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The Lausiac History is a seminal work archiving the Desert Fathers (early Christian monks who lived in the Egyptian desert) by Palladius of Galatia[1], at the request of Lausus, chamberlain at the court of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II.



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.[2] A shorter Greek text was published by J. Meursius (Leyden, 1616), and a longer one by Fronton du Duc,[3], and a still more complete one by J. Cotelerius.[4] This longer version contains the text of Rufinus. Butler, Preuschen, and others think that the shorter text (of Meursius) is Palladius's authentic work, the longer version being interpolated. Amélineau holds that the longer text is all Palladius's work, and that the first thirty-seven chapters (about the monks of Lower Egypt) are mainly an account of what the author saw and heard, though even here he has also used documents. But he thinks the second part (about Upper Egypt) is merely a compilation from a Coptic or Greek document which Rufinus also used; so that Palladius's visit to Upper Egypt must be a literary fiction. 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.[5] At one time the "Lausiac History" was considered a compilation of imaginary legends. [6] Later research has very considerably rehabilitated Palladius. The chief authorities now (Butler, Preuschen) consider the "Lausiac History" to be in the main a serious historical document as well as an invaluable picture of the lives and ideas of the earliest Christian monks[7].

An extract from the introduction

"IN the fourth and fifth centuries of our era Egypt had come to be regarded with great reverence throughout Christendom as a Holy Land of piety.[8]

"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.

"[As] expressed by Chrysostom ... Egypt ... 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.

"Palladius, ... made a pilgrimage to this holy land, like so many others, and stayed there many years. ... 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."


  1. ^ Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  2. ^ Paris, 1555, reprinted by H. Rosweyde ("Vitæ patrum", VIII, Paris, 1628).
  3. ^ "Auctarium bibliothecæ Patrum", IV, Paris, 1624.
  4. ^ "Monumenta eccl. græcæ", III, Paris, 1686; reprinted in Patrologia Graeca, XXXIV, 995-1260.
  5. ^ "Paradisus Patrum", ed. Bedjan, "Acta martyrum et sanctorum", VII, Paris, 1897; tr. E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Fathers", 2 vols. London, 1907.
  6. ^ Weingarten, "Der Ursprung des Mönchtums", Gotha, 1877, and others.
  7. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia
  8. ^ Introduction, in public domain Section source.

See also



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