Chapter

History and the Shape of Monastic Communities

Edward J. Watts

in Riot in Alexandria

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780520262072
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520945623 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520262072.003.0004
History and the Shape of Monastic Communities

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In 350, the leaders of the eight monasteries that made up the Pachomian ascetic system (Koinonia) traveled to Phbow, the headquarters of the federation, to greet Apa Theodore, the new head of their order. Their visit came at the end of a particularly difficult time for the Pachomian community. Pachomius, the founder of the Koinonia and the visionary responsible for its organization, had died in May 346 during a plague that took away many of the group's other most senior leaders. Pachomian monks responded strongly to Theodore's well-crafted appeals to Scripture and communal history. This chapter examines the organization of daily life in the monasteries of Egypt during the fourth and fifth centuries, with particular attention paid to late-fourth-century Pachomian communities. Sources describing the apprenticeships through which communal elders individually supervised the spiritual development of junior monks suggest that these ascetic master–disciple relationships facilitated the transmission of particularly potent historical traditions. Personal ties and shared communal experiences helped monks to identify with these stories and the ideals they illustrated.

Keywords: Koinonia; monasteries; monks; Apa Theodore; communal history; personal ties; apprenticeships; Scripture; Pachomius; Egypt

Chapter.  13575 words. 

Subjects: Greek and Roman Archaeology

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