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In re-examining the Christianization of the Roman Empire and subsequent transformation of Graeco-Roman classical culture, this volume challenges conventional ways of understanding both the history of Christian monasticism and the history of education. The chapters interrogate assumptions that have framed monastic practice as pedagogically unprecedented, with few obvious precursors and/or parallels. A number explore how both teaching and practice merge classical pedagogical structures with Christian sources and traditions. Others re-situate monasticism within a longer trajectory of educational and institutional frameworks, elucidating models that remain central to the preservation of both Greek and Latin literary culture, and the skills of reading and writing. Through re-examination of archaeological evidence and critical re-reading of signature monastic texts, each documents the degree to which monastic structures emerged in close alignment with urban, literate society, and retain established affinity with classical rhetorical and philosophical school traditions.
Asceticism had deep roots in ancient society, both in the various religious traditions of the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Greek philosophical tradition. However, the emergence of monasticism constitutes a strikingly rapid and radical change of social, political and religious culture. This chapter discusses asceticism and monasticism in the East during the fourth and fifth centuries. It presents a discussion of some general characteristic features that precedes a typological description of the main varieties and a sketch of the tradition's emergence in the five major areas: Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor and Constantinople. In various ways the ascetic groups in the cities, as well as the ascetic households, were transformed into monasteries. In monastic communities, the spiritual direction of the disciple by his master or the answers of the solitary monks to those seeking advice were gathered and transmitted in growing collections of spiritual wisdom.
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