A monastic agglomeration located, as its name indicates, near the fifth milestone, to the west of Alexandria in all probability, and on the coastal strip separating the sea from Lake Mareotis, where several other religious establishments were similarly located in the Later Empire. The region of the Pempton was also called the Eremika, more by way of allusion to the nature of the landscape—”a desert by the sea”—than to its dedication to the hermit’s life.
According to John Moschus, it was an unprepossessing spot: the gallows of Alexandria. Not far from it was a ruined temple of Kronos. The precise situation of the Pempton is hard to determine, but there is reason to believe that it coincided more or less with the present village of Dikhaylah (Dekheila), in the neighborhood of which there were excavated at the beginning of the twentieth century and in 1966 some monastic funerary stelae and the remains of some religious buildings (von Woss, 1923, pp. 258-60).
The Pempton is attested for the first time between 374 and 376 by Epiphanius who tells of a visionary ascetic from a monastery of the Eremika who took himself to be a bishop and acted accordingly. Around 338, PALLADIUS, the author of the Lausiac History, tried his hand there at the monastic life, under the direction of the Theban ascetic Dorotheus. This holy man had been living in a cave there for sixty years, building with his own hands cells for the brethren and earning his livelihood, as many other Egyptian monks did, by weaving palms. Sozomen and Xanthopolus state in this connection that the Eremika and the other monasteries on the borders of Libya and in the Mareotis had something like 2,000 monks at this period.
The further history of the Pempton is sparsely documented. An anti-Nestorian imperial edict was read on 18 April 448 at the church of the monks of the Eremika, along with the prefectoral decree promulgating it. The Alexandrian monk Mark the Mad, who lived in the reign of JUSTINIAN, had formerly belonged to the Pempton, according to L. Clugnet (p. 61). In the reign of the same emperor and while Empress THEODORA (d. 548) was still alive, Anastasia, the patrician friend of Saint Severus of Antioch, is said to have founded the so-called Patrician Monastery, according to the Greek versions of her life. But her Syriac Life locates this foundation at the ENATON.
Our last attestation of the Pempton, from the end of the sixth or beginning of the seventh century, is given by John Moschus, but only indirectly and without any reference to its religious communities.
[See also: Enaton, The.]
- Clugnet, L. “Vie et récits de l’abbé Daniel de Scété. Revue de l’Orient chrétien 5 (1900).