Fourth-fifth century anchorite. The different collections of the APOPHTHEGMATA PATRUM include about fifty items in which an Abba Agathon appears, but it is justifiable to doubt whether they all concern the same person, for in a collection preserved in Ethiopic he is designated “Agathon the Great” (Collectio Monastica 13, 98; 14, 45) and “the one from early times” (Collectio Monastica 13, 93). It is not certain if he is the one, relatively young at the time of POEMEN (Cotelier, 1864, Poemen 61), who was not considered worthy of being compared with the great men of olden times (Cotelier, 1864, Elias 2). The Alexandrian Synaxarion mentions, without details, Agathon the Hermit for the 8 Babah. But his early maturity had soon won him the title abba and many disciples, among others Alexander and Zoïlus, who later lived with ARSENIUS OF SCETIS AND TURAH. Out of the thirty apothegms in the chapter devoted to Agathon in the alphabetical collection, at least ten come from the Ascetikon of Isaiah, who had received them orally from Abraham, Agathon’s disciple. The whole forms a fine sketch of the spiritual aspect of the old man, with a sober and moving account of his last moments.
Agathon, hostile to offhandedness and flippancy, had a most sensitive conscience; he gave proof of constant vigilance and faithfulness in the smallest things. Diligent in his manual work, he abandoned it as soon as it was the hour for prayer, declaring that this was the monk’s greatest work. Detached from earthly things, he was always ready to give away what he had. Such was his charity that he would willingly have exchanged his body for that of a leper. As death drew near, he recognized that he had always done his utmost to keep God’s commandments, but added humbly that he did not rely on himself and his works. The narrator concludes, “So it was that he ended his life in joy, departing as a man who bids his friends farewell.” Dorotheus of Gaza twice quotes the final words of Abba Agathon in his exhortations to his monks.
- Arras, V., ed. Collectio Monastica, 13, 93-94, 98-99; 14, 45; pp. 107-108, 121. CSCO 238. Louvain, 1963.
- Cotelier, J. B., ed. Apophthegmata Patrum. PG 65, pp. 108-118. Paris, 1864.
- Dorotheus of Gaza, Saint. Oeuvres spirituelles, ed. L. Regnault and 92. de Préville. Sources chrétiennes 92. Paris, 1963.
- Draguet, R. Les Cinq recensions de l’Asceticon syriaque d’abba Isaie, Logos VI 5. CSCO 289, pp. 40-49; 293, pp. 47-73. Louvain, 1968.