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Ch. 1: St. Antony

The life of Antony, by Athanasius, is perhaps the most important of all these biographies; because first, Antony was generally held to be the first great example and preacher of the hermit life; because next, Athanasius, his biographer, having by his controversial writings established the orthodox faith as it is now held alike by Romanists, Greeks, and Protestants, did, by his publication of the life of Antony, establish the hermit life as the ideal (in his opinion) of Christian excellence; and lastly, because that biography exercised a most potent influence on the conversion of St. Augustine, the greatest thinker (always excepting St. Paul) whom the world had seen since Plato, whom the world was to see again till Lord Bacon; the theologian and philosopher (for he was the latter, as well as the former, in the strictest sense) to whom the world owes, not only the formulizing of the whole scheme of the universe for a thousand years after his death, but Calvinism (wrongly so called) in all its forms, whether held by the Augustinian party in the Church of Rome, or the "Reformed" Churches of Geneva, France, and Scotland.

Whether we have the exact text of the document as Athanasius wrote it to the "Foreign Brethren"--probably the religious folk of Treves- -in the Greek version published by Heschelius in 1611, and in certain earlier Greek texts; whether the Latin translation attributed to Evagrius, which has been well known for centuries past in the Latin Church, be actually his; whether it be exactly that of which St. Jerome speaks, and whether it be exactly that which St. Augustine saw, are questions which it is now impossible to decide. But of the genuineness of the life in its entirety we have no right to doubt, contrary to the verdicts of the most distinguished scholars, whether Protestant or Catholic; and there is fair reason to suppose that the document (allowing for errors and variations of transcribers) which I have tried to translate, is that of which the great St. Augustine speaks in the eighth book of his Confessions.

He tells us that he was reclaimed at last from a profligate life (the thought of honourable marriage seems never to have entered his mind), by meeting, while practising as a rhetorician at Treves, an old African acquaintance, named Potitanius, an officer of rank. What followed no words can express so well as those of the great genius himself.

"When I told him that I was giving much attention to those writings (the Epistles of Paul), we began to talk, and he to tell, of Antony, the monk of Egypt, whose name was then very famous among thy servants: {23} but was unknown to us till that moment. When he discovered that, he spent some time over the subject, detailing his virtues, and wondering at our ignorance. We were astounded at hearing such well-attested marvels of him, so recent and almost contemporaneous, wrought in the right faith of the Catholic Church. We all wondered: we, that they were so great; and he, that we had not heard of them. Thence his discourse ran on to those flocks of hermit-cells, and the morals of thy sweetness, and the fruitful deserts of the wilderness, of which we knew nought. There was a monastery, too, at Milan, full of good brethren, outside the city walls, under the tutelage of Ambrosius, and we knew nothing of it. He went on still speaking, and we listened intently; and it befell that he told us how, I know not when, he and three of his mess companions at Treves, while the emperor was engaged in an afternoon spectacle in the circus, went out for a walk in the gardens round the walls; and as they walked there in pairs, one with him alone, and the two others by themselves, they parted. And those two, straying about, burst into a cottage, where dwelt certain servants of thine, poor in spirit, of such as is the kingdom of heaven; and there found a book, in which was written the life of Antony. One of them began to read it, and to wonder, and to be warned; and, as he read, to think of taking up such a life, and leaving the warfare of this world to serve thee. Now, he was one of those whom they call Managers of Affairs. {24} Then, suddenly filled with holy love and sober shame, angered at himself, he cast his eyes on his friend, and said, 'Tell me, prithee, with all these labours of ours, whither are we trying to get? What are we seeking? For what are we soldiering? Can we have a higher hope in the palace, than to become friends of the emperor? And when there, what is not frail and full of dangers? And through how many dangers we do not arrive at a greater danger still? And how long will that last? But if I choose to become a friend of God, I can do it here and now.' He spoke thus, and, swelling in the labour-pangs of a new life, he fixed his eyes again on the pages and read, and was changed inwardly as thou lookedst on him, and his mind was stripped of the world, as soon appeared. For while he read, and rolled over the billows of his soul, he shuddered and hesitated from time to time, and resolved better things; and already thine, he said to his friend, 'I have already torn myself from that hope of ours, and have settled to serve God; and this I begin from this hour, in this very place. If you do not like to imitate me, do not oppose me.' He replied that he would cling to his companion in such a great service and so great a warfare. And both, now thine, began building, at their own cost, the tower of leaving all things and following thee. Then Potitianus, and the man who was talking with him elsewhere in the garden, seeking them, came to the same place, and warned them to return, as the sun was getting low. They, however, told their resolution, and how it had sprung up and taken strong hold in them, and entreated the others not to give them pain. They, not altered from their former mode of life, yet wept (as he told us) for themselves; and congratulated them piously, and commended themselves to their prayers; and then dragging their hearts along the earth, went back to the palace. But the others, fixing their hearts on heaven, remained in the cottage. And both of them had affianced brides, who, when they heard this, dedicated their virginity to thee."

The part which this incident played in St. Augustine's own conversion must be told hereafter in his life. But the scene which his master-hand has drawn is not merely the drama of his own soul or of these two young officers, but of a whole empire. It is, as I said at first, the tragedy and suicide of the old empire; and the birth-agony of which he speaks was not that of an individual soul here or there, but of a whole new world, for good and evil. The old Roman soul was dead within, the body of it dead without. Patriotism, duty, purpose of life, save pleasure, money, and intrigue, had perished. The young Roman officer had nothing left for which to fight; the young Roman gentleman nothing left for which to be a citizen and an owner of lands. Even the old Roman longing (which was also a sacred duty) of leaving an heir to perpetuate his name, and serve the state as his fathers had before him--even that was gone. Nothing was left, with the many, but selfishness, which could rise at best into the desire of saving every man his own soul, and so transform worldliness into other-worldliness. The old empire could do nothing more for man; and knew that it could do nothing; and lay down in the hermit's cell to die.

Treves was then "the second metropolis of the empire," boasting, perhaps, even then, as it boasts still, that it was standing thirteen hundred years before Rome was built. Amid the low hills, pierced by rocky dells, and on a strath of richest soil, it had grown, from the mud-hut town of the Treviri, into a noble city of palaces, theatres, baths, triumphal-arches, on either side the broad and clear Moselle. The bridge which Augustus had thrown across the river, four hundred years before the times of hermits and of saints, stood like a cliff through all barbarian invasions, through all the battles and sieges of the Middle Age, till it was blown up by the French in the wars of Louis XIV., and nought remains save the huge piers of black lava stemming the blue stream; while up and down the dwindled city, the colossal fragments of Roman work--the Black Gate, the Heidenthurm, the baths, the Basilica or Hall of Justice, now a Lutheran church--stand out half ruined, like the fossil bones of giants amid the works of weaker, though of happier times; while the amphitheatre was till late years planted thick with vines, fattening in soil drenched with the blood of thousands. Treves had been the haunt of emperor after emperor, men wise and strong, cruel and terrible;--of Constantius, Constantine the Great, Julian, Valentinian, Valens; and lastly, when Potitianus's friends found those poor monks in the garden {27} of Gratian, the gentle hunter who thought day and night on sport, till his arrows were said to be instinct with life, was holding his military court within the walls of Treves, or at that hunting palace on the northern downs, where still on the bath-floors lie the mosaics of hare and deer, and boar and hound, on which the feet of Emperors trod full fifteen hundred years ago.

Still glorious outwardly, like the Roman empire itself, was that great city of Treves; but inwardly it was full of rottenness and weakness. The Roman empire had been, in spite of all its crimes, for four hundred years the salt of the earth: but now the salt had lost its savour; and in one generation more it would be trodden under foot and cast upon the dunghill, and another empire would take its place,--the empire, not of brute strength and self-indulgence, but of sympathy and self-denial,--an empire, not of Caesars, but of hermits. Already was Gratian the friend and pupil of St. Ambrose of Milan; already, too, was he persecuting, though not to the death, heretics and heathens. Nay, some fifty years before (if the legend can be in the least trusted) had St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, returned from Palestine, bearing with her--so men believed--not only the miraculously discovered cross of Christ, but the seamless coat which he had worn; and, turning her palace into a church, deposited the holy coat therein: where--so some believe--it remains until this day. Men felt that a change was coming, but whence it would come, or how terrible it would be, they could not tell. It was to be, as the prophet says, "like the bulging out of a great wall, which bursteth suddenly in an instant." In the very amphitheatre where Gratian sat that afternoon, with all the folk of Treves about him, watching, it may be, lions and antelopes from Africa slaughtered--it may be criminals tortured to death--another and an uglier sight had been twice seen some seventy years before. Constantine, so-called the Great, had there exhibited his "Frankish sports," the "magnificent spectacle," the "famous punishments," as his flattering court-historians called them: thousands of Frank prisoners, many of them of noble, and even of royal blood, torn to pieces by wild beasts, while they stood fearless, smiling with folded arms; and when the wild beasts were gorged, and slew no more, weapons were put into the hands of the survivors, and they were bidden to fight to the death for the amusement of their Roman lords. But fight they would not against their own flesh and blood: and as for life, all chance of that was long gone by. So every man fell joyfully upon his brother's sword, and, dying like a German man, spoilt the sport of the good folk of Treves. And it seemed for a while as if there were no God in heaven who cared to avenge such deeds of blood. For the kinsmen, it may be the very sons, of those Franks were now in Gratian's pay; and the Frank Merobaudes was his "Count of the Domestics," and one of his most successful and trusted generals; and all seemed to go well, and brute force and craft to triumph on the earth.

And yet those two young staff officers, when they left the imperial court for the hermit's cell, judged, on the whole, prudently and well, and chose the better part when they fled from the world to escape the "dangers" of ambition, and the "greater danger still" of success. For they escaped, not merely from vice and worldliness, but, as the event proved, from imminent danger of death if they kept the loyalty which they had sworn to their emperor; or the worse evil of baseness if they turned traitors to him to save their lives.

For little thought Gratian, as he sat in that amphitheatre, that the day was coming when he, the hunter of game--and of heretics--would be hunted in his turn; when, deserted by his army, betrayed by Merobaudes--whose elder kinsfolk were not likely to have kept him ignorant of "the Frankish sports "--he should flee pitiably towards Italy, and die by a German hand; some say near Lyons, some say near Belgrade, calling on Ambrose with his latest breath. {29} Little thought, too, the good folk of Treves, as they sat beneath the vast awning that afternoon, that within the next half century a day of vengeance was coming for them, which should teach them that there was a God who "maketh inquisition for blood;" a day when Treves should be sacked in blood and flame by those very "barbarian" Germans whom they fancied their allies--or their slaves. And least of all did they fancy that, when that great destruction fell upon their city, the only element in it which would pass safely through the fire and rise again, and raise their city to new glory and power, was that which was represented by those poor hermits in the garden-hut outside. Little thought they that above the awful arches of the Black Gate--as if in mockery of the Roman Power--a lean anchorite would take his stand, Simeon of Syracuse by name, a monk of Mount Sinai, and there imitate, in the far West, the austerities of St. Simeon Stylites in the East, and be enrolled in the new Pantheon, not of Caesars, but of Saints.

Under the supposed patronage of those Saints, Treves rose again out of its ruins. It gained its four great abbeys of St. Maximus (on the site of Constantine's palace); St. Matthias, in the crypt whereof the bodies of the monks never decay; {30} St. Martin; and St. Mary of the Four Martyrs, where four soldiers of the famous Theban legion are said to have suffered martyrdom by the house of the Roman prefect. It had its cathedral of St. Peter and St. Helena, supposed to be built out of St. Helena's palace; its exquisite Liebfrauenkirche; its palace of the old Archbishops, mighty potentates of this world, as well as of the kingdom of heaven. For they were princes, arch-chancellors, electors of the empire, owning many a league of fertile land, governing, and that kindly and justly, towns and villages of Christian men, and now and then going out to war, at the head of their own knights and yeomen, in defence of their lands, and of the saints whose servants and trustees they were; and so became, according to their light and their means, the salt of that land for many generations.

And after a while that salt, too, lost its savour, and was, in its turn, trodden under foot. The French republican wars swept away the ecclesiastical constitution and the wealth of the ancient city. The cathedral and churches were stripped of relics, of jewels, of treasures of early art. The Prince-bishop's palace is a barrack; so was lately St. Maximus's shrine; St. Martin's a china manufactory, and St. Matthias's a school. Treves belongs to Prussia, and not to "Holy Church;" and all the old splendours of the "empire of the saints" are almost as much ruinate as those of the "empire of the Romans." So goes the world, because there is a living God.

"The old order changeth, giving place to the new; And God fulfils himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."

But though palaces and amphitheatres be gone, the gardens outside still bloom on as when Potitianus his friends wandered through them, perpetual as Nature's self; and perpetual as Nature, too, endures whatever is good and true of that afternoon's work, and of that finding of the legend of St. Antony in the monk's cabin, which fixed the destiny of the great genius of the Latin Church.

The story of St. Antony, as it has been handed down to us, {32} runs thus:--

The life and conversation of our holy Father Antony, written and sent to the monks in foreign parts by our Father among the saints, Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria.

You have begun a noble rivalry with the monks of Egypt, having determined either to equal or even to surpass them in your training towards virtue; for there are monasteries already among you, and the monastic life is practised. This purpose of yours one may justly praise; and if you pray, God will bring it to perfection. But since you have also asked me about the conversation of the holy Antony, wishing to learn how he began his training, and who he was before it, and what sort of an end he made to his life, and whether what is said of him is true, in order that you may bring yourselves to emulate him, with great readiness I received your command. For to me, too, it is a great gain and benefit only to remember Antony; and I know that you, when you hear of him, after you have wondered at the man, will wish also to emulate his purpose. For the life of Antony is for monks a perfect pattern of ascetic training. What, then, you have heard about him from other informants do not disbelieve, but rather think that you have heard from them a small part of the facts. For in any case, they could hardly relate fully such great matters, when even I, at your request, howsoever much I may tell you in my letter, can only send you a little which I remember about him. But do not cease to inquire of those who sail from hence; for perhaps, if each tells what he knows, at last his history may be worthily compiled. I had wished, indeed, when I received your letter, to send for some of the monks who were wont to be most frequently in his company, that I might learn something more, and send you a fuller account. But since both the season of navigation limited me, and the letter-carrier was in haste, I hastened to write to your piety what I myself know (for I have often seen him), and what I was able to learn from one who followed him for no short time, and poured water upon his hands; always taking care of the truth, in order that no one when he hears too much may disbelieve, nor again, if he learns less than is needful, despise the man.

Antony was an Egyptian by race, born of noble parents, {33} who had a sufficient property of their own: and as they were Christians, he too was Christianly brought up, and when a boy was nourished in the house of his parents, besides whom and his home he knew nought. But when he grew older, he would not be taught letters, {34} not wishing to mix with other boys; but all his longing was (according to what is written of Jacob) to dwell simply in his own house. But when his parents took him into the Lord's house, he was not saucy, like a boy, nor inattentive as he grew older; but was subject to his parents, and attentive to what was read, turning it to his own account. Nor again (as a boy who was moderately well off) did he trouble his parents for various and expensive dainties, nor did he run after the pleasures of this life; but was content with what he found, and asked for nothing more. When his parents died, he was left alone with a little sister, when he was about eighteen or twenty years of age, and took care both of his house and of her. But not six months after their death, as he was going as usual to the Lord's house, and collecting his thoughts, he meditated as he walked how the Apostles had left all and followed the Saviour; and how those in the Acts brought the price of what they had sold, and laid it at the Apostles' feet, to be given away to the poor; and what and how great a hope was laid up for them in heaven. With this in his mind, he entered the church. And it befell then that the Gospel was being read; and he heard how the Lord had said to the rich man, "If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all thou hast, and give to the poor; and come, follow me, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven." Antony, therefore, as if the remembrance of the saints had come to him from God, and as if the lesson had been read on his account, went forth at once from the Lord's house, and gave away to those of his own village the possessions he had inherited from his ancestors (three hundred plough-lands, fertile and very fair), that they might give no trouble either to him or his sister. All his moveables he sold, and a considerable sum which he received for them he gave to the poor. But having kept back a little for his sister, when he went again into the Lord's house he heard the Lord saying in the Gospel, "Take no thought for the morrow," and, unable to endure any more delay, he went out and distributed that too to the needy. And having committed his sister to known and faithful virgins, and given to her wherewith to be educated in a nunnery, he himself thenceforth devoted himself, outside his house, to training; {35} taking heed to himself, and using himself severely. For monasteries were not then common in Egypt, nor did any monks at all know the wide desert; but each who wished to take heed to himself exercised himself alone, not far from his own village. There was then in the next village an old man, who had trained himself in a solitary life from his youth. When Antony saw him, he emulated him in that which is noble. And first he began to stay outside the village; and then, if he heard of any earnest man, he went to seek him, like a wise bee; and did not return till he had seen him, and having got from him (as it were) provision for his journey toward virtue, went his way. So dwelling there at first, he settled his mind neither to look back towards his parents' wealth nor to recollect his relations; but he put all his longing and all his earnestness on training himself more intensely. For the rest he worked with his hands, because he had heard, "If any man will not work, neither let him eat;" and of his earnings he spent some on himself and some on the needy. He prayed continually, because he knew that one ought to pray secretly, without ceasing. He attended, also, so much to what was read, that, with him, none of the Scriptures fell to the ground, but he retained them all, and for the future his memory served him instead of books. Behaving thus, Antony was beloved by all; and submitted truly to the earnest men to whom he used to go. And from each of them he learnt some improvement in his earnestness and his training: he contemplated the courtesy of one, and another's assiduity in prayer; another's freedom from anger; another's love of mankind: he took heed to one as he watched; to another as he studied: one he admired for his endurance, another for his fasting and sleeping on the ground; he laid to heart the meekness of one, and the long-suffering of another; and stamped upon his memory the devotion to Christ and the mutual love which all in common possessed. And thus filled full, he returned to his own place of training, gathering to himself what he had got from each, and striving to show all their qualities in himself. He never emulated those of his own age, save in what is best; and did that so as to pain no one, but make all rejoice over him. And all in the village who loved good, seeing him thus, called him the friend of God; and some embraced him as a son, some as a brother.

But the devil, who hates and envies what is noble, would not endure such a purpose in a youth: but attempted against him all that he is wont to do; suggesting to him the remembrance of his wealth, care for his sister, relation to his kindred, love of money, love of glory, the various pleasures of luxury, and the other solaces of life; and then the harshness of virtue, and its great toil; and the weakness of his body, and the length of time; and altogether raised a great dust-cloud of arguments in his mind, trying to turn him back from his righteous choice. But when the enemy saw himself to be too weak for Antony's determination, but rather baffled by his stoutness, and overthrown by his great faith, and falling before his continual prayers, then he attacked him with the temptations which he is wont to use against young men; . . . . but he protected his body with faith, prayers, and fastings, . . . setting his thoughts on Christ, and on his own nobility through Christ, and on the rational faculties of his soul, . . . and again on the terrors of the fire, and the torment of the worm, . . . and thus escaped unhurt. And thus was the enemy brought to shame. For he who thought himself to be equal with God was now mocked by a youth; and he who boasted against flesh and blood was defeated by a man clothed in flesh. For the Lord worked with him, who bore flesh on our account, and gave to the body victory over the devil, that each man in his battle may say, "Not I, but the grace of God which is with me." At last, when the dragon could not overthrow Antony even thus, but saw himself thrust out of his heart, then gnashing his teeth (as is written), and as if beside himself, he appeared to the sight, as he is to the reason, as a black child, and as it were falling down before him, no longer attempted to argue (for the deceiver was cast out), but using a human voice, said, "I have deceived many; I have cast down many. But now, as in the case of many, so in thine, I have been worsted in the battle." Then when Antony asked him, "Who art thou who speakest thus to me?" he forthwith replied in a pitiable voice, "I am the spirit of impurity.". . .

Then Antony gave thanks to God, and gaining courage, said, "Thou art utterly despicable; for thou art black of soul, and weak as a child; nor shall I henceforth cast one thought on thee. For the Lord is my helper, and I shall despise my enemies." That black being, hearing this, fled forthwith, cowering at his words, and afraid thenceforth of coming near the man.

This was Antony's first struggle against the devil: or rather this mighty deed in him was the Saviour's, who condemned sin in the flesh that the righteousness of the Lord should be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. But neither did Antony, because the daemon had fallen, grow careless and despise him; neither did the enemy, when worsted by him, cease from lying in ambush against him. For he came round again as a lion, seeking a pretence against him. But Antony had learnt from Scripture that many are the devices of the enemy; and continually kept up his training, considering that, though he had not deceived his heart by pleasure, he would try some other snares. For the daemon delights in sin. Therefore he chastised his body more and more, and brought it into slavery, lest, having conquered in one case, he should be tripped up in others. He determined, therefore, to accustom himself to a still more severe life; and many wondered at him: but the labour was to him easy to bear. For the readiness of the spirit, through long usage, had created a good habit in him, so that, taking a very slight hint from others, he showed great earnestness in it. For he watched so much, that he often passed the whole night without sleep; and that not once, but often, to the astonishment of men. He ate once a day, after the setting of the sun, and sometimes only once in two days, often even in four; his food was bread with salt, his drink nothing but water. To speak of flesh and wine there is no need, for such a thing is not found among other earnest men. When he slept he was content with a rush-mat: but mostly he lay on the bare ground. He would not anoint himself with oil, saying that it was more fit for young men to be earnest in training, than to seek things which softened the body; and that they must accustom themselves to labour, according to the Apostle's saying, "When I am weak, then I am strong;" for that the mind was strengthened as bodily pleasure was weakened. And this argument of his was truly wonderful. For he did not measure the path of virtue, nor his going away into retirement on account of it, by time; but by his own desire and will. So forgetting the past, he daily, as if beginning afresh, took more pains to improve, saying over to himself continually the Apostle's words, "Forgetting what is behind, stretching forward to what is before;" and mindful, too, of Elias' speech, "The Lord liveth, before whom I stand this day." For he held, that by mentioning to-day, he took no account of past time: but, as if he were laying down a beginning, he tried earnestly to make himself day by day fit to appear before God, pure in heart, and ready to obey his will, and no other. And he said in himself that the ascetic ought for ever to be learning his own life from the manners of the great Elias, as from a mirror. Antony, having thus, as it were, bound himself, went to the tombs, which happened to be some way from the village; and having bidden one of his acquaintances to bring him bread at intervals of many days, he entered one of the tombs, and, shutting the door upon himself, remained there alone. But the enemy, not enduring that, but rather terrified lest in a little while he should fill the desert with his training, coming one night with a multitude of daemons, beat him so much with stripes, that he lay speechless from the torture. For he asserted that the pain was so great that no blows given by men could cause such agony. But by the providence of God (for the Lord does not overlook those who hope in him), the next day his acquaintance came, bringing him the loaves. And having opened the door, and seeing him lying on the ground for dead, he carried him to the Lord's house in the village, and laid him on the ground; and many of his kinsfolk and the villagers sat round him, as round a corpse. But about midnight, Antony coming to himself, and waking up, saw them all sleeping, and only his acquaintance awake, and, nodding to him to approach, begged him to carry him back to the tombs, without waking any one. When that was done, the doors were shut, and he remained as before, alone inside. And, because he could not stand on account of the daemons' blows, he prayed prostrate. And after his prayer, he said with a shout, "Here am I, Antony: I do not fly from your stripes; yea, if you do yet more, nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ." And then he sang, "If an host be laid against me, yet shall not my heart be afraid." Thus thought and spoke the man who was training himself. But the enemy, hater of what is noble, and envious, wondering that he dared to return after the stripes, called together his dogs, and bursting with rage,--"Ye see," he said, "that we have not stopped this man by the spirit of impurity; nor by blows: but he is even growing bolder against us. Let us attack him some other way." {41} For it is easy for the devil to invent schemes of mischief. So then in the night they made such a crash, that the whole place seemed shaken, and the daemons, as if breaking in the four walls of the room, seemed to enter through them, changing themselves into the shapes of beasts and creeping things; {42} and the place was forthwith filled with shapes of lions, bears, leopards, bulls, and snakes, asps, scorpions, and wolves, and each of them moved according to his own fashion. The lion roared, longing to attack; the bull seemed to toss; the serpent did not cease creeping, and the wolf rushed upon him; and altogether the noises of all the apparitions were dreadful, and their tempers cruel. But Antony, scourged and pierced by them, felt a more dreadful bodily pain than before: but he lay unshaken and awake in spirit. He groaned at the pain of his body: but clear in intellect, and as it were mocking, he said, "If there were any power in you, it were enough that one of you should come on; but since the Lord has made you weak, therefore you try to frighten me by mere numbers. And a proof of your weakness is, that you imitate the shapes of brute animals." And taking courage, he said again, "If ye can, and have received power against me, delay not, but attack; but if ye cannot, why do ye disturb me in vain? For a seal to us and a wall of safety is our faith in the Lord." The daemons, having made many efforts, gnashed their teeth at him, because he rather mocked at them, than they at him. But neither then did the Lord forget Antony's wrestling, but appeared to help him. For, looking up, he saw the roof as it were opened and a ray of light coming down towards him. The daemons suddenly became invisible, and the pain of his body forthwith ceased, and the building became quite whole. But Antony, feeling the succour, and getting his breath again, and freed from pain, questioned the vision which appeared, saying, "Where wert thou? Why didst thou not appear to me from the first, to stop my pangs?" And a voice came to him, "Antony, I was here, but I waited to see thy fight. Therefore, since thou hast withstood, and not been worsted, I will be to thee always a succour, and will make thee become famous everywhere." Hearing this, he rose and prayed, and was so strong, that he felt that he had more power in his body than he had before. He was then about thirty-and-five years old. And on the morrow he went out, and was yet more eager for devotion to God; and, going to that old man aforesaid, he asked him to dwell with him in the desert. But when he declined, because of his age, and because no such custom had yet arisen, he himself straightway set off to the mountain. But the enemy again, seeing his earnestness, and wishing to hinder it, cast in his way the phantom of a great silver plate. But Antony, perceiving the trick of him who hates what is noble, stopped. And he judged the plate worthless, seeing the devil in it; and said, "Whence comes a plate in the desert? This is no beaten way, nor is there here the footstep of any traveller. Had it fallen, it could not have been unperceived, from its great size; and besides, he who lost it would have turned back and found it, because the place is desert. This is a trick of the devil. Thou shalt not hinder, devil, my determination by this: let it go with thee into perdition." And as Antony said that, it vanished, as smoke from before the face of the fire. Then again he saw, not this time a phantom, but real gold lying in the way as he came up. But whether the enemy showed it him, or whether some better power, which was trying the athlete, and showing the devil that he did not care for real wealth; neither did he tell, nor do we know, save that it was real gold. Antony, wondering at the abundance of it, so stepped over it as over fire, and so passed it by, that he never turned, but ran on in haste, until he had lost sight of the place. And growing even more and more intense in his determination, he rushed up the mountain, and finding an empty inclosure full of creeping things on account of its age, he betook himself across the river, and dwelt in it. The creeping things, as if pursued by some one, straightway left the place: but he blocked up the entry, having taken with him loaves for six months (for the Thebans do this, and they often remain a whole year fresh), and having water with him, entering, as into a sanctuary, into that monastery, {44} he remained alone, never going forth, and never looking at any one who came. Thus he passed a long time there training himself, and only twice a year received loaves, let down from above through the roof. But those of his acquaintance who came to him, as they often remained days and nights outside (for he did not allow any one to enter), used to hear as it were crowds inside clamouring, thundering, lamenting, crying--"Depart from our ground. What dost thou even in the desert? Thou canst not abide our onset." At first those without thought that there were some men fighting with him, and that they had got in by ladders: but when, peeping in through a crack, they saw no one, then they took for granted that they were daemons, and being terrified, called themselves on Antony. But he rather listened to them than cared for the others. For his acquaintances came up continually, expecting to find him dead, and heard him singing, "Let the Lord arise, and his enemies shall be scattered; and let them who hate him flee before him. As wax melts from before the face of the fire, so shall sinners perish from before the face of God." And again, "All nations compassed me round about, and in the name of the Lord I repelled them." He endured then for twenty years, thus training himself alone; neither going forth, nor seen by any one for long periods of time. But after this, when many longed for him, and wished to imitate his training, and others who knew him came, and were bursting in the door by force, Antony came forth as from some inner shrine, initiated into the mysteries, and bearing the God. {45} And then first he appeared out of the inclosure to those who were coming to him. And when they saw him they wondered; for his body had kept the same habit, and had neither grown fat, nor lean from fasting, nor worn by fighting with the daemons. For he was just such as they had known him before his retirement. They wondered again at the purity of his soul, because it was neither contracted as if by grief, nor relaxed by pleasure, nor possessed by laughter or by depression; for he was neither troubled at beholding the crowd, nor over-joyful at being saluted by too many; but was altogether equal, as being governed by reason, and standing on that which is according to nature. Many sufferers in body who were present did the Lord heal by him; and others he purged from daemons. And he gave to Antony grace in speaking, so that he comforted many who grieved, and reconciled others who were at variance, exhorting all to prefer nothing in the world to the love of Christ, and persuading and exhorting them to be mindful of the good things to come, and of the love of God towards us, who spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all. He persuaded many to choose the solitary life; and so thenceforth cells sprang up in the mountains, and the desert was colonized by monks, who went forth from their own, and registered themselves in the city which is in heaven.

And when he had need to cross the Arsenoite Canal (and the need was the superintendence of the brethren), the canal was full of crocodiles. And having only prayed, he entered it; and both he and all who were with him went through it unharmed. But when he returned to the cell, he persisted in the noble labours of his youth; and by continued exhortations he increased the willingness of those who were already monks, and stirred to love of training the greater number of the rest; and quickly, as his speech drew men on, the cells became more numerous; and he governed them all as a father. And when he had gone forth one day, and all the monks had come to him desiring to hear some word from him, he spake to them in the Egyptian tongue, thus--"That the Scriptures were sufficient for instruction, but that it was good for us to exhort each other in the faith." . . .

[Here follows a long sermon, historically important, as being the earliest Christian attempt to reduce to a science daemonology and the temptation of daemons: but its involved and rhetorical form proves sufficiently that it could not have been delivered by an unlettered man like Antony. Neither is it, probably, even composed by St. Athanasius; it seems rather, like several other passages in this biography, the interpolation of some later scribe. It has been, therefore, omitted.]

And when Antony had spoken thus, all rejoiced; and in one the love of virtue was increased, in another negligence stirred up, and in others conceit stopped, while all were persuaded to despise the plots of the devil, wondering at the grace which had been given to Antony by the Lord for the discernment of spirits. So the cells in the mountains were like tents filled with divine choirs, singing, discoursing, fasting, praying, rejoicing over the hope of the future, working that they might give alms thereof, and having love and concord with each other. And there was really to be seen, as it were, a land by itself, of piety and justice; for there was none there who did wrong, or suffered wrong: no blame from any talebearer: but a multitude of men training themselves, and in all of them a mind set on virtue. So that any one seeing the cells, and such an array of monks, would have cried out, and said, "How fair are thy dwellings, O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel; like shady groves and like parks beside a river, and like tents which the Lord hath pitched, and like cedars by the waters." He himself, meanwhile, withdrawing, according to his custom, alone to his own cell, increased the severity of his training. And he groaned daily, considering the mansions in heaven, and setting his longing on them, and looking at the ephemeral life of man. For even when he was going to eat or sleep, he was ashamed, when he considered the rational element of his soul; so that often, when he was about to eat with many other monks, he remembered the spiritual food, and declined, and went far away from them; thinking that he should blush if he was seen by others eating. He ate, nevertheless, by himself, on account of the necessities of the body; and often, too, with the brethren, being bashful with regard to them, but plucking up heart for the sake of saying something that might be useful; and used to tell them that they ought to give all their leisure rather to the soul than to the body; and that they should grant a very little time to the body, for mere necessity's sake: but that their whole leisure should be rather given to the soul, and should seek her profit, that she may not be drawn down by the pleasures of the body, but rather the body be led captive by her. For this (he said) was what was spoken by the Saviour, "Be not anxious for your soul, what ye shall eat; nor for your body, what ye shall put on. And seek not what ye shall eat, nor what ye shall drink, neither let your minds be in suspense: for after all these things the nations of the world seek: but your Father knoweth that ye need all these things. Rather seek first his kingdom; and all these things shall be added unto you."

After these things, the persecution which happened under the Maximinus of that time, {49} laid hold of the Church; and when the holy martyrs were brought to Alexandria, Antony too followed, leaving his cell, and saying, "Let us depart too, that we may wrestle if we be called, or see them wrestling." And he longed to be a martyr himself, but, not choosing to give himself up, he ministered to the confessors in the mines, and in the prisons. And he was very earnest in the judgment-hall to excite the readiness of those who were called upon to wrestle; and to receive and bring on their way, till they were perfected, those of them who went to martyrdom. At last the judge, seeing the fearlessness and earnestness of him and those who were with him, commanded that none of the monks should appear in the judgment-hall, or haunt at all in the city. So all the rest thought good to hide themselves that day; but Antony cared so much for the order, that he all the rather washed his cloak, and stood next day upon a high place, and appeared to the General in shining white. Therefore, when all the rest wondered, and the General saw him, and passed by with his array, he stood fearless, showing forth the readiness of us Christians. For he himself prayed to be a martyr, as I have said, and was like one grieved, because he had not borne his witness. But the Lord was preserving him for our benefit, and that of the rest, that he might become a teacher to many in the training which he had learnt from Scripture. For many, when they only saw his manner of life, were eager to emulate it. So he again ministered continually to the confessors; and, as if bound with them, wearied himself in his services. And when at last the persecution ceased, and the blessed Bishop Peter had been martyred, he left the city, and went back to his cell. And he was there, day by day, a martyr in his conscience, and wrestling in the conflict of faith; for he imposed on himself a much more severe training than before; and his garment was within of hair, without of skin, which he kept till his end. He neither washed his body with water, nor ever cleansed his feet, nor actually endured putting them into water unless it were necessary. And no one ever saw him unclothed till he was dead and about to be buried.

When, then, he retired, and had resolved neither to go forth himself, nor to receive any one, one Martinianus, a captain of soldiers, came and gave trouble to Antony. For he had with him his daughter, who was tormented by a daemon. And while he remained a long time knocking at the door, and expecting him to come to pray to God for the child, Antony could not bear to open, but leaning from above, said, "Man, why criest thou to me? I, too, am a man, as thou art. But if thou believest, pray to God, and it comes to pass." Forthwith, therefore, he believed, and called on Christ; and went away, with his daughter cleansed from the daemon. And many other things the Lord did by him, saying, "Ask, and it shall be given you." For most of the sufferers, when he did not open the door, only sat down outside the cell, and believing, and praying honestly, were cleansed. But when he saw himself troubled by many, and not being permitted to retire, as he wished, being afraid lest he himself should be puffed up by what the Lord was doing by him, or lest others should count of him above what he was, he resolved to go to the Upper Thebaid, to those who knew him not. And, in fact, having taken loaves from the brethren, he sat down on the bank of the river, watching for a boat to pass, that he might embark and go up in it. And as he watched, a voice came to him: "Antony, whither art thou going, and why?" And he, not terrified, but as one accustomed to be often called thus, answered when he heard it, "Because the crowds will not let me be at rest; therefore am I minded to go up to the Upper Thebaid, on account of the many annoyances which befall me; and, above all, because they ask of me things beyond my strength." And the voice said to him, "Even if thou goest up to the Thebaid, even if, as thou art minded to do, thou goest down the cattle pastures, {52a} thou wilt have to endure more, and double trouble; but if thou wilt really be at rest, go now into the inner desert." And when Antony said, "Who will show me the way, for I have not tried it?" forthwith it showed him Saracens who were going to journey that road. So, going to them, and drawing near them, Antony asked leave to depart with them into the desert. But they, as if by an ordinance of Providence, willingly received him; and, journeying three days and three nights with them, he came to a very high mountain; {52b} and there was water under the mountain, clear, sweet, and very cold; and a plain outside; and a few neglected date-palms. Then Antony, as if stirred by God, loved the spot; for this it was what he had pointed out who spoke to him beside the river bank. At first, then, having received bread from those who journeyed with him, he remained alone in the mount, no one else being with him. For he recognised that place as his own home, and kept it thenceforth. And the Saracens themselves, seeing Antony's readiness, came that way on purpose, and joyfully brought him loaves; and he had, too, the solace of the dates, which was then little and paltry. But after this, the brethren, having found out the spot, like children remembering their father, were anxious to send things to him; but Antony saw that, in bringing him bread, some there were put to trouble and fatigue; and, sparing the monks even in that, took counsel with himself, and asked some who came to him to bring him a hoe and a hatchet, and a little corn; and when these were brought, having gone over the land round the mountain, he found a very narrow place which was suitable, and tilled it; and, having plenty of water to irrigate it, he sowed; and, doing this year by year, he got his bread from thence, rejoicing that he should be troublesome to no one on that account, and that he was keeping himself free from obligation in all things. But after this, seeing again some people coming, he planted also a very few pot-herbs, that he who came might have some small solace after the labour of that hard journey. At first, however, the wild beasts in the desert, coming on account of the water, often hurt his crops and his tillage; but he, gently laying hold of one of them, said to them all, "Why do you hurt me, who have not hurt you? Depart, and, in the name of the Lord, never come near this place." And from that time forward, as if they were afraid of his command, they never came near the place. So he was there alone in the inner mountain, having leisure for prayer and for training. But the brethren who ministered to him asked him that, coming every month, they might bring him olives, and pulse, and oil; for, after all, he was old. And while he had his conversation there, what great wrestlings he endured, according to that which is written, "Not against flesh and blood, but against the daemons who are our adversaries," we have known from those who went in to him. For there also they heard tumults, and many voices, and clashing as of arms; and they beheld the mount by night full of wild beasts, and they looked on him, too, fighting, as it were, with beings whom he saw, and praying against them. And those who came to him he bade be of good courage, but he himself wrestled, bending his knees, and praying to the Lord. And it was truly worthy of wonder that, alone in such a desert, he was neither cowed by the daemons who beset him, nor, while there were there so many four-footed and creeping beasts, was at all afraid of their fierceness: but, as is written, trusted in the Lord like the Mount Zion, having his reason unshaken and untost; so that the daemons rather fled, and the wild beasts, as is written, were at peace with him.

Nevertheless, the devil (as David sings) watched Antony, and gnashed upon him with his teeth. But Antony was comforted by the Saviour, remaining unhurt by his craft and manifold artifices. For on him, when he was awake at night, he let loose wild beasts; and almost all the hyaenas in that desert, coming out of their burrows, beset him round, and he was in the midst. And when each gaped on him and threatened to bite him, perceiving the art of the enemy, he said to them all, "If ye have received power against me, I am ready to be devoured by you: but if ye have been set on by daemons, delay not, but withdraw, for I am a servant of Christ." When Antony said this, they fled, pursued by his words as by a whip. Next after a few days, as he was working--for he took care, too, to labour--some one standing at the door pulled the plait that he was working. For he was weaving baskets, which he used to give to those who came, in return for what they brought him. And rising up, he saw a beast, like a man down to his thighs, but having legs and feet like an ass; and Antony only crossed himself and said, "I am a servant of Christ. If thou hast been sent against me, behold, here I am." And the beast with its daemons fled away, so that in its haste it fell and died. Now the death of the beast was the fall of the daemons. For they were eager to do everything to bring him back out of the desert, but could not prevail.

And being once asked by the monks to come down to them, and to visit awhile them and their places, he journeyed with the monks who came to meet him. And a camel carried their loaves and their water; for that desert is all dry, and there is no drinkable water unless in that mountain alone whence they drew their water, and where his cell is. But when the water failed on the journey, and the heat was most intense, they all began to be in danger; for going round to various places, and finding no water, they could walk no more, but lay down on the ground, and they let the camel go, and gave themselves up. But the old man, seeing them all in danger, was utterly grieved, and groaned; and departing a little way from them, and bending his knees and stretching out his hands, he prayed, and forthwith the Lord caused water to come out where he had stopped and prayed. And thus all of them drinking took breath again; and having filled their skins, they sought the camel, and found her; for it befell that the halter had been twisted round a stone, and thus she had been stopped. So, having brought her back, and given her to drink, they put the skins on her, and went through their journey unharmed. And when they came to the outer cells all embraced him, looking on him as a father. And he, as if he brought them guest-gifts from the mountain, gave them away to them in his words, and shared his benefits among them. And there was joy again in the mountains, and zeal for improvement, and comfort through their faith in each other. And he too rejoiced, seeing the willingness of the monks, and his sister grown old in maidenhood, and herself the leader of other virgins. And so after certain days he went back again to the mountain.

And after that many came to him; and others who suffered dared also to come. Now to all the monks who came to him he gave continually this command: To trust in the Lord and love him, and to keep themselves from foul thoughts and fleshly pleasures; and, as is written in the Parables, not to be deceived by fulness of bread; and to avoid vainglory; and to pray continually; and to sing before sleep and after sleep; and to lay by in their hearts the commandment of Scripture; and to remember the works of the saints, in order to have their souls attuned to emulate them. But especially he counselled them to meditate continually on the Apostle's saying, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath;" and this he said was spoken of all commandments in common, in order that not on wrath alone, but on every other sin, the sun should never go down; for it was noble and necessary that the sun should never condemn us for a baseness by day, nor the moon for a sin or even a thought by night; therefore, in order that that which is noble may be preserved in us, it was good to hear and to keep what the Apostle commanded: for he said: "Judge yourselves, and prove yourselves." Let each then take account with himself, day by day, of his daily and nightly deeds; and if he has not sinned, let him not boast, but let him endure in what is good and not be negligent, neither condemn his neighbour, neither justify himself, as said the blessed Apostle Paul, until the Lord comes who searches secret things. For we often deceive ourselves in what we do, and we indeed know not: but the Lord comprehends all. Giving therefore the judgment to Him, let us sympathise with each other; and let us bear each other's burdens, and examine ourselves; and what we are behind in, let us be eager to fill up. And let this, too, be my counsel for safety against sinning. Let us each note and write down the deeds and motions of the soul as if he were about to relate them to each other; and be confident that, as we shall be utterly ashamed that they should be known, we shall cease from sinning, and even from desiring anything mean. For who when he sins wishes to be harmed thereby? Or who, having sinned, does not rather lie, wishing to hide it? As therefore when in each other's sight we dare not commit a crime, so if we write down our thoughts, and tell them to each other, we shall keep ourselves the more from foul thoughts, for shame lest they should be known. . . . And thus forming ourselves we shall be able to bring the body into slavery, and please the Lord on the one hand, and on the other trample on the snares of the enemy." This was his exhortation to those who met him: but with those who suffered he suffered, and prayed with them. And often and in many things the Lord heard him; and neither when he was heard did he boast; nor when he was not heard did he murmur: but, remaining always the same, gave thanks to the Lord. And those who suffered he exhorted to keep up heart, and to know that the power of cure was none of his, nor of any man's; but only belonged to God, who works when and whatsoever he chooses. So the sufferers received this as a remedy, learning not to despise the old man's words, but rather to keep up heart; and those who were cured learned not to bless Antony, but God alone.

For instance, one called Fronto, who belonged to the palace, and had a grievous disease (for he gnawed his own tongue, and tried to injure his eyes), came to the mountain and asked Antony to pray for him. And when he had prayed he said to Fronto, "Depart, and be healed." And when he resisted, and remained within some days, Antony continued saying, "Thou canst not be healed if thou remainest here; go forth, and as soon as thou enterest Egypt, thou shalt see the sign which shall befall thee." He, believing, went forth; and as soon as he only saw Egypt he was freed from his disease, and became sound according to the word of Antony, which he had learnt by prayer from the Saviour . . .

[Here follows a story of a girl cured of a painful complaint: which need not be translated.]

But when two brethren were coming to him, and water failed them on the journey, one of them died, and the other was about to die. In fact, being no longer able to walk, he too lay upon the ground expecting death. But Antony, as he sat on the mountain, called two monks who happened to be there, and hastened them, saying, "Take a pitcher of water, and run on the road towards Egypt; for of two who are coming hither one has just expired, and the other will do so if you do not hasten. For this has been showed to me as I prayed." So the monks going found the one lying dead, and buried him; and the other they recovered with the water, and brought him to the old man. Now the distance was a day's journey. But if any one should ask why he did not speak before one of them expired, he does not question rightly; for the judgment of that death did not belong to Antony, but to God, who both judged concerning the one; and revealed concerning the other. But this alone in Antony was wonderful, that sitting on the mountain he kept his heart watchful, and the Lord showed him things afar off.

For once again, as he sat on the mountain and looked up, he saw some one carried aloft, and a great rejoicing among some who met him. Then wondering, and blessing such a choir, he prayed to be taught what that might be; and straightway a voice came to him that this was the soul of Ammon, the monk in Nitria, {60} who had persevered as an ascetic to his old age; and the distance from Nitria to the mountain where Antony was, is thirteen days' journey. Those then who were with Antony, seeing the old man wondering, asked the reason, and heard that Ammon had just expired, for he was known to them on account of his having frequently come thither, and many signs having been worked by him, of which this is one. . . .

[Here follows the story (probably an interpolation) of Ammon's being miraculously carried across the river Lycus, because he was ashamed to undress himself.]

But the monks to whom Antony spoke about Ammon's death noted down the day; and when brethren came from Nitria after thirty days, they inquired and learnt that Ammon had fallen asleep at the day and hour in which the old man saw his soul carried aloft. And all on both sides wondered at the purity of Antony's soul; how he had learnt and seen instantly what had happened thirteen days' journey off.

Moreover, Archeleas the Count, finding him once in the outer mountain praying alone, asked him concerning Polycratia, that wonderful and Christ-bearing maiden in Laodicea; for she suffered dreadful internal pain from her extreme training, and was altogether weak in body. Antony, therefore, prayed; and the Count noted down the day on which the prayer was offered. And going back to Laodicea, he found the maiden cured; and asking when and on what day her malady had ceased, he brought out the paper on which he had written down the date of the prayer. And when she told him, he showed at once the writing on the paper. And all found that the Lord had stopped her sufferings while Antony was still praying and calling for her on the goodness of the Saviour.

And concerning those who came to him, he often predicted some days, or even a month, beforehand, and the cause why they were coming. For some came only to see him, and others on account of sickness, and others because they suffered from daemons, and all thought the labour of the journey no trouble nor harm, for each went back aware that he had been benefited. And when he spoke and looked thus, he asked no one to marvel at him on that account, but to marvel rather at the Lord, because he had given us, who are but men, grace to know him according to our powers. And as he was going down again to the outer cells, and was minded to enter a boat and pray with the monks, he alone perceived a dreadfully evil odour, and when those in the boat told him that they had fish and brine on board, and that it was they which smelt, he said that it was a different smell; and while he was yet speaking, a youth, who had an evil spirit, had gone before them and hidden in the boat, suddenly cried out. But the daemon, being rebuked in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, went out of him, and the man became whole, and all knew that the smell had come from the evil spirit. And there was another man of high rank who came to him, having a daemon, and one so terrible, that the possessed man did not know that he was going to Antony, but [showed the common symptoms of mania]. Those who brought him entreated Antony to pray over him, which he did, feeling for the young man, and he watched beside him all night. But about dawn, the young man, suddenly rushing on Antony, assaulted him. When those who came with him were indignant, Antony said, "Be not hard upon the youth, for it is not he, but the daemon in him; and because he has been rebuked, and commanded to go forth into dry places, he has become furious, and done this. Glorify, therefore, the Lord for his having thus rushed upon me, as a sign to you that the daemon is going out." And as Antony said this, the youth suddenly became sound, and, recovering his reason, knew where he was, and embraced the old man, giving thanks to God. And most of the monks agree unanimously that many like things were done by him: yet are they not so wonderful as what follows. For once, when he was going to eat, and rose up to pray about the ninth hour, he felt himself rapt in spirit; and (wonderful to relate) as he stood he saw himself as it were taken out of himself, and led into the air by some persons; and then others, bitter and terrible, standing in the air, and trying to prevent his passing upwards. And when those who led him fought against them, they demanded whether he was not accountable to them. And when they began to take account of his deeds from his birth, his guides stopped them, saying, "What happened from his birth upwards, the Lord hath wiped out: but of what has happened since he became a monk, and made a promise to God, of that you may demand an account." Then, when they brought accusations against him, and could not prove them, the road was opened freely to him. And straightway he saw himself as if coming back and standing before himself, and was Antony once more. Then, forgetting that he had not eaten, he remained the rest of the day and all night groaning and praying, for he wondered when he saw against how many enemies we must wrestle, and through how many labours a man must traverse the air; and he remembered that it is this which the Apostle means with regard to the Prince of the power of the air; for it is in the air that the enemy has his power, fighting against those who pass through it, and trying to hinder them. Wherefore, also he especially exhorts us: "Take the whole armour of God, that the enemy, having no evil to say about us, may be ashamed." But when we heard this, we remembered the Apostle's saying, "Whether in the body I cannot tell, or out of the body I cannot tell: God knoweth." But Paul was caught up into the third heaven, and, having heard unspeakable words, descended again; but Antony saw himself rapt in the air, and wrestling till he seemed to be free.

Again, he had this grace, that as he was sitting alone in the mountain, if at any time he was puzzled in himself, the thing was revealed to him by Providence as he prayed; and the blessed man was, as Scripture says, taught of God. After this, at all events, when he had been talking with some who came to him concerning the departure of the soul, and what would be its place after this life, the next night some one called him from without, and said, "Rise up, Antony; come out and see." So coming out (for he knew whom he ought to obey), he beheld a tall being, shapeless and terrible, standing and reaching to the clouds, and as it were winged beings ascending; and him stretching out his hands; and some of them hindered by him, and others flying above him, and when they had once passed him, borne upwards without trouble. But against them that tall being gnashed his teeth, while over those who fell, he rejoiced. And there came a voice to Antony, "Consider what thou seest." And when his understanding was opened, he perceived that it was the enemy who envies the faithful, and that those who were in his power he mastered and hindered from passing; but that those who had not obeyed him, over them, as over conquerors, he had no power. Having seen this, and as it were made mindful by it, he struggled more and more daily to improve. Now these things he did not tell of his own accord; but when he was long in prayer, and astonished in himself, those who were with him questioned him and urged him; and he was forced to tell; unable, as a father, to hide anything from his children; and considering, too, that his own conscience was clear, and the story would be profitable for them, when they learned that the life of training bore good fruit, and that visions often came as a solace of their toils.

But how tolerant was his temper, and how humble his spirit; for though he was so great, he both honoured exceedingly the canon of the Church, and wished to put every ecclesiastic before himself in honour. For to the bishops and presbyters he was not ashamed to bow his head; and if a deacon ever came to him for the sake of profit, he discoursed with him on what was profitable, but in prayer he gave place to him, not being ashamed even himself to learn from him. {65} For he often asked questions, and deigned to listen to all present, confessing that he was profited if any one said aught that was useful. Moreover, his countenance had great and wonderful grace; and this gift too he had from the Saviour. For if he was present among the multitude of monks, and any one who did not previously know him wished to see him, as soon as he came he passed by all the rest, and ran to Antony himself, as if attracted by his eyes. He did not differ from the rest in stature or in stoutness, but in the steadiness of his temper, and purity of his soul; for as his soul was undisturbed, his outward senses were undisturbed likewise, so that the cheerfulness of his soul made his face cheerful, and from the movements of his body the stedfastness of his soul could be perceived, according to the Scripture, "When the heart is cheerful the countenance is glad; but when sorrow comes it scowleth." . . . And he was altogether wonderful in faith, and pious, for he never communicated with the Meletian {66a} schismatics, knowing their malice and apostasy from the beginning; nor did he converse amicably with Manichaeans or any other heretics, save only to exhort them to be converted to piety. For he held that their friendship and converse was injury and ruin to the soul. So also he detested the heresy of the Arians, and exhorted all not to approach them, nor hold their misbelief. {66b} In fact, when certain of the Ariomanites came to him, having discerned them and found them impious, he chased them out of the mountain, saying that their words were worse than serpent's poison; and when the Arians once pretended that he was of the same opinion as they, he was indignant and fierce against them. Then being sent for by the bishops and all the brethren, he went down from the mountain, and entering Alexandria he denounced the Arians, saying, that that was the last heresy, and the forerunner of Antichrist; and he taught the people that the Son of God was not a created thing, neither made from nought, but that he is the Eternal Word and Wisdom of the Essence of the Father; wherefore also it is impious to say there was a time when he was not, for he was always the Word co-existent with the Father. Wherefore he said, "Do not have any communication with these most impious Arians; for there is no communion between light and darkness. For you are pious Christians: but they, when they say that the Son of God and the Word, who is from the Father, is a created being, differ nought from the heathen, because they worship the creature instead of God the Creator. {67} Believe rather that the whole creation itself is indignant against them, because they number the Creator and Lord of all, in whom all things are made, among created things." All the people therefore rejoiced at hearing that Christ-opposing heresy anathematized by such a man; and all those in the city ran together to see Antony and the Greeks, {68a} and those who are called their priests {68b} came into the church, wishing to see the man of God; for all called him by that name, because there the Lord cleansed many by him from daemons, and healed those who were out of their mind. And many heathens wished only to touch the old man, believing that it would be of use to them; and in fact as many became Christians in those few days, as would have been usually converted in a year. And when some thought that the crowd troubled him, and therefore turned all away from him, he quietly said that they were not more numerous than the fiends with whom he wrestled on the mountain. But when he left the city, and we were setting him on his journey, when we came to the gate a certain woman called to him: "Wait, man of God, my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil; wait, I beseech thee, lest I too harm myself with running after thee." The old man hearing it, and being asked by us, waited willingly. But when the woman drew near, the child dashed itself on the ground; and when Antony prayed and called on the name of Christ, it rose up sound, the unclean spirit having gone out; and the mother blessed God, and we all gave thanks: and he himself rejoiced at leaving the city for the mountain, as for his own home.

Now he was very prudent; and what was wonderful, though he had never learnt letters, he was a shrewd and understanding man. Once, for example, two Greek philosophers came to him, thinking that they could tempt Antony. And he was in the outer mountain; and when he went out to them, understanding the men from their countenances, he said through an interpreter, "Why have you troubled yourselves so much, philosophers, to come to a foolish man?" And when they answered that he was not foolish, but rather very wise, he said, "If you have come to a fool, your labour is superfluous, but if ye think me to be wise, become as I am; for we ought to copy what is good, and if I had come to you, I should have copied you; but if you come to me, copy me, for I am a Christian." And they wondering went their way, for they saw that even daemons were afraid of Antony.

And again when others of the same class met him in the outer mountain, and thought to mock him, because he had not learnt letters, Antony answered, "But what do you say? which is first, the sense or the letters? And which is the cause of the other, the sense of the letters, or the letters of the sense?" And when they said that the sense came first, and invented the letters, Antony replied, "If then the sense be sound, the letters are not needed." Which struck them, and those present, with astonishment. So they went away wondering, when they saw so much understanding in an unlearned man. For though he had lived and grown old in the mountain, his manners were not rustic, but graceful and urbane; and his speech was seasoned with the divine salt, so that no man grudged at him, but rather rejoiced over him, as many as came. . . .

[Here follows a long sermon against the heathen worship, attributed to St. Antony, but of very questionable authenticity: the only point about it which is worthy of note is that Antony confutes the philosophers by challenging them to cure some possessed persons, and, when they are unable to do so, casts out the daemons himself by the sign of the cross.]

The fame of Antony reached even the kings, for Constantinus the Augustus, and his sons, Constantius and Constans, the Augusti, hearing of these things, wrote to him as to a father, and begged to receive an answer from him. But he did not make much of the letters, nor was puffed up by their messages; and he was just the same as he was before the kings wrote to him. And he called his monks and said, "Wonder not if a king writes to us, for he is but a man: but wonder rather that God has written his law to man, and spoken to us by his own Son." So he declined to receive their letters, saying he did not know how to write an answer to such things; but being admonished by the monks that the kings were Christians, and that they must not be scandalized by being despised, he permitted the letters to be read, and wrote an answer; accepting them because they worshipped Christ, and counselling them, for their salvation, not to think the present life great, but rather to remember judgment to come; and to know that Christ was the only true and eternal king; and he begged them to be merciful to men, and to think of justice and the poor. And they, when they received the answer, rejoiced. Thus was he kindly towards all, and all looked on him as their father. He then betook himself again into the inner mountain, and continued his accustomed training. But often, when he was sitting and walking with those who came unto him, he was astounded, as is written in Daniel. And after the space of an hour, he told what had befallen to the brethren who were with him, and they perceived that he had seen some vision. Often he saw in the mountain what was happening in Egypt, and told it to Serapion the bishop, who saw him occupied with a vision. Once, for instance, as he sat, he fell as it were into an ecstasy, and groaned much at what he saw. Then, after an hour, turning to those who were with him, he groaned and fell into a trembling, and rose up and prayed, and bending his knees, remained so a long while; and then the old man rose up and wept. The bystanders, therefore, trembling and altogether terrified, asked him to tell them what had happened, and tormented him much, that he was forced to speak. And he groaning greatly--"Ah! my children," he said, "it were better to be dead before what I have seen shall come to pass." And when they asked him again, he said with tears, that "Wrath will seize on the Church, and she will be given over to men like unto brutes, which have no understanding; for I saw the table of the Lord's house, and mules standing all around it in a ring and kicking inwards, as a herd does when it leaps in confusion; and ye all perceived how I groaned, for I heard a voice saying, 'My sanctuary shall be defiled.'"

This the old man saw, and after two years there befell the present inroad of the Arians, {72a} and the plunder of the churches, when they carried off the holy vessels by violence, and made the heathen carry them: and when too they forced the heathens from the prisons to join them, and in their presence did on the holy table what they would. {72b} Then we all perceived that the kicks of those mules presignified to Antony what the Arians are now doing without understanding, like the brutes. But when Antony saw this sight, he exhorted those about him, saying, "Lose not heart, children; for as the Lord has been angry, so will he again be appeased, and the Church shall soon receive again her own order and shine forth as she is wont; and ye shall see the persecuted restored to their place, and impiety retreating again into its own dens, and the pious faith speaking boldly everywhere with all freedom. Only defile not yourselves with the Arians, for this teaching is not of the Apostle but of the daemons, and of their father the devil: barren and irrational and of an unsound mind, like the irrational deeds of those mules." Thus spoke Antony.

But we must not doubt whether so great wonders have been done by a man; for the Saviour's promise is, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall say to this mountain, Pass over from hence, it shall pass over, and nothing shall be impossible to you;" and again, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, if ye shall ask my Father in my name, he shall give it you. Ask, and ye shall receive." And he himself it is who said to his disciples and to all who believe in him, "Heal the sick, cast out devils; freely ye have received, freely give." And certainly Antony did not heal by his own authority, but by praying and calling on Christ; so that it was plain to all that it was not he who did it, but the Lord, who through Antony showed love to men, and healed the sufferers. But Antony's part was only the prayer and the training, for the sake whereof, sitting in the mountain, he rejoiced in the sight of divine things, and grieved when he was tormented by many, and dragged to the outer mountain.

For all the magistrates asked him to come down from the mountain, because it was impossible for them to go in thither to him on account of the litigants who followed him; so they begged him to come, that they might only behold him. And when he declined they insisted, and even sent in to him prisoners under the charge of soldiers, that at least on their account he might come down. So being forced by necessity, and seeing them lamenting, he came to the outer mountain. And his labour this time too was profitable to many, and his coming for their good. To the magistrates, too, he was of use, counselling them to prefer justice to all things, and to fear God, and to know that with what judgment they judged they should be judged in turn. But he loved best of all his life in the mountain. Once again, when he was compelled in the same way to leave it, by those who were in want, and by the general of the soldiers, who entreated him earnestly, he came down, and having spoken to them somewhat of the things which conduced to salvation, he was pressed also by those who were in need. But being asked by the general to lengthen his stay, he refused, and persuaded him by a graceful parable, saying, "Fishes, if they lie long on the dry land, die; so monks who stay with you lose their strength. As the fishes then hasten to the sea, so must we to the mountain, lest if we delay we should forget what is within." The general, hearing this and much more from him, said with surprise that he was truly a servant of God, for whence could an unlearned man have so great sense if he were not loved by God?

Another general, named Balacius, bitterly persecuted us Christians on account of his affection for those abominable Arians. His cruelty was so great that he even beat nuns, and stripped and scourged monks. Antony sent him a letter to this effect:--"I see wrath coming upon thee. Cease, therefore, to persecute the Christians, lest the wrath lay hold upon thee, for it is near at hand." But Balacius, laughing, threw the letter on the ground and spat on it; and insulted those who brought it, bidding them tell Antony, "Since thou carest for monks, I will soon come after thee likewise." And not five days had passed, when the wrath laid hold on him. For Balacius himself, and Nestorius, the Eparch of Egypt, went out to the first station from Alexandria, which is called Chaereas's. Both of them were riding on horses belonging to Balacius, and the most gentle in all his stud: but before they had got to the place, the horses began playing with each other, as is their wont, and suddenly the more gentle of the two, on which Nestorius was riding, attacked Balacius and pulled him off with his teeth, and so tore his thigh that he was carried back to the city, and died in three days. And all wondered that what Antony had so wonderfully foretold was so quickly fulfilled. These were his warnings to the more cruel. But the rest who came to him he so instructed that they gave up at once their lawsuits, and blessed those who had retired from this life. And those who had been unjustly used he so protected that you would think he and not they was the sufferer. And he was so able to be of use to all; so that many who were serving in the army, and many wealthy men, laid aside the burdens of life and became thenceforth monks; and altogether he was like a physician given by God to Egypt. For who met him grieving, and did not go away rejoicing? Who came mourning over his dead, and did not forthwith lay aside his grief? Who came wrathful, and was not converted to friendship? What poor man came wearied out, and when he saw and heard him did not despise wealth and comfort himself in his poverty? What monk who had grown remiss, was not strengthened by coming to him? What young man coming to the mountain and looking upon Antony, did not forthwith renounce pleasure and love temperance? Who came to him tempted by devils, and did not get rest? Who came troubled by doubts, and did not get peace of mind? For this was the great thing in Antony's asceticism, that (as I have said before), having the gift of discerning spirits, he understood their movements, and knew in what direction each of them turned his endeavours and his attacks. And not only he was not deceived by them himself, but he taught those who were troubled in mind how they might turn aside the plots of daemons, teaching them the weakness and the craft of their enemies. How many maidens, too, who had been already betrothed, and only saw Antony from afar, remained unmarried for Christ's sake! Some, too, came from foreign parts to him, and all, having gained some benefit, went back from him as from a father. And now he has fallen asleep, all are as orphans who have lost a parent, consoling themselves with his memory alone, keeping his instructions and exhortations. But what the end of his life was like, it is fit that I should relate, and you hear eagerly. For it too is worthy of emulation. He was visiting, according to his wont, the monks in the outer mountain, and having learned from Providence concerning his own end, he said to the brethren, "This visit to you is my last, and I wonder if we shall see each other again in this life. It is time for me to set sail, for I am near a hundred and five years old." And when they heard that they wept, and embraced and kissed the old man. And he, as if he was setting out from a foreign city to his own, spoke joyfully, and exhorted them not to grow idle in their labours or cowardly in their training, but to live as those who died daily, and (as I said before) to be earnest in keeping their souls from foul thoughts, and to emulate the saints, and not to draw near the Meletian schismatics, for "ye know their evil and profane determinations, nor to have any communion with the Arians, for their impiety also is manifest to all. Neither if ye shall see the magistrates patronising them, be troubled, for their phantasy shall have an end, and is mortal and only for a little while. Keep yourselves therefore rather clean from them, and hold that which has been handed down to you by the fathers, and especially the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ which ye have learned from Scripture, and of which ye have often been reminded by me." And when the brethren tried to force him to stay with them and make his end there, he would not endure it, on many accounts, as he showed by his silence; and especially on this:--The Egyptians are wont to wrap in linen the corpses of good persons, and especially of the holy martyrs, but not to bury them underground, but to lay them upon benches and keep them in their houses; {77} thinking that by this they honour the departed. Now Antony had often asked the bishops to exhort the people about this, and in like manner he himself rebuked the laity and terrified the women; saying that it was a thing neither lawful nor in any way holy; for that the bodies of the patriarchs and prophets are to this day preserved in sepulchres, and that the very body of our Lord was laid in a sepulchre, and a stone placed over it to hide it, till he rose the third day. And thus saying he showed that those broke the law who did not bury the corpses of the dead, even if they were holy; for what is greater or more holy than the Lord's body? Many, then, when they heard him, buried thenceforth underground; and blessed the Lord that they had been taught rightly. Being then aware of this, and afraid lest they should do the same by his body, he hurried himself, and bade farewell to the monks in the outer mountain; and coming to the inner mountain, where he was wont to abide, after a few months he grew sick, and calling those who were by--and there were two of them who had remained there within fifteen years, exercising themselves and ministering to him on account of his old age--he said to them, "I indeed go the way of the fathers, as it is written, for I perceive that I am called by the Lord." . . .

[Then follows a general exhortation to the monk, almost identical with much that has gone before, and ending by a command that his body should be buried in the ground.]

"And let this word of mine be kept by you, so that no one shall know the place, save you alone, for I shall receive it (my body) incorruptible from my Saviour in the resurrection of the dead. And distribute my garments thus. To Athanasius the bishop give one of my sheepskins, and the cloak under me, which was new when he gave it me, and has grown old by me; and to Serapion the bishop give the other sheepskin; and do you have the hair-cloth garment. And for the rest, children, farewell, for Antony is going, and is with you no more."

Saying thus, when they had embraced him, he stretched out his feet, and, as if he saw friends coming to him, and grew joyful on their account (for, as he lay, his countenance was bright), he departed and was gathered to his fathers. And they forthwith, as he had commanded them, preparing the body and wrapping it up, hid it under ground: and no one knows to this day where it is hidden, save those two servants only. And each (i.e. Athanasius and Serapion) having received the sheepskin of the blessed Antony, and the cloak which he had worn out, keeps them as a great possession. For he who looks on them, as it were, sees Antony; and he who puts them on, wears them with joy, as he does Antony's counsels.

Such was the end of Antony in the body, and such the beginning of his training. And if these things are small in comparison with his virtue, yet reckon up from these things how great was Antony, the man of God, who kept unchanged, from his youth up to so great an age, the earnestness of his training; and was neither worsted in his old age by the desire of more delicate food, nor on account of the weakness of his body altered the quality of his garment, nor even washed his feet with water; and yet remained uninjured in all his limbs: for his eyes were undimmed and whole, so that he saw well; and not one of his teeth had fallen out, but they were only worn down to his gums on account of his great age; and he remained sound in hand and foot; and, in a word, appeared ruddier and more ready for exertion than all who use various meats and baths, and different dresses. But that this man should be celebrated everywhere and wondered at by all, and regretted even by those who never saw him, is a proof of his virtue, and that his soul was dear to God. For Antony became known not by writings, not from the wisdom that is from without, not by any art, but by piety alone; and that this was the gift of God, none can deny. For how as far as Spain, as Gaul, as Rome, as Africa, could he have been heard, hidden as he was in a mountain, if it had not been for God, who makes known his own men everywhere, and who had promised Antony this from the beginning? For even if they do their deeds in secret, and wish to be concealed, yet the Lord shows them as lights to all, that so those who hear of them may know that the commandments suffice to put men in the right way, and may grow zealous of the path of virtue.

Read then these things to the other brethren, that they may learn what the life of monks should be, and may believe that the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour will glorify those who glorify him, and that those who serve him to the end he will not only bring to the kingdom of heaven, but that even if on earth they hide themselves and strive to get out of the way, he will make them manifest and celebrated everywhere, for the sake of their own virtue, and for the benefit of others. But if need be, read this also to the heathens, that even thus they may learn that our Lord Jesus Christ is not only Lord and the Son of God, but that those who truly serve him, and believe piously on him, not only prove that those daemons whom the Greeks think are gods to be no gods, but even tread them under foot, and chase them out as deceivers and corrupters of men, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and honour for ever and ever. Amen.

Thus ends this strange story. What we are to think of the miracles and wonders contained in it, will be discussed at a later point in this book. Meanwhile there is a stranger story still connected with the life of St. Antony. It professes to have been told by him himself to his monks; and whatever groundwork of fact there may be in it is doubtless his. The form in which we have it was given it by the famous St. Jerome, who sends the tale as a letter to Asella, one of the many noble Roman ladies whom he persuaded to embrace the monastic life. The style is as well worth preserving as the matter. Its ruggedness and awkwardness, its ambition and affectation, contrasted with the graceful simplicity of Athanasius's "Life of Antony," mark well the difference between the cultivated Greek and the ungraceful and half-barbarous Roman of the later Empire. I have, therefore, given it as literally as possible, that readers may judge for themselves how some of the Great Fathers of the fifth century wrote, and what they believed.

Charles Kingsley