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Part IV - The Conflict with Gesios

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2015

David Brakke
Affiliation:
Ohio State University
Andrew Crislip
Affiliation:
Virginia Commonwealth University
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Summary

Introduction

The works gathered in this final section exemplify the diversity of Shenoute's Discourses: they include two open letters (one addressed to a wealthy man and his friends and the other to the city of Panopolis) and three sermons (one of which Shenoute preached when thousands of refugees had gathered at the monastery during attacks from tribes of “barbarians”). Yet they all speak to, deal with, or at least mention a single rich individual whom Shenoute (in his currently known works) refuses to name: he is “the slave of mammon,” “an enemy of Jesus,” “that man unworthy of God,” “the man deserving to be cursed,” “that hostile man in Panopolis,” “that man whose name does not deserve to be spoken here,” and so on. As Shenoute describes him, this wealthy landowner in Panopolis (Shmin) blasphemed Christ more than once, secretly engaged in worship of pagan gods, and oppressed his laborers and other poor people. Shenoute assumed that his listeners knew whom he was talking about, and modern scholars think that they know as well: he was Flavius Aelius Gessius, erstwhile governor of the Roman province of the Thebaid (376–80), known to his Coptic-speaking neighbors as Gesios. Shenoute's conflict with Gesios illustrates the tensions that accompanied the rise of Christian monasticism in eastern areas of the Roman Empire, tensions that were simultaneously religious, social, and economic.

The name “Gesios” does appear elsewhere in literature associated with Shenoute. For example, a lost work of Shenoute bore the title Gesios writes. The Life of Shenoute in Coptic mentions Gesios twice. In the first passage it identifies Gesios as “a pagan” who “was very impious and used to blaspheme Christ” and it depicts Shenoute as cursing him: “His tongue shall be bound to the big toe of his foot in hell!” A vision confirms that this curse came true. This Gesios certainly matches the man Shenoute discusses in his works, but even more relevant is the following incident:

One day, our father went to the city of Shmin to carry off in secrecy by night the idols in Gesios’ house. He then mounted his donkey together with two brother monks who were also mounted on beasts.[…]

Type
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Selected Discourses of Shenoute the Great
Community, Theology, and Social Conflict in Late Antique Egypt
, pp. 193 - 200
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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  • The Conflict with Gesios
  • Edited and translated by David Brakke, Ohio State University, Andrew Crislip, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Book: Selected Discourses of Shenoute the Great
  • Online publication: 05 December 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139136846.023
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  • The Conflict with Gesios
  • Edited and translated by David Brakke, Ohio State University, Andrew Crislip, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Book: Selected Discourses of Shenoute the Great
  • Online publication: 05 December 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139136846.023
Available formats
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  • The Conflict with Gesios
  • Edited and translated by David Brakke, Ohio State University, Andrew Crislip, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Book: Selected Discourses of Shenoute the Great
  • Online publication: 05 December 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139136846.023
Available formats
×