One of the monasteries of the coastal strip that separates the sea from the western tongue of Lake Mareotis to the west of Alexandria. The Oktokaidekaton is so called from its location in the neighborhood of the eighteenth milestone from Alexandria.
Its site has not been located, but the Life of Saint THEODORA characterizes it picturesquely as a desert place, the haunt of wild beasts, a lakeside harbor, with shepherds in the neighborhood— probably nomads or seminomads like those bedouins who are still present near the main Egyptian monasteries. These shepherds were sometimes the source of wool and of milk. Gardens painstakingly irrigated by wells or cisterns produced vegetables, but grain and oil were sometimes lacking. It was then necessary for the monks to go to nearby Alexandria to look for these, taking their camels. The two- way journey could be done in a day. Alternatively they could sleep, together with their animals, at the rest house of the ENATON, halfway to Alexandria.
The origins of the Oktokaidekaton are obscure, and its history is sparsely documented. The monastery makes its first appearance in 457. At that time its monks were participating with those of the Enaton and the EIKOSTON in the election of the “Coptic” successor of Archbishop Dioscorus, TIMOTHY AELURUS (458-460 and 475-480). In the reign of Zeno (474-491) the Oktokaidekaton was the setting for the edifying life of Theodora of Alexandria, who disguised herself as a man (see in addition to Wessely’s edition, Metaphrastes, pp. 665-89; note that Nicephorus, p. 232, locates this life at the Enaton).
A little later, Plousianos, who was a former official of the prefect of Egypt and who was a friend of Zacharias the Scholastic, became a monk at the Oktokaidekaton. Judging from a scholium of the Viae Dux of Anastasius the Sinaite, it is possible that Saint SEVERUS OF ANTIOCH withdrew to the Oktokaidekaton in 518, in the company of Gaianus. But more dependable sources state that this occurred at the Enaton, and in the company of Julian of Halicarnassus. Andronicus, a goldsmith of Antioch, and his wife were monastics at the Oktokaidekaton. The Life of DANIEL OF SCETIS tells in this connection of a dispute between the Scetiotes and those from the Oktokaidekaton, the object of which was the possession of the relics of Andronicus. Daniel settled the suit in favor of the Oktokaidekaton.
In the same collection, there can be found the edifying story of Thomas, the wife of a fisherman from the Oktokaidekaton. She was assassinated by her father-in-law, seemingly a monk from this establishment, and was buried subsequently in the monastery’s cemetery. The historical value of these tales is very slight: there are other traditions placing the life of Andronicus in the reign of Theodosius I, whereas Daniel of Scetis would have lived under JUSTINIAN (cf. van Cauwenbergh, 1914, pp. 20ff.).
The latest references to the LAURA of the Oktokaidekaton are provided by John Moschus, at the end of the sixth or beginning of the seventh century, who there visited a holy man, and by Anastasius of Sinai. The latter had a theological controversy at Alexandria with two Monophysites, one of them John “of Zygas,” a monk from the Oktokaidekaton, around 635-640.
The organization of the laura must have been similar to that of the Enaton: an agglomeration of autonomous koinobia rather than a single monastery. However, the Oktokaidekaton as described in Wessely’s life of Theodora does appear to be a single establishment (like the Enaton). The place is, it appears, enclosed, with a solid masonry entrance and a doorman. Penitent monks lived outside in a hut. An ARCHIMANDRITE or HEGUMENOS presided over the establishment; he tested vocational purity. The group of priors would pass on to him the wishes of the other brethren.
- Cauwenberg, P. van. Etude sur les moines d’Egypte depuis le concile de Chalcedoine jusqu’à l’invasion arabe. Paris and Louvain, 1914.
- Guidi, I. “Vie et récits de l’abbe Daniel de Scété (VIe siècle).” Revue de l’Orient chrétien 5 (1900):535-64; 6 (1901):51-53.
- Raabe, R. S. Petrus der Iberer. Leipzig, 1895.
- Wessely, K. “Die Vita s. Theodorae.” Fünfzehnter Jahresbericht des k. und k. Staatsgymnasiums in Hernals, pp. 24-44. Vienna, 1889.