Desert Ascetics and Distant Marvels: The Historia as Travelogue

Georgia Frank

in The Memory of the Eyes

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2000 | ISBN: 9780520222052
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520924352 | DOI:
Desert Ascetics and Distant Marvels: The Historia as Travelogue

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This chapter traces the affinities between the Christian travelogues and pagan descriptions of distant lands. Pilgrims borrowed and adapted narrative devices found in exotic travel writing to represent their experiences to their reading and listening audiences. What pilgrims' texts show us — in a way that sayings collections, rules, and monastic biography do not — are the ideals and idealizations that drew many pilgrims to seek out desert ascetics. Since few interpreters have identified the historia as a type of pilgrim's narrative, the first part of the discussion focuses on the affinities shared by these early fifth-century anthologies and travel writing. The remainder of the chapter explores how particular narrative techniques both exoticized and domesticated foreign monasticism for distant readers.

Keywords: Christian travelogues; desert ascetics; pilgrims; travel writing; monasticism; monastic biography

Chapter.  15157 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity

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