Saint NamePaesios and Esaias, monastic founders in Nitria, ob. 4th c. : S01447
Saint Name in SourceΠαήσιος, Ἠσαΐας
Type of EvidenceLiterary - Hagiographical - Monastic collections (apophthegmata, etc.)
Evidence not before419
Evidence not after420
Activity not before360
Activity not after375
Place of Evidence - RegionAsia Minor
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcAspuna
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Aspuna
Major author/Major anonymous workPalladius of Helenopolis
Cult Activities - MiraclesApparition, vision, dream, revelation
Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and NarrativesEcclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits
Ecclesiastics - abbots
Merchants and artisans
SourceBorn in 364 in Galatia in central Asia Minor, Palladius became a monk in 386, spending some years in Palestine, before moving to Alexandria. In c. 390, he joined the monastic community of Nitria, where he spent nine years, under Makarios of Alexandria and Evagrios of Pontus. In c. 399, he returned briefly to Palestine and then left for Constantinople where he became closely associated with John Chrysostom. By 400, he was ordained bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia (north-west Asia Minor), probably by Chrysostom. Palladius stood by his new protector throughout John’s conflict with Pope Theophilos of Alexandria over the affair of the Tall Brothers and the Council of the Oak. One year after John’s exile in 404, Palladius visited Rome in order to plead on John’s behalf with Pope Innocent I (401-411). Returning to Constantinople, he was arrested and one year later (406), he was exiled to Syene (Aswan) and Antinoe in Egypt. There he received the news of John’s death in Pontus (407) and wrote the Historical Dialogue on the Life of John Chrysostom (in 408 or shortly after, E02400). In the 410s, he was allowed to return to his native Galatia, and was restored as a bishop in the imperial church, being appointed to the see of Aspona.
After his return from exile, in c. 419/420, Palladius published the Lausiakon (‘Book for Lausos’, widely known as the Lausiac History), a book commissioned by and dedicated to the patrician Lausos (imperial chamberlain in 420-422). Along with the History of the Monks of Egypt (E03558, composed in 395/397), Palladius’ work inaugurates the monastic genre of edifying stories and apophthegms. It immediately became a success: two decades after its publication, the ecclesiastical historian Socrates used the Lausiac History as a source (4.23.78), and it was translated into Latin and Syriac. There are also Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, and Arabic translations. Its copious manuscript tradition (242 manuscripts) and unstable transmission render a definitive critical edition of the text very difficult. On the manuscript tradition of the Greek text, see:
Like all monastic collections, the Lausiac History was mainly written to provide exemplars of ascetic virtue and edifying stories for broader spiritual benefit, rather than to encourage the active cult of the men and women included within it – indeed some of them serve as negative examples to avoid. It was, therefore, difficult for us to decide how to treat this work in our database, focused as it is on the cult of saints. At one extreme, we could have entered every (positive) figure within it as a saint, while, at the other extreme, we might have ignored the text altogether. In the end we came to a compromise position, with one overview entry for the full text (E03176), where all the holy men and women are named, and individual entries for chapters that either reveal interesting incidental details of saintly cult or cover major figures who, in time, came to attract cult. The Lausiac History in its many manuscripts and its many translations was in fact one of the principal ways these figures came to be known, and often venerated, across the Christian world. Some of its chapters were, indeed, later detached from the collection, and circulated as independent pieces of hagiography.
DiscussionThere is no independent evidence of the cult of either Paesios or Esaias, though at least the one who founded a monastery is likely to have received some cultic veneration. We have, however, included this text as an interesting example of a debate over which of two holy men had chosen the better path to heaven. Palladius, through the mouth of Pambo, sites them both there. This is one of several accounts in the Lausiac History aiming to demonstrate that both organised monastic institutions and eremitic isolation are different, but valid forms of asceticism.
Butler, Cuthbert. The Lausiac History of Palladius: Greek Text Edited with Introduction and Notes. Texts and Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1904.
Bartelink, G. J. M., Barchiesi, M. and Mohrmann, C. Palladio, La Storia Lausiaca. Scrittori Greci E Latini. Milano: Fondazione Lorenzo Valla, Arnoldo Mondadori, 1974. (with Italian translation)
Wortley, J. Palladius, the Lausiac History, Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications, 2015.
Meyer, R. T. Palladius, the Lausiac History, Westminster MD: Newman Press: 1965.
Lowtber Clarke, W. K. The Lausiac History of Palladius, London: Macmillan, 1918.
Katos, D. Palladius of Helenopolis: the Origenist Advocate. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Rapp, C. ‘Palladius, Lausus and the Historia Lausiaca.’ In C. Sode, S. Takács (eds.), Novum Millennium. Studies on Byzantine History and Culture Dedicated to Paul Speck, 19 December 1999, Aldershot: Ashgate, 279-289.