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Desert Christians – An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism - Oxford Scholarship Online
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Desert Christians: An Introduction to the Literature of Early Monasticism

William, S.J. Harmless


In the fourth century, the deserts of Egypt became the nerve center of a radical new movement, what we now call monasticism. Groups of Christians—from illiterate peasants to learned intellectuals—moved out to the wastelands beyond the Nile Valley and, in the famous words of Saint Athanasius, made the desert a city. In so doing, they captured the imagination of the ancient world. They forged techniques of prayer and asceticism, of discipleship and spiritual direction, that have remained central to Christianity ever since. Seeking to map the soul’s long journey to God and plot out the subtle vag ... More

Keywords: monasticism, Egypt, Desert Fathers, prayer, asceticism, Antony, Pachomius, Apophthegmata Patrum, Evagrius Ponticus, Cassian, John

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2004 Print ISBN-13: 9780195162233
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2005 DOI:10.1093/0195162234.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

William, S.J. Harmless, author
Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska
Author Webpage