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E00700: Jerome, in his Life of Hilarion, states that some people disbelieved in the existence of *Paul (the First Anchorite, S00089), whose life he had written in the early 370s. Written in Bethlehem (Palestine) in the early 390s.

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

... maledicorum uoces contemnimus, qui olim detrahentes Paulo meo nunc forte detrahent et Hilarioni, illum solitudinis calumniati, huic obicientes frequentiam; ut qui semper latuit, non fuisse, qui a multis uisus est, uilis existimetur.fecerunt hoc et maiores eorum quondam pharisaei, quibus nec Iohannis eremus ac ieiunium nec domini saluatoris turbae, cibi potus que placuerunt. Verum destinato operi imponam manum et scylleos canes obturata aure transibo.

'We despise the abuse of some who as they once disparaged my hero Paulus, will now perhaps disparage Hilarion; the former they censure for his solitary life; they may find fault with the latter for his intercourse with the world; the one was always out of sight, therefore they think he had no existence; the other was seen by many, therefore he is deemed of no account. It is just what their ancestors the Pharisees did of old! They were not pleased with John fasting in the desert, nor with our Lord and Saviour in the busy throng, eating and drinking. But I will put my hand to the work on which I have resolved, and go on my way closing my ears to the barking of Scylla's hounds.'

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Paul, the First Anchorite : S00089

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

Palestine with Sinai

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Bethlehem 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 - Rejection, Condemnation, Scepticism

Uncertainty/scepticism/rejection of a saint


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.


For the Life of Paul of Thebes, see E00750. We cannot know whom Jerome has in mind when writing about those who disbelieved in the existence of Paul of Thebes. We do know that this vita was written before his quarrel with Rufinus of Aquileia who shortly after became a main target of Jerome's polemics.


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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