The author of the Historia lausiaca, one of the principal documents that inform us about Egyptian monasticism in the fourth century. Born in Galatia, he became a monk. After spending some time in Palestine at the Mount of Olives, when Rufinus and Melania the Elder were living there, he came to Egypt. He stayed for about three years near Alexandria, where he associated with the priest Isidorus, xenodochos of the church of Alexandria, and the learned Didymus the Blind, then moved to NITRIA, where there were still some monks who had lived during the period of ANTONY and AMUN. A year later, in 390, he reached the desert of the KELLIA, where he came to know MACARIUS ALEXANDRINUS, then priest of this desert, and became a disciple of EVAGRIUS PONTICUS, in the heart of the community of the monks whom their adversaries called Origenists. He remained at the Kellia for nine years. From there he went to visit the celebrated recluse JOHN OF LYCOPOLIS.
Palladius probably left Egypt in 399 or at the beginning of 400, shortly after the death of Evagrius and about the time the attack of the patriarch THEOPHILUS against the Origenist monks was raging. Consecrated bishop of Helenopolis in Bithynia, he took up the defense of Saint JOHN CHRYSOSTOM at the Synod of the Oak in 403, and was exiled by Emperor Arcadius to Syene in Upper Egypt, then to Antinoopolis, at which time he visited the monasteries of this region. On his return from exile, after the death of Theophilus (412), he went back to Galatia, and was then, according to the historian Socrates (PG 67, 821A) translated from the see of Helenopolis to that of Aspona. It was there that, about 419/420, a dozen years before his death, he wrote the Historia lausiaca, so called because it was dedicated to Lausus, the chamberlain of Patriarch THEODOSIUS II.
The work takes the form of a series of monographs devoted to the principal monks of this period, especially those of Egypt. Its historical value seems assured. Palladius speaks for the most part of monks he knew personally, or about whom he was able to collect the testimony of people who had known them, particularly in the deserts of Nitria, the Kellia, or SCETIS; for his information about the Pachomian monasteries of Upper Egypt, according to R. Draguet, he used a document of Coptic origin. However, with the information that he gathered at first hand, he mixed some stories of more or less marvelous character that were circulating in monastic circles or were drawn, according to R. Reitzenstein, from imaginative literary sources. These elements, according to some modern critics (Bousset, Reitzenstein), have sometimes damaged the historical value of his work.
It early enjoyed a very wide diffusion, in the course of which the text was modified, so that it has come down to us in several recensions. E. C. Butler’s edition reproduces one of them, probably the closest to the original text. Numerous translations were made into Latin, Syriac, Armenian, Arabic, and Ethiopic. Some fragments of a long recension have been preserved in Coptic, and were published by E. Amélineau and by M. Chaîne. The relations between this long recension and the original text of Palladius—and in consequence the value to be attributed to this Coptic text—remain obscure. In its vocabulary and in certain ideas used in it, the work bears evidence of the influence of Evagrius, but this evidence of the influence of a master whose orthodoxy was in dispute does not seem to have been detrimental to its success.
There are numerous translations of the Historia lausiaca into modern languages. Special attention is called to the English translation by R. T. Meyer (1965).
In addition to the Historia lausiaca, two other works have been preserved under the name of Palladius, one concerning the defense of Saint John Chrysostom, The Dialogue of Palladius of the Life of St. John Chrysostom, the other a curious work entitled On the Peoples of India and the Brahmins, the second part of which is drawn from a lost work of Arrian.
- Amélineau, E. De Historia Lausiaca quaenam sit hujus ad monachorum Aegyptiorum historiam scribendam utilitas. Paris, 1887.
- Bartelink, G. J. M. Palladio, La Storia lausiaca, testo critico e commento, intro. C. Mohrmann, trans. M. Barchiesi. Milan, 1975.
- Bousset, W. “Komposition und Charakter der Historia Lausiaca.” Nachrichten von der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, Phil.-hist. Klasse (1917):173-217.
- Chaîne, M. “La double recension de l’Histoire lausiaque dans la version copte.” Revue de l’Orient chrétien, ser. 3, 5  (1925-1926):232-75.
- Draguet, R. “Le chapitre de l’Histoire lausiaque sur les tabennésiotes dérive-t-il d’une source copte?” Le Muséon 57 (1944):53-146; 58 (1945):15-96.
- ___. “L’Histoire lausiaque,‘ une oeuvre écrite dans l’esprit d’Evagre.” Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 41 (1946):321-64; 42 (1947):5-49.
- ___. Les formes syriaques de la matière de l’Histoire lausiaque, 4 vols. CSCO 389-390. Louvain, 1978.
- Reitzenstein, R. Hellenistische Wunderzählungen. Leipzig, 1906.
- ___. Historia monachorum und Historia Lausiaca. Göttingen, 1916.