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E00702: Jerome, in his Life of Hilarion, describes a pious visit which Hilarion (anchorite in Palestine and Cyprus, ob. 371, S00099) paid to the hermitage of *Antony ('the Great', monk of Egypt, ob. 356, S00098) in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, during which Hilarion asked to see Antony's hidden grave. Written in Latin in Bethlehem (Palestine) in the early 390s.

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posted on 2015-09-10, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Jerome, Life of Hilarion 20

Iacebat [Hilarion] in stratu eius et quasi calens adhuc cubile deosculabatur. Erat autem cellula non plus mensurae per quadrum tenens quam homo dormiens extendi poterat. Praeterea in sublimi montis uertice quasi per cochleam ascendentibus et arduo ualde nisu duae eiusdem mensurae cellulae uisebantur, in quibus uenientium frequentiam et discipulorum suorum contubernium fugiens moratus est; uerum hae in uiuo excisae saxo ostia tantum addita habebant. Postquam autem ad hortulum uenerant: "uidetis", inquit Isaac, "hoc pomarium arbusculis consitum et oleribus uirens? Ante hoc ferme triennium cum onagrorum grex hoc uastaret, unum e ductoribus eorum stare iussit, baculo que tundens latera: "quare", inquit, "comeditis, quod non seminastis?" Et exinde exceptis aquis, ad quas potandas uentitabant, numquam eos nec arbusculam nec olera contigisse. Praeterea rogabat senex, ut sibi locum tumuli ostenderent. Qui cum seorsum eum abduxissent, utrum monstrauerint necne, ignoratur, causam occultandi iuxta praeceptum antonii fuisse referentes, ne Pergamius, qui in illis locis ditissimus erat, sublato ad uillam suam sancti corpore martyrium fabricaretur.

'Hilarion would lie upon the saint's bed and as though it were still warm would affectionately kiss it. The cell was square, its sides measuring no more than the length of a sleeping man. Moreover on the lofty mountaintop, the ascent of which was by a zig-zag path very difficult, were to be seen two cells of the same dimensions, in which he stayed when he escaped from the crowds of visitors or the company of his disciples. These were cut out of the live rock and were only furnished with doors. When they came to the garden, “You see,” said Isaac, “this garden with its shrubs and green vegetables; about three years ago it was ravaged by a troop of wild asses. One of their leaders was bidden by Antony to stand still while he thrashed the animal's sides with a stick and wanted to know why they devoured what they had not sown. And ever afterwards, excepting the water which they were accustomed to come and drink, they never touched anything, not a bush or a vegetable.” The old man further asked to be shown his burial place, and they thereupon took him aside; but whether they showed him the tomb or not is unknown. It is related that the motive for secrecy was compliance with Antony's orders and to prevent Pergamius, a very wealthy man of the district, from removing the saint's body to his house and erecting a shrine to his memory.'

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


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Antony, 'the Great', monk of Egypt, ob. 356 : S00098 Hilarion, anachorite in Palestine and Cyprus (ob. 371) : S00099

Saint Name in Source

Antonius Hilarion

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 - Places

Burial site of a saint - unspecified

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Visiting graves and shrines

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits

Cult Activities - Relics

Bodily relic - entire body Contact relic - saint’s possession and clothes


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.


According to his Life written by Athanasius, Antony died in his hermitage in the Eastern Desert, was buried in a secret place by his pupils and nobody knew the place of his tomb (see E00631). According to Life of Hilarion 33-34, this visit took place during the reign of Julian (361-363).


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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