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E03331: Palladius of Helenopolis in his Lausiac History recounts the story of *Melania the Elder (aristocrat of Rome, monastic founder in Jerusalem, ob. 410, S01185). Written in Greek at Aspuna or Ankyra (both Galatia, central Asia Minor), 419/420.

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posted on 18.07.2017, 00:00 by erizos
Palladius of Helenopolis, Lausiac History (BHG 1435-1438v; CPG 6036), 46, 54, 55.

Summary:

The story of Melania the Elder, who was known personally to Palladius, is recounted in two parts, in chapters 46 and 54-55.

46. She was of Spanish origins and daughter of a consul. She became a widow at the age of twenty one and went to Alexandria, taking her fortune with her. In Nitria she met *Pambo, *Arsisios, *Sarapion, *Paphnoutios of Sketis, *Isidoros of Hermopolis, and *Dioskoros. She spent half a year visiting holy men. She followed Isidoros, *Pisimios, Adelphios, Paphnoutios, Pambo, Ammonios, and twelve bishops and other priests, into exile in Palestine (banished by the Arian authorities) and supported them with her wealth. She was imprisoned by the governor of Palestine, who hoped to seize her wealth, but was freed, after she invoked her high social rank. She built a monastery of fifty nuns in Jerusalem where she lived with Rufinus of Aquileia, an excellent man. They achieved the reunification of a schismatic group of monks.

54-55. Melania spent her fortune on benefactions. By her prayers, her son grew up well, he received a fine education, married well, and was appointed to high office. Worrying that her grand-daughter would fall into heresy, she returned to Rome from Palestine, at the age of sixty. There, she converted the pagan Apronianos and his wife, Avita, and confirmed her grand-daughter Melania the Younger, with her husband, Pinianus, in the orthodox faith. She convinced them all to sell their property and move outside Rome in order to live in asceticism. She sent her young son, Publicula, to Sicily, sold everything and took the money to Jerusalem where she died in peace. Her decision to liquidate her property in Rome proved to be right, since the city was soon sacked and left in ruins. The only families which survived the disaster were those which had sold everything at the advice of Melania.

Text: Bartelink et al. 1974. Summary: E. Rizos.

History

Evidence ID

E03331

Saint Name

Melania the Elder, Roman aristocrat and monastic founder in Jerusalem, ob. AD 410 : S01185

Saint Name in Source

Μελάνιον

Type of Evidence

Literary - Hagiographical - Monastic collections (apophthegmata, etc.)

Language

Greek

Evidence not before

419

Evidence not after

420

Activity not before

419

Activity not after

420

Place of Evidence - Region

Asia Minor Asia Minor

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc

Aspuna Ankyra

Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Aspuna Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia Ankyra Nicomedia Νικομήδεια Nikomēdeia Izmit Πραίνετος Prainetos Nicomedia

Major author/Major anonymous work

Palladius of Helenopolis

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Composing and translating saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Women Ecclesiastics - bishops Ecclesiastics - monks/nuns/hermits Relatives of the saint Aristocrats

Source

Born 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: http://pinakes.irht.cnrs.fr/notices/oeuvre/6840/ 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.

Discussion

Palladius' accounts for his patron, Melania, are among the earliest sources of information about a figure which rose to great pre-eminence as an ascetic saint in the traditions of both the East and the West.

Bibliography

Text: 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) English Translations: 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. Further reading: 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.

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