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E06985: The Greek Life of *Pachomios (Egyptian monastic founder, ob. 346, S00352) is translated into Latin by Dionysius Exiguus at Rome in the early 6th c.

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posted on 2018-10-25, 00:00 authored by dlambert
Life of Saint Pachomius the Abbot (Vita sancti Pachomii abbatis, BHL 6410)

[This is a translation of an anonymous Greek Life of Pachomius.]

The preface
Dionysius begins his translation with a preface addressed to an unnamed woman whom Dionysius addresses as 'venerable lady' (domina veneranda). It begins:

Pio venerationis vestrae proposito qua valui facultate respondi, sancti Pachomii Vitam, sicut in graeco reperta est, fide translatoris exsolvens.

'I have responded to the pious request of Your Reverence with as much ability as I am able, rendering the Life of Saint Pachomius, just as it is found in Greek, with the faith of a translator.'

Dionysius goes on to describe the conflicts and hatreds which characterise secular society, then concludes the preface by paying tribute to the father of his addressee, described as 'a blessed and glorious man' (vir beatus atque gloriosus), who Dionysius says had fallen victim to such conflicts.

The translation
The exact source text used by Dionysius appears not to be extant, but it is closest to the version of the Greek Life known as G2 (BHG 1400), which represents a variant tradition from the earliest Greek Life, G1 (BHG 1396, on which see E00611), and was obviously in existence by the early 6th century. The editor of the modern edition of Dionysius' translation concluded that Dionysius used a version of G2 earlier than the one now extant (van Cranenburgh 1969, 23).

Text: van Cranenburgh 1969. Translation and summary: David Lambert.


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Pachomiοs, Egyptian monastic founder, ob. 346. : S00352

Saint Name in Source


Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saints


  • Latin

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Rome and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


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

Rome Rome Rome Roma Ῥώμη Rhōmē

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits


Dionysius Exiguus was a native of the Roman province of Scythia (roughly equivalent to the Dobrudja region in present-day Romania), an area which was predominantly Latin-speaking in late antiquity, but was in the Eastern Empire and was close to centres of Greek culture. In the late 490s he settled at Rome, where he remained for the rest of his life; the date of his death is unknown, but he is last attested in the late 520s. He was active as a translator from Greek into Latin, not only of texts related to the saints, but of canons of church councils, and theological works by writers such as Gregory of Nyssa, Cyril of Alexandria, and Proclus of Constantinople. He also produced the first large-scale western collections of canon law, and wrote works on computus (the calculation of the date of Easter). Dionysius refers to himself as a monk, though the details of his monastic life at Rome are unknown; the epithet Exiguus ('small' or 'humble'), was adopted by him as a mark of humility. For a full discussion of the evidence for Dionysius' life, see Mähler 1969; see also PCBE 2, 'Dionysius 4'. Unlike Dionysius' translations of the Conversion of Thais (E06983) and the Invention of the Head of John the Baptist (E06984), there is a modern critical edition of the Life of Pachomius (van Cranenburgh 1969), including an introduction with detailed discussions of Dionysius' source text (pp. 7-27), the evidence for his life and literary activity (by M. Mähler, pp. 28-48), and the manuscripts (pp. 49-74).


The unnamed addressee of the preface is presumed, on the basis of Dionysius' description of her father, to be one of the daughters of Quintus Aurelius Memmius Symmachus, a leading senator at Rome who was executed by the Gothic king Theoderic in 525 (PLRE II, 'Symmachus 9'). The most favoured candidate is Proba, who is known to have been a patron of Christian literature, and was the dedicatee of Eugippius' epitome of the works of Augustine and a correspondent of Fulgentius of Ruspe, though it is possible that it could be her sister Galla, who also corresponded with Fulgentius (Mähler 1969, 37-42). Dionysius' translation was not the first attempt to provide a life of Pachomios in Latin. The so-called Life of Pacomius the Younger (E06479) had been produced at some point in the 5th c., but its content is almost entirely fictional.


Edition: Cranenburgh, H. van, La Vie latine de Saint Pachôme, traduite du grec par Denys le Petit (Subsidia Hagiographica 46; Brussels, 1969). Glorie, F., Scriptores 'Illyrici' minores (Corpus Christianorum Series Latina 85; Turnhout, 1972), 79-81 (preface only). Further reading: Mähler, M., "Denys le Petit, traducteur de la Vie de saint Pachome," in: H. van Cranenburgh, La Vie latine de Saint Pachôme, traduite du grec par Denys le Petit (Subsidia Hagiographica 46; Brussels, 1969), 28-48.

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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