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E00697: Jerome, in his Life of Hilarion, states that Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis (Cyprus), wrote a letter praising *Hilarion of Gaza (anchorite in Palestine and Cyprus, ob. 371, S00099). Written in Latin in Bethlehem (Palestine) in the early 390s.

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posted on 2015-09-08, 00:00 authored by robert
Jerome, Life of Hilarion 1

Quamquam enim sanctus Epiphanius, Salaminae Cypri episcopus, qui cum Hilarione plurimum uersatus est, laudem eius breui epistula scripserit quae uulgo legitur, tamen aliud est locis communibus laudare defunctum, aliud defuncti proprias narrare uirtutes.

'It is true that that holy man Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, who had much intercourse with Hilarion, set forth his praises in a short but widely circulated letter. Yet it is one thing to praise the dead in general terms, another to relate their characteristic virtues.'

Text: Bastiaensen 1975. Translation: Fremantle et al. 1893.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Hilarion, anachorite in Palestine and Cyprus (ob. 371) : S00099

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Aegean islands and Cyprus Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Bethlehem Eleutheropolis

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Bethlehem Salamis Σαλαμίς Salamis Salamis Farmagusta Far Κωνσταντία Konstantia Constantia Eleutheropolis Caesarea Maritima Καισάρεια Kaisareia Caesarea Kayseri Turris Stratonis

Major author/Major anonymous work

Jerome of Stridon

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Jerome wrote the Life of Hilarion at the very beginning of the 390s, in the early years of his long stay in Bethlehem. Hilarion died in 371, before Jerome's first visit to the East, so he never met him personally: he probably learnt about the monk of Gaza from Epiphanius of Salamis. The Life presents Hilarion as a founder of monastic life in Palestine, a powerful miracle-worker, and a monk looking all his life for solitude. If the image of the hero and the monastic life presented by Jerome in his earlier life of Paul of Thebes is in many ways polemical to that presented in Athanasius' Life of Antony, Hilarion is depicted as a new, perhaps better, Antony: the polemic is gone. It is interesting to remark that in the Life of Hilarion Jerome aims to promote a posthumous cult of his hero: he mentions the miracles which occur both at his tomb in Maiuma, close to Gaza, and at the place of his first burial at Cyprus. Such a goal is not infrequent in later lives of holy monks, but at the end of the 4th century it was uncommon; in the Life of Antony we can see a desire to prevent the cult of its hero rather than to promote it, and the cultic aspect is also absent in Jerome's Lives of Paul and Malchus.


Epiphanius of Salamis had many occasions to meet Hilarion since before his election to the bishopric of Salamis in Cyprus(365/367): he was the head of the monastery in Besanduk, close to Eleutheropolis, midway between Hilarion's Gaza and Jerusalem. Even after his episcopal ordination he frequently visited Palestine, so it is possible that the letter praising Hilarion was written there. We do not know how widely actually this letter circulated. Its text did not survive and we know about it only thanks to Jerome's reference.


Edition: Bastiaensen, A.A.R., and Smit, J.W., in: Vita di Martino. Vita di Ilarione. In memoria di Paola (Vita dei santi 4; Milan: Mondadori, 1975), with Italian translation by L. Canali and C. Moreschini. Edition and French translation: Morales, E.M. (ed.), and Leclerc, P. (trans.), Jérôme, Trois vies de moines (Paul, Malchus, Hilarion) (Sources chrétienns 508; Paris: Cerf, 2007). English translation: Fremantle, W.H., Lewis, W., and Martley, W.G., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 6 (Buffalo, NY, 1893). Further reading: Vogüé, A. de, Histoire littéraire du mouvement monastique dans l'antiquité. Vol. 2 (Paris: Cerf, 1993), 163-236. Weingarten, S., The Saint's Saints: Hagiography and Geography in Jerome (Leiden: Brill, 2005).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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