Palladius of Helenopolis, Lausiac History (BHG 1435-1438v; CPG 6036), 8
Having described the organisation of monastic community of Nitria, which he joined in the 380s, Palladius talks about Amoun, one of the founding fathers of the community, whose story he heard from Arsisios who had him. An orphan, at the age of twenty-two years, his uncle obliged him to marry, but he lived with his wife under a mutual vow of perpetual continence. He cultivated balsamum, and lived in a strict ascetic regimen. Eighteen years later, encouraged by his wife, he retreated to Nitria, founding the first monastic cell, and lived there for another twenty-two years, visiting his wife twice a year. Palladius mentions the story of Amoun miraculously crossing a river and the vision of his soul ascending to heaven, as recounted by Athanasius in the Life of Antony (E00631
Text: Bartelink et al. 1974. Summary: E. Rizos.
Saint NameAmun, monk in Nitria : S00419
Saint Name in SourceἈμοῦν
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Hagiographical - Monastic collections (apophthegmata, etc.)
Evidence not before419
Evidence not after420
Activity not before386
Activity not after399
Place of Evidence - RegionAsia Minor
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcAspuna
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Aspuna
Major author/Major anonymous workPalladius of Helenopolis
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsOral transmission of saint-related stories
Cult Activities - MiraclesMiracle during lifetime
Miracle at martyrdom and death
Apparition, vision, dream, revelation
Invisibility, bilocation, miraculous travels
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
Ecclesiastics - abbots
SourceBorn in 364 in Galatia in central Asia Minor, Palladius became a monk in 386, spending some years in Palestine, before moving to Alexandria. In c. 390, he joined the monastic community of Nitria, where he spent nine years, under Makarios of Alexandria and Evagrios of Pontus. In c. 399, he returned briefly to Palestine and then left for Constantinople where he became closely associated with John Chrysostom. By 400, he was ordained bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia (north-west Asia Minor), probably by Chrysostom. Palladius stood by his new protector throughout John’s conflict with Pope Theophilos of Alexandria over the affair of the Tall Brothers and the Council of the Oak. One year after John’s exile in 404, Palladius visited Rome in order to plead on John’s behalf with Pope Innocent I (401-411). Returning to Constantinople, he was arrested and one year later (406), he was exiled to Syene (Aswan) and Antinoe in Egypt. There he received the news of John’s death in Pontus (407) and wrote the Historical Dialogue on the Life of John Chrysostom (in 408 or shortly after, E02400). In the 410s, he was allowed to return to his native Galatia, and was restored as a bishop in the imperial church, being appointed to the see of Aspona.
After his return from exile, in c. 419/420, Palladius published the Lausiakon (‘Book for Lausos’, widely known as the Lausiac History), a book commissioned by and dedicated to the patrician Lausos (imperial chamberlain in 420-422). Along with the History of the Monks of Egypt (E03558, composed in 395/397), Palladius’ work inaugurates the monastic genre of edifying stories and apophthegms. It immediately became a success: two decades after its publication, the ecclesiastical historian Socrates used the Lausiac History as a source (4.23.78), and it was translated into Latin and Syriac. There are also Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, and Arabic translations. Its copious manuscript tradition (242 manuscripts) and unstable transmission render a definitive critical edition of the text very difficult. On the manuscript tradition of the Greek text, see:
Like all monastic collections, the Lausiac History was mainly written to provide exemplars of ascetic virtue and edifying stories for broader spiritual benefit, rather than to encourage the active cult of the men and women included within it – indeed some of them serve as negative examples to avoid. It was, therefore, difficult for us to decide how to treat this work in our database, focused as it is on the cult of saints. At one extreme, we could have entered every (positive) figure within it as a saint, while, at the other extreme, we might have ignored the text altogether. In the end we came to a compromise position, with one overview entry for the full text (E03176), where all the holy men and women are named, and individual entries for chapters that either reveal interesting incidental details of saintly cult or cover major figures who, in time, came to attract cult. The Lausiac History in its many manuscripts and its many translations was in fact one of the principal ways these figures came to be known, and often venerated, across the Christian world. Some of its chapters were, indeed, later detached from the collection, and circulated as independent pieces of hagiography.
DiscussionSome of the figures discussed by Palladius were revered as founding fathers of monastic communities, including Amoun, the first ascetic of Nitria, whose story is also recorded by the History of the Monks in Egypt. Amoun was a contemporary of Antony, who died before him, and some information about him is included by Athanasius in the Life of Antony. Palladius cites Athanasius, but also records oral traditions from Nitria. The author found in Egypt a rich tradition of oral stories about holy monks, which had earlier partly furnished the material for the Life of Antony.
Butler, Cuthbert. The Lausiac History of Palladius: Greek Text Edited with Introduction and Notes. Texts and Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1904.
Bartelink, G. J. M., Barchiesi, M. and Mohrmann, C. Palladio, La Storia Lausiaca. Scrittori Greci E Latini. Milano: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla, Arnoldo Mondadori, 1974. (with Italian translation)
Wortley, J. Palladius, the Lausiac History, Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications, 2015.
Meyer, R. T. Palladius, the Lausiac History, Westminster MD: Newman Press: 1965.
Lowtber Clarke, W. K. The Lausiac History of Palladius, London: Macmillan, 1918.
Katos, D. Palladius of Helenopolis: the Origenist Advocate. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Rapp, C. ‘Palladius, Lausus and the Historia Lausiaca.’ In C. Sode, S. Takács (eds.), Novum Millennium. Studies on Byzantine History and Culture Dedicated to Paul Speck, 19 December 1999, Aldershot: Ashgate, 279-289.