An expression describing the . It was first used by one of the first “reporters” of these practitioners of the “flight to the desert,” himself. In fact, he twice, at least in explicit terms, used a form of this phrase to designate those who chose to live in the desert. The first time was to describe the companions of : “as the desert fathers attest concerning him.”

A less clear formula is used in the second instance: the , wishing to have news of her brother, who has gone to the desert, asks the bishop to write “to the fathers, those who are in the desert.” In the same way, (d. after 559) used the same expression with reference to a monk whose biography he wrote: in the he spoke of the “desert fathers” (, 1939, p. 180).

This formula was popularized by the work of Arnaud d’Andilly entitled , which appeared at Paris in 1688. The expression was then taken up by a number of works in various languages.

Numbered among the desert fathers are the great founders of of the fourth and fifth centuries: , , , , Ammonius, and his disciples and , and . Other celebrated figures to be noted are and . The works that relate their exploits or repeat their sayings include the , the HISTORIA MONACHORUM IN AEGYPTO, the Historia lausiaca of Palladius, and the . To these may be added, by reason of their role in , the later names of SHENUTE and his disciple BESA and of OF ABYDOS and his disciple MACROBIUS.


  • Andilly, A. d’. Vies des saints pères des déserts. Paris, 1688. , D. J. The Desert a City. London and Oxford, 1966.
  • Schwartz, E. Kyrillos von Skythopolis. Texte und Untersuchungen 49. Leipzig, 1939.

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