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E02348: The Life of *Antonius (monk of northern Italy and Lérins, S01208) is written in Latin by Ennodius of Pavia, probably between 506 and 521, ostensibly at the request of abbot Leontius. It narrates Antonius' life, emphasising his early extreme ascetic endeavours, before finally choosing cenobitism as the best form of monasticism, and entering the community of Lérins (southern France), where he becomes a leading figure and eventually dies.

online resource
posted on 2017-02-09, 00:00 authored by Bryan, mpignot
Life of Antonius (BHL 584)


§§ 1-5: Prologue. Ennodius emphasises the need to tell of illustrious men, in order to follow their example. He dedicates the work to abbot Leontius, who requested it.

§ 6: Invocation to the Holy Spirit

§§ 7-11: Childhood of Antonius. He is born in the city of Valeria (Noricum), the son of Secundinus, from a noble family. Orphaned at the age of eight, he stays with the renowned Severinus, then with his uncle Constantius, bishop of Lauriacum, who educates him.

§§ 12-14: Pagan barbarians (Franks, Heruls, Saxons) invade Pannonia, and kill many people. Bishop Constantius dies in this period.

§§ 15-17: The servants of Constantius bring Antonius to Italy; first he lives in Valtellina, with the priest Marius. Marius wants to ordain Antonius because of his merits, but Antonius refuses because he wants to avoid honours.

§§ 18-22: Antonius chooses to live in an isolated place (secessum) near the tomb of the martyr Fidelis (beati martyris Fidelis sepulcro), at the extremity of the lake of Como (Larius), on a high and inhospitable mountain range, where two old hermits already live. When one of the hermits dies, Antonius sees a column of fire ascending to heaven.

§§ 22-24: Description and praise of Antonius' radical eremitism.

§§ 25-29: A murderer joins Antonius, pretending to be humble and hiding his crime. A heavenly voice tells Antonius that the man killed his brother and that he should be dismissed. Antonius reveals his lies to the man, who is distressed and soon dies.

§§ 30-31: Antonius' fame brings many visitors. He hides deeper in the wild, and lives alone, truly as a monk.

§§ 32-33: Beasts are his only company. A bear destroys his cabbage field, Antonius beats him with his stick and tells him to go away and to tell all the beasts of his power. He again finds the bear on his path and commands it to go away.

§§ 34-35: Antonius' fame grows again, and brings many visitors to his retreat, that he thought was inaccessible. He fears pride.

§§ 36-37: Antonius speaks to himself, noting the superiority of cenobitism against the attacks of the Devil. He decides to become a monk on the island of Lérins.

§ 38: He abandons his cell and goes to Lérins. There, the brothers admire his pale face and thinness, which tells them a lot about his virtuous way of life.

§§ 39-41: Antonius becomes particularly influential in the community. After two years he dies in a glorious manner that Ennodius chooses not to tell.

§ 42: Ennodius tells the reader that he is the first to narrate the story of Antonius, as a first attempt that needs to be followed by others.

Text: Vogel 1885, 185-190. Summary (from which paragraph numbers are taken): Gioanni 2007, 169-170, translated, adapted and expanded by M. Pignot


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Antony, monk in Lérins : S01208 Fidelis, martyr of Summus Lacus near Como : S01484 Severinus, hermit and monk in Noricum, ob. 482 : S00848

Saint Name in Source

Antonius Fidelis Severinus

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

Italy north of Rome with Corsica and Sardinia

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Pavia Sardinia Sardinia Sardegna Sardinia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Ennodius of Pavia

Cult activities - Places

Burial site of a saint - tomb/grave

Cult Activities - Miracles

Miracle during lifetime Revelation of hidden knowledge (past, present and future) Apparition, vision, dream, revelation

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - abbots Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Children Pagans Foreigners (including Barbarians) Relatives of the saint


The Life of the Blessed Antonius is one of the few preserved examples of lives written in Italy during Late Antiquity. The author, Ennodius (c. 473-521), was a deacon in Milan and later bishop of Pavia. He also wrote another hagiographical text, the Life of Epiphanius (see E02349). The Life of Antonius opens in the context of the barbarian invasions of Pannonia (on the upper Danube) in the late 5th century, and the resulting migration of people into Italy (on which see Lotter 1971). It focuses on Antonius' ascetic quest, starting from childhood, describing him as a monk (monachus) and hermit, who, after seeking to live as a hermit in the wilds of northern Italy, eventually decides to join the monastic community of Lérins, off the coast of Provence, in order to avoid excessive popularity and the pitfalls of pride. For bibliography on the manuscript evidence, see Gioanni 2010, 432. The oldest manuscripts, listed by Gioanni, are: Brussels, KBR, 9845-9848, f. 119r-123r (9th c.); Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, lat. 3803, f. 90r-94r (9th c.); London, Lambeth Palace Library, 325, f. 26r-36v (9th–10th c.). The Life was critically edited by Vogel in the 19th century.


As emphasised by Gioanni, there is no evidence of a cult of Antonius outside this text before the 14th century. Similarly, there is no evidence about Antonius in the community of Lérins, nor of any abbot named Leontius at Lérins who could have been the man who commissioned the work. For these reasons, Gioanni notes that it is possible that the Life portrays a fictional character, with no historical basis. For Gioanni, Ennodius, borrowing notably from Jerome’s Life of Hilarion (see E00702), may have wanted to provide an alternative model of sainthood in contrast to the much more famous Antony of Egypt, celebrated by Athanasius of Alexandria (see E00631 and Latin translations E00260 and E00930). Echoes of Cassian’s model of monasticism have also been detected by Barnish. Although there are uncertainties regarding the historicity of Antonius, the Life contains two noteworthy references to other saints: first, at § 9, it refers to *Severinus of Noricum (S00848) as a 'most famous man' (illustrissimus vir), thus suggesting an early growth in the fame of the monk, whose life was written by Eugippius in 511 (E02347). On the relationship between this Life and the Life of Antonius, see Rohr. Second, at § 18, it provides rare evidence about the tomb (sepulchrum) of a martyr named *Fidelis (S01484), situated at the extremity of the lake of Como, perhaps at the ancient site of Summus Lacus. This Fidelis seems to correspond to the martyr whose life and death is described in the Martyrdom of Fidelis (E04651), which however has no description of Fidelis' tomb, and who is also one of the main characters of the Martyrdom of Alexander (E01915) and the Martyrdom of Exantius and Carpophorus (E04652). The Life of Antonius is traditionally dated to 506, however Gioanni has argued for a later dating, during Ennodius’ episcopacy, between 513 and 521.


Edition (BHL 584): Vogel, F., De vita beati Antoni, in: Magnis Felicis Ennodi opera (Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctores Antiquissimi 7; Berlin, 1885), 185-190. French translation: Gioanni, S., “Une figure suspecte de la sainteté lérinienne: saint Antoine. D’après la Vita Antoni d’Ennode de Pavie,” Recherches augustiniennes et patristiques 35 (2007), 133-187. Further reading: Barnish, S.J.B., "Ennodius' Lives of Epiphanius and Antony: Two Models for the Christian Gentleman," Studia Patristica 24 (1993), 13-19. Gioanni, S., “Une figure suspecte de la sainteté lérinienne: saint Antoine. D’après la Vita Antoni d’Ennode de Pavie,” Recherches augustiniennes et patristiques 35 (2007), 133-187. Gioanni, S., “Hagiographie d’Italie (300-550). II. Les Vies de saints latines composées en Italie de la Paix constantinienne au milieu du VIe siècle,” in: Philippart, G. (ed.), Hagiographies. Histoire internationale de la littérature hagiographique latine et vernaculaire en Occident des origines à 1550, vol. V (Turnhout, 2010), 371-455, at 407-417 and 432-434. Lotter, F., “Antonius von Lérins und der Untergang Ufernorikums,” Historische Zeitschrift 212 (1971), 265-315. Rohr, Ch., “Ergänzung oder Widerspruch? Severin und das späntantike Noricum in der Vita Antonii des Ennodius,” in Pohl, W., and Diesenberger, M. (eds.), Eugippius und Severin – Der Autor, der Text und der Heilige (Vienna, 2001), 109-122.

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