Pioneer Years  (251-312)

c. 251 Antony is born; Paul of Thebes begins living in the desert

c. 271 Antony takes up "the discipline," learning from scattered Christian hermits in Egypt

c. 275 Chariton settles in Fara, becoming the first monk in Palestine

286 Antony withdraws into his fort

306 Antony emerges from his fort

c. 308 Hilarion begins ascetic life near Gaza

311 Antony visits Alexandria to comfort those persecuted by Maximin


249-251 Decius instigates empire-wide persecution of Christians; many in Egypt flee to the desert

251 Novatian teaches that the lapsed (those who denied the faith in persecution) should not be admitted back into the church—the first sign that some Christians believe the church is becoming lax

254 Origen dies from injuries suffered in the persecution

303 The "Great Persecution" of Diocletian begins; copies of Scripture confiscated and destroyed; thousands of Christians suffer

Explosive Growth  (313-357)

313 Antony withdraws to the Inner Mountain, near the Red Sea

c. 320 Pachomius founds the first monastic community, at Tabennesi

c. 330 Athanasius flees authorities, hiding with monks in the Thebaid; Amoun moves to Nitria, inspiring a monastic settlement; Marcarius the Great begins a monastery in Scetis, which grows rapidly; monasteries spring up in Palestine

338 Antony visits Alexandria and Nitria; founding of the Cells, a monastic community near Nitria

340 Athanasius, Ammonius the Tall, and Isidore visit Rome, and the monastic ideal spreads in the West

c. 350 John of Lycopolis begins his 48 years as a recluse

356 Antony dies

357 Athanasius writes his Life of Antony, which becomes a "best seller"


313 Edict of Milan gives official toleration to Christians

325 Constantine calls for the Council of Nicea ...

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