed. André-Jean Festugière; 2 vols.; Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1970) 1: xviii–xxiv; and hundreds of references suggested in the Appendix, below, for example, in the Life of Hypatius 15.2 or 28.7–12, see Vida de Hipacio, Calinico, Introducción, traducción (ed. Roman Teja; Madrid: Editorial Trotta, 2009) 49, 67. It is erroneous to think demons are seen as the cause only of mental disease, not physical, as does Canivet, Monachisme, 141. In proof, notice especially in the Life of Simeon the Younger that half the time, deformity, malfunction, or illness has each its own “demon,” for example, at §§75, 86, 200, 245, including leprosy (219); also Ven, Vie ancienne 56 n. 1. Beyond the Fertile Crescent among those most educated Greeks participating in the so-called Greek Enlightenment, a different idea of causation could be found; but even these outliers had disappeared by the fifth century of the modern era. See MacMullen, Ramsay, “The Darkening of the West: A Note,” in The Past as Present (ed. Cecconi, Giovanni Alberto, Testa, Rita Lizzi, and Marcone, Arnaldo; Brepols: Turnhout, forthcoming); alternatively, in pre-published draft form,

15 Warning his listeners against τοὺς πονηϱοὺς δαίµονας, Antony in Athanasius’ Life of Antony 21.4 explains the ubiquity of demons, “in their throngs in the air around us, and not far from us, and of many kinds”; and again at 23.5, “in the air everywhere.”

16 For prayers scratched on the walls of the memoria apostolorum in Rome, see de Rossi, Giovanni Battista and Ferrua, Antonio, Inscriptiones christianae urbis Romae septimo saeculo antiquiores, nova series V (Roma: Officina Libraria aem Cuggiani, 1971) nos. 12907–13906; Carletti, Carlo, Epigrafia dei cristiani in occidente dal III al VII secolo (Bari: Edipuglia, 2008) 77, 266268 (safe journey, one’s chariot-choice in a race; compare Jerome’s Vita Hilarianis 20, PL 23.37); representations of body-parts and other kinds of prayer in Leemans, Johan, Mayer, Wendy, Allen, Pauline, and Dehandschutter, Boudewijn, ‘Let Us Die that Others May Live.’ Greek Homilies on Christian Martyrs from Asia Minor, Palestine, and Syria (c. AD 350–AD 450) (London/New York: Routledge, 2003) 1213; on supplicant papyri, see Bell, Jews and Christians 102–9, and Rapp, “For next to God,” 68–70; for supplicants asking for cures see the letter-collection among monks edited by Regnault, Lucien, Lemaire, Philippe, and Outtier, Bernard, Barsanuphe et Jean de Gaza. Correspondance (Solesmes: Éditions de l’Abbaye de Solesmes, 1972) 82 No. 88 or 352 No. 534; and at martyr-shrines, for example, the range of concerns in Basil, Homilia 19, In sanctos quadraginta martyres 8 (PG 31.524A); generals’ concerns, in Enquête sur les moines d’Égypte (Historia monachorum in Aegypto) (trans. André-Jean Festugière; Paris: Cerf, 1964) 9 §1.2 (this being volume 4.1 of the author’s Les moines d’Orient 1961–1965, seven volumes in four): or Théodoret (ed. Canivet and Leroy-Molinghen) 13.15 (Macedonius).

17 Sykeon, roughly 45 miles west of Ankara on the Roman road. Quoted, André-Jean Festugière, in Vie de Théodore (ed. Festugière) at 1: 2 §2, comparing §59 regarding a bishop of Dara/Anastasioupolis. On Jesus’ instructions, Matt 10:8, to heal, see, for example, Canivet, Monachisme, 118.

18 John of Ephesus, Lives, 35, in John of Ephesus, Lives of the Eastern Saints. Syriac Text Edited and Translated, (trans. Ernest Walter Brooks; 3 vols.; Paris: Brepols, 2003) II. 613. Compare rivalry in Historia monachorum in Aegypto, Prolog., 11; Festugière, Enquête, 8. Rivalrous asceticism was a common problem in coenobitic administration. Monks watched each other closely, admiring ascetic proofs that could be counted, see, for example, on genuflections, Theodoret, Hist. relig. 26.22, in Théodoret (ed. Canivet and Leroy-Molinghen) 2.204, or Besa’s Life of Shenoute §1, or Historia monachorum in Aegypto 8.5 (ed. Festugière) 48; or the wonderful length of Daniel’s hair, to the floor, Vita, 98 in Three Byzantine Saints: Contemporary Biographies Translated from the Greek (ed. and trans. Elizabeth Dawes and Norman H. Baynes; Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1948) 69.

19 Prideful mention of τοὺς ἁγίους, Hist. monachorum (ed. Festugière) §17.3, p. 114–this, not the only monastery where all or almost all members enjoyed “gifts.”

20 Matt 19:21 quoted in John of Ephesus, Lives 21 (ed. Brooks) 283, apropos a certain Thomas. For miraculous power, the most common term is χάϱισµα, as in 1 Cor 12:28, but is sometimes included among δυνάµɛις, an ἐνέϱγɛια θɛοɛιδής in Hist. monachorum, Prologus 5 (ed. Festugière) 7.

21 Smith, Jesus the Magician, 86–91, for the first two centuries; for the next three, a few examples in Ramsay MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism, 196–97.

22 The reward is known at a moment, as, for example, of Hypatius’ Life 12.2, in Vida (ed. Teja) 47; of Benjamin in Hist. Laus. 12.1; of Maron in Theodoret, Hist. relig. 16.2 (ed. Canivet and Leroy-Molinghen); of Euthymius, §§12–13 in Cyril of Scythopolis: Lives (trans. Price) 18.

23 In Cyril of Scythopolis: Lives (trans. Price) 52–53 §37; or similarly, Aphrodisius, §44, 144; again, Macarius in Palladius, see Harmless, William, Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 211.

24 On Euphemia, see Janin, Raymond, “La banlieue asiatique de Constantinople. Étude historique et topographique,” Échos d’Orient 22 (1923) 335–86, at 382–85; on Crispina, see MacMullen, Ramsay, The Second Church: Popular Christianity A.D. 200–400 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009) 6465. The sole exception I find is Piamoun in Palladius’ chapter 31, being granted the power of prediction. Brown, Peter, Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianization of the Roman World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995) 57, 61, is quite insistent that Christian women worked healing miracles “quite as much as men,” but offers no support for the assertion.

25 “The ascetic is in many ways the successor of the martyr, … [the martyr as] an ideal replaced by that of the ascetic, whose whole life was often regarded in terms of martyrdom,” quoting Sebastian [P.] Brock, Syriac Perspectives on Late Antiquity (London: Variorum Reprints, 1984) 2; on miracles by Hilarion and Epiphanius, see below, n. 26.

26 Healing by touching possessions, see Acts 19:12 as the model; Acta proconsularia S. Cypr. 4, Polycarp’s linteamina et manualia; and so on in surviving sources, for example, a suppliant lying in the holy Barses’ bed and so being healed, in Theodoret, Hist. eccl. 4.16.3. On ascetics’ miracles post-mortem, see, for example, by Simeon Stylites’ relics, in Three Byzantine Saints (ed. and trans. Dawes and Baynes) 41 §58; Euthymius’ relics at work, in Cyril of Scythopolis: Lives (trans. Price) 57 §40; the cures and exorcisms at the tomb of bishop Epiphanius of Salamis, in Soc., Hist. eccl. 7.27; or of Hilarion, in Soz., Hist. eccl. 4.10 and more fully in Jerome’s biography. For ascetics sending liquid surrogates, see Doran, Lives of Simeon Stylites, 141–43 §§62–65, 151 §71, etc., on hnana, a mix of oil and water; or the holy Z’ura using water alone, Brooks, John of Ephesus, 24–25.

27 Hippolyte Delehaye, Sanctus. Essai sur le culte des saints dans l’antiquité (Brussels: Société des Bollandistes, 1927) 2, speaking of the “vague and ill-defined significance” of the word “saint”; 29, 32, hagioi are simply Christians, not an elite, excepting only martyrs (see, for example, 56) from Polycarp on; on Syriac usage, monks as “saints,” see John of Ephesus, Lives (ed. Brooks) 159, 165; for the variety of descriptive terms, notice in the Life of Theodore of Sykeon (ed. Festugière) 2:12 §14, πατὴϱ ἅγιος … ὁ µαϰάϱιος; other hagioi in the Greek of Hist. monachorum (ed. Festugière) Vie de Théodore 9, at Prolog. §13, also pp. 43, 46, 70, and 125; but rare in other sources, where also megas, thaumasios, philotheos, etc., describe the ascetic.

28 I notice 19 bishops (five in John of Ephesus, counting John himself; two each in Socrates and Sozomen; the rest, scattered in my data-base). For the explanation of a promotion to episcopal rank, see Abba Isaac quoted in the Apophthegmata patrum (ed. Wortley) 205.

29 The particular notice earned by wonder-working is indirectly evident in the flow of biographies, from a subject’s thaumata to the wish expressed that he accept a priesthood or other office; but sometimes directly expressed, as, for example, in a monk Moses’ promotion to a see “thanks to his apostolic teachings and his miracles” (Theodoret, Hist. eccl. 4.23.5 [trans. Canivet] 2.293).

30 Rubenson, Samuel, The Letters of St. Antony: Monasticism and the Making of a Saint (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995). Though sometimes described cautiously as “attributed,” Antony’s letters have won general acceptance more recently, seen for example in Gemeinhardt, Peter, Antonius, der erste Mönch. Leben, Lehre, Legende (München: Beck, 2013) 19. On the inner life of early ascetics, see Brakke, David’s Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995), for example, 204–13, 253–54, and Ng, Nathan Kwok-kit, The Spirituality of Athanasius (Bern/Berlin: P. Lang, 2001), with Rousseau, Goehring, Finn, and other cited above. It has not been noticed that attestation of Antony’s letters reaches back no further than the 330s, that is, not into Antony’s prior life as a solitary where they are hard to imagine.

31 The Festal Epistles of Saint Athanasius, translated from the Syriac (Anon. trans. [Henry Burgess]; Oxford: J. H. Parker, 1854) xviii; Athanasius, Vita Antonii 69.2–3, “everyone ran together to see Antony … for the Lord through him cleansed many demons and healed persons deranged” (in the 330’s). Compare the holy Julian’s entrance to Antioch, Theodoret, Hist. relig. 2.18, or Theodore’s entrance to Nicomedia, Life of Theodore of Sykeon §158 in Vie de Théodore (ed. Festugière) 137.

32 Much of the evidence for this creativity is found in the very detailed visions reported by holy men; but for a good example of gullibility see the Historia monachorum in Aegypto, 9.2–4.

33 John Henry Cardinal Newman has been sometimes quoted, in his Historical Sketches (London: Longman’s Green, 1899) 315–17, confronting the “stupid credulity” of Theodoret and seeing in it only an instrument of a good outcome; yet “scholarly embarrassment” persists, see, for example, on “ascetic experiences,” Frank, Georgia, The Memory of the Eyes: Pilgrims to Living Saints in Christian Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000) 45, with Derwas Chitty among others pointing out the problem “even among generous interpreters,” or Cooper, Kate, “Reti di famiglia, reti di evangelizzazione: la famiglia tra paganismo e cristianesimo nella Passio Sebastiani,” Pagans and Christians in the Roman Empire: The Breaking of a Dialogue (IVth–VIth Century A. D.). Proceedings of the International Conference at the Monastery of Bose (October 2008 (ed. Brown, Peter and Testa, Rita Lizzi; Vienna: Lit, 2011) 245–69, at 246, noting in a certain scholar “the embarrassment of our modern selves confronting the high style of miracle-working present in ancient sources.” Escolan, Monachisme, 1, rightly warns against the tendency of “the modern mind” simply to block out those “disturbing” aspects of ancient Christian belief that seem “extreme” rather than recognizing that “the monastic world had its own logic.” As to insufflation against evil spirits by the Holy Spirit, see An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church (ed. Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum; New York: Church Publishing, 2000) 266. For those historians who follow trends in methodology, the question of miracles well illustrates the etic-emic debates of the last generation, see Michael C. Alexander, “Roman Amoralism Reconsidered” (1990), 97–99.

34 On sceptics, see MacMullen, “The Darkening,” at nn. 14–16; sceptics in, for example, Philostratus, Vita Apollonii 7.38–39, or Hist. monachorum in Aegypto 13.12; personal witness, for example, George of Sykeon in the Life of Theodore §126, in Vie de Théodore (ed. Festugière) 2:193.

35 MacMullen, “Darkening,” at nn. 7, 16, 24.

36 Aigeae, see Eusebius, Vita Constantini 3.56. By the close of the third century there were more than 150 Asclepius temples in the Greek world, reflecting the primacy of healing-aid, cf. Dunand, “Syncrétismes et forms de la vie,” 2,3: 357.

37 I try to make clear to myself the need in interpretations to look for motivation, in Why Do We Do What We Do? (De Gruyter Open Access, 2014) available gratis, as well as hardback. As to the papyrus letter, see above, n. 8; and in the Nyssa bishop’s account of Gregory the Thaumaturge, with due emphasis on healing (§§76–79, 96–99), notice how it ends (§100): still more miracles known to oral memory are withheld by his eulogist only “to spare them an unbelieving reception.”

38 Bieler, Ludwig, ΘΕΙΟΣ ΑΝΗΡ. Das Bild des ‘göttlichen Menschen’ in Spätantike und früh Christentum (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1967) 3, 25, 31–33, 41, indicates points in Jesus’ and Paul’s stories that find parallels in non-Christian examples. On the term for the holy man, ὀ θɛῖος ἀνὴϱ, see, for example, Theodoret, Hist. relig. 2.2, 2.8, 4.10, etc. Fowden, Garth, “The Pagan Holy Man in Late Antique Society,” JHS 102 (1982) 3359, in a very rich exposition of this human type from ca. 275 through the sixth century, deals (as he emphasizes, 48–51) with a being of a highly privileged class, who in this and other respects differs from the earlier, less intellectual, holy man that more closely resembles the Christian.

39 Dunand, Françoise, “Miracles et guérisons en Égypte tardive,” Mélanges Étienne Bernand (ed. Fick, Nicole and Carrière, Jean-Claude; Paris: Annales Littéraires de l’Université de Besançon, 1991) 235–50, at 249, quoted, in an essay compressing a great deal into a short span. She builds on the foundational work of Delehaye, Bidez, Chabot, Festugière, and other French scholars rather neglected in Anglophone scholarship.

40 See Frankfurter, David, Christianizing Egypt: Syncretism and Local Worlds in Late Antiquity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), at various points, richly documented. For an account of his and Dunand’s subject matter as it is found in more than the one province of Egypt, with generally compatible conclusions, see MacMullen, Christianity and Paganism, chapters 3–5.

41 Socrates, Hist. eccl. 4.24 (PG 67.4.24A).

42 In general, and often noticed, monks strive to imitate Jesus, as in Matt 14:13–22, 15:32–38, and elsewhere, feeding crowds; compare the life of Simeon the Scribe in Brooks, Lives of Saint Simeon, §34 615–16, where a thousand are fed with a few loaves; similarly, the Life of Hypatius §20.1–2, in Vida (ed. Teja), 52–53; Cyriacus in Cyril of Scythopolis: Lives (trans. Price), §20 257; or the Life of Alexander Akoimetos §45, in Wandering, Begging Monks: Spiritual Authority and the Promotion of Monasticism in Late Antiquity (ed. Daniel Caner; Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002) 261.

43 Monasteries and churches commonly had guest-houses or hostelries and, by Basil’s day and John Chrysostom’s, these might be turned into homeless shelters for “beggars” and “the aged,” as the special names for them show. John Cassian (d. 435) explains the provision by Egyptian monks: a tithe of their annual funds. For a general view, see Otto Hiltbrunner’s richly documented article in RE 9, Zweiter Reihe (Stuttgart: Alfred Druckenmüller, 1967), “Ξɛνοδοχɛιον, xenodochium,” esp. 1490–1499. Cod. Theod. 16.2.42–43 (416) is useful. To Hiltbrunner I can add only reference to Thalassios who “collected many who were blind and had to be beggars, and he made a refuge for them here and there and everywhere, and his visitors fed them,” in Theodoret, Hist. relig. Chap. 22.7, in Théodoret (ed. Canivet and Leroy-Molinghen), 2:133; Mary, for whom “there could not be any sick poor man among those lying in the streets who escaped her so she did not visit him either twice or once a day,” in John of Ephesus, Lives §XII (ed. Brooks), 166; similarly the abbot Alexander Akoimetos (d. 430), in the Life 33, who “nourished the poor like a father and taught the rich to do good deeds,” see Caner, Wandering, Begging Monks, 269; a little later, the famous Shenoute (d. 460), known to be friends even with the local governor, see Lopez, Ariel G., Shenoute of Atripe and the Uses of Poverty: Rural Patronages, Religious Conflict, and Monasticism in Late Antique Egypt (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013) 30, 131–33; Blum, Rabbula, 78; and Schachner, “Archeology of the Stylite,” 363. On Melania the Younger, dispensing 35,000 gold coins to eastern monasteries, see Palladius, Lausiac History, 61.3–4 (equivalent to the average annual earnings of more than 50,000 men); modest donations to a monastery, for example, in the Life of Simeon the Younger 49, Ven, La vie 55; and a grand gift to an individual ascetic, for distribution, in Amélineau, Émile, Histoire des monastères de la Basse Égypte. Vies des saints Paule, Antoine, Macaire, Maxime et Domèce Jean le Nain, etc. Texte copte et traduction (Paris: Leroux, 1894) 104.

44 On Cyril’s payment for the recovery of his see, see MacMullen, Ramsay, Corruption and the Decline of Rome (New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1988) 165–66; on Edessa, see Blum, Rabbula, 73 with n. 70, explaining that the daric in the annual income of 7,000 is a guinea (meaning the British gold coin, from which I offer my equivalent for today, though its buying power is incalculable). The bishop’s source (74) was most likely gifts.

45 “Die soziale Gerechtigkeit” is what Blum, Rabbula, 73, sees as required of, and vigorously observed by, the bishop, along with Armenfürsorge and Krankenpflege.

46 This structure is the subject of MacMullen, Corruption, where Basil and John Chrysostom are quoted (85); notice is taken of the patron system and its general prevalence (169); also sources on extortion by the military (150–52, 158–62); and Libanius’ Or. 47 on patron roles (159, 169), where Alfred Francis Norman, ed., is useful, in his Libanius. Selected Works (2 vols.; Cambridge/ London: Harvard University Press, 1969–77) 2:494–99. He dates the oration around 390. The problem of the orator’s irony is indicated by the editor with “scare quotes” (494, “ ‘protectors’ ”) and is also obvious at §6: ταῖς ϰαλαῖς πϱοστασίαις, “fine protection system.”

47 See above, n. 46; below, nn. 48, 50, 59.

48 Life of Theodore 76, in Vie de Théodore (ed. Festugière) 2:65–66, on the wicked πϱοτίϰτοϱ (sic). The term (despite Festugière’s uncertainty, 2:186) is as he says at 2:201 (§45) and 2:220 (§76), the equivalent of Village or Town Headman, in whom a bishop would naturally see a deputy. It could also designate an imperial Guardsman.

49 In addition to big names that experimented with asceticism, there are many others less known who moved into a church career, for example, John the Hesychiast in Cyril of Scythopolis: Lives (trans. Price), 220, or Abraham in Theodoret, Hist. relig. 17.2–3, in Théodoret (ed. Canivet and Leroy-Molinghen) 2:35–36.

50 On the common practice of a town or village choosing a protector or patronus in the first to the third centuries, in the East, see Harmand, Louis, Le patronat sur les collectivités publiques des origines au Bas-Empire (Paris: Presses Universitaires, 1957) 314–15. For the Abraham example, see Theodoret, Hist. relig. 17.3–8, the site being a nameless village on the upper Orontes. Abraham turns to γνωϱίµους in Emesa for financing (§3– a single gold coin was a year’s pay for two soldiers) and (§4) the ϰώµη elects him πϱοστάτης, “advocate”; his justice as a bishop later makes him famous (§8). On the familiar position of advocate in the region, see such intermediaries as Rabbi Abbahu, in MacMullen, Corruption, 206; also Grey, Constructing Communities, 106, instancing Rabbi Eliezer as parnas.

51 On private counseling by ascetics, see, for example, the Syriac Life of Simeon 26, in Lives (ed. Doran), 116; for other illustrations, see Antony, Life, 14; Theodore of Sykeon, Life, 145; or Aphraates and Abraham in Theodoret, Hist. relig. 13.13 and 17.8; especially Barsanuphius in Regnault, Lemaire, and Outtier, Barsanuphe, at various points offering in-house advice to monks.

52 He defends the poor against harassment, see the Syriac Life of Simeon §34 in Lives (ed. Doran), 124–25. On the Antioch deputation, the dyers’ tax rise of 300% being imposed by a cruel magistrate, see the Life 56, in Lives (ed. Doran), 135-36. On interventions to defend the weak, see also Alexander Akoimetos in Antioch, Life §38–39, in Caner, Wandering, Begging Monks, 272–73; in the eulogy of Gregory the Wonderworker §47, Gregory of Nyssa describes how by that bishop “the powerful were taught to be kindly, φιλανθϱωπɛύɛσθαι, to those who were their subjects,” in Pierre Maraval, Grégoire de Nysse: Éloge de Grégoire le Thaumaturge. Éloge de Basil (Paris: Cerf, 2014) 160–61; similarly, the administration of Jacobus, in Theodoret, Hist. relig. 1§7; likewise of Hypatius in Constantinople, Life 6.7–8, in Vida (ed. Teja), 42; Habib in John of Ephesus’ Lives chap. 1 (ed. Brooks), 8; or the bishop of Chios, Kashish, chap. 51 (ed. Brooks), 159.

53 Punishments, Life of Simeon 39 and 56 (ed. Doran), 124–25 and 135–36; compare Daniel’s Life 75, in Three Byzantine Saints (ed. and trans. Dawes and Baynes), 53. For passages showing the alarming misfortunes that befell persons hostile to a bishop, Basil, see Ramsay MacMullen, “Response,” in Protocol of the Thirty-fifth Colloquy, Center for Hermeneutical Studies: The Role of the Christian Bishop in Ancient Society (ed. Henry Chadwick, Edward C. Hobbs, and Wilhelm Wuellner; Berkeley: Center for Hermeneutical Studies, 1980) 25–29, at 29.

54 Qalat-Siman from Aleppo is about a 350-foot climb over a 19-mile distance. On the pillar’s height, see the Life 12, eventually 36 cubits. The last twenty-foot section would have weighed 12–15 tons, involving an immense expense in transport, draft animals, scaffolding, cranes, and labor—an effort in which tradition shows no interest. On his rejection by the monastic community everywhere, and his eulogist’s uneasiness, see Canivet, Monachisme 110, 112–18. As for the sanctuary around his tomb, see Schachner, “Archeology of the Stylite,” 366, 370, facilities for “the thrill of tourism” offering “the allure of ‘bizarrely sacred’ places.” On the armed force needed to safeguard the removal of his relics first to Antioch from the outraged Syrians, see Restle, Marcell, “Kalaat Seman,” Reallexikon zur byzantinischen Kunst, (eds. Wessel, Klaus and Restle, Marcell; Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann, 1978) 3:856–57; and on Daniel at Constantinople, Life 26, in Three Byzantine Saints (ed. Dawes and Baynes), 22. On Daniel’s cures wrought on the city’s bishop, on a former consul, the emperor’s major domo, and the empress herself, infertile, see the saint’s Life 20, 28–29, 31, 38, and 40.

55 On the series of the pillar saints, Schachner, “Archaelogy,” 332, lists the ten attested textually. The list, after the first three, counts one of the sixth century on the Armenian border, and the rest, still later.

56 Quoted, Lives (ed. Doran), 18; confirmed by mentions in Brown’s article insistently picturing the holy man as a “mediator” (89, 90, 92), an “arbiter” (93), and “hinge-man” (86, three times). On the prevalence of Brown’s image of the holy man in modern scholarship, notice Drijvers, Hellenistic, 31, “the holy men are always ready to participate in the social life of the common people and the social elite,” etc.; or Straw, Carol and Lim, Richard, “Introduction,” The Past Before Us: The Challenge of Historiographies of Late Antiquity (eds. Straw, Carole and Lim, Richard; Turnhout: Brepols, 2004) 1118, at 12, on “the holy man as a political and social mediator, as well as a social catalyst,” in Brown’s “seminal” work; Grey, Constructing Communities, 131, on holy men “often enmeshed in local power structures and broader networks of communication and influence,” where their “isolation” is only an “illusion.” For the sole challenge, see the Dean of early Church studies, Henry Chadwick, saying about interpretations of the early saints, “we go in search of trendy non-religious explanations of the social needs that created them,” in Chadwick, “Pachomios and the Idea of Sanctity,” in The Byzantine Saint: University of Birmingham Fourteenth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies (ed. Sergei Hackel; London: Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, 1981) 12. There can be no doubt what Chadwick was referring to. Against the article’s ambitions, further, Treadgold, Warren, “Taking Sources on Their Own Terms and Ours: Peter Brown’s Late Antiquity,” Antiquité tardive 2 (1994) 153–59, at 156, remarked, with justice, “it seems improbable that as much as 5% of the population of the Later Roman Empire ever saw a holy man.”

57 The title of Bieler’s book is recalled by Brown to show it had been consulted, even though not cited. Bieler did indeed point out non-Christian analogies to the familiar Christian narrative but only thaumaturgical parallels are cited by Brown, to be dismissed as superficial.

58 Doran quoted, above, n. 56. Frankfurter, Christianizing Egypt, 5, can accept Brown’s picture of the “mediator,” hesitatingly, but (chapter 3) only by taking “mediator” to mean anyone in any contact with any group different from his own. This is certainly not Brown’s picture.

59 On the routines of patronage, see above at nn. 46–48. While Brown makes use of Louis Harmand’s study of Libanius’ 47th oration, he neglects Harmand’s much grander and more useful work of two years later, Le patronat, for example, at 426 (patrocinium reached its high point in the fourth century, as the Egyptian texts illustrate); and (428, 462–64, 471) threats to it from the military were resisted (if ineffectually) by imperial legislation. For more evidence, see further Cod. Theod. 11.24.1–6 and MacMullen, Corruption, 85–86 and chapter 2 §3 at various other points.

60 On the money-relations between the working masses and persons of power, see MacMullen, Corruption, Appendix C and “Soldiers in Cities in the Roman Empire,” Revue des Études Militaires Anciennes 3 (2006) 125–30; on the role of the Church, see above, nn. 43, 52.

61 Above, at note 46 and the succeeding paragraph; further, Harmand, Patronat, 484, speaking of “large villages each with many landowners”—as Brown notices and goes on to add without evidence that the Haves of Libanius’ type were idle feckless patrons and the soldiers, “sensitive to the needs of villagers” (“Rise and Function,” 85–86) and caring toward the peasantry (!).

62 Above, n. 43; and notice Harmand, Patronat, 486, that the Church in the later Roman empire mostly took over the civic impulse of social support, philanthropy, generosity—as is outlined above.

63 Palladius’ prologue §8, 2:12 [in the Greek text Butler uses and indicates, PG 34.1003], my own translation of an extravagant bit of rhetoric.

64 On Messalianism, see, for example, Theodoret’s opposition, Hist. relig. 10.3, and in general, Pierre Canivet, Le monachisme syrien selon Théodoret de Cyr (Paris: Beauchesne, 1977) 221, 224, and Escolan, Monachisme, chapter 3 and elsewhere.

65 In support of a mediating role for holy men across my whole data-base, there are 33 mentions of mediating roles (23, 24) out of 829 mentions (4%); compare the 40 mentions for control over wind, weather, and water (17, 18) or 78 mentions for prediction and second sight (10, 11).

66 Of the uneasiness so often occasioned among modern scholars by the ancients’ belief in miracles, see a few examples above at n. 33.

67 On John of Lycopolis, see Palladius, in Nicolas Molinier, Histoire Lausiaque, Introduction, traduction et notes (Bégrolles-en-Mauges: Abbaye de Bellefontaine, 1999) 151–59, esp. at 35.8–13; Greek text, Festugière, Historia monachorum (1971) 9–35, and trans., Moines d’Orient (1964) 9–28; regarding hostelries, see above at n. 43; in contrast, Brown, “Rise and Function,” 93.

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