The Anchorite and Bishop. The APOPHTHEGMATA PATRUM includes about fifteen items relating to a fourth-century Abba Ammonas who spent at least fourteen years at SCETIS and was in touch with Saint ANTONY (Cotelier, 1864, pp. 120-24, Ammonas 7-8, Antony 26) before becoming a bishop. It is not too bold to identify this person with the Ammonas who is mentioned in Chapter 15 of the HISTORIA MONACHORUM IN AEGYPTO and who is supposedly Antony’s immediate successor as leader of the monks of Pispir.
This Ammonas is also thought to be the author of spiritual exhortations in the form of letters, preserved in different languages. Along with the letters of Antony, with which they have been intermingled in the Coptic and Arabic tradition, these letters of Ammonas are among the few documents that tell us something about the mysticism of the desert fathers. Their central theme is the acquisition of the Spirit, coming to perfect the purification and illumination of the monk’s soul.
According to his own experience, the author describes the wonderful effects of this divine gift, what one must do to make oneself worthy of it, the trials to be borne and the temptations to be overcome. This original teaching is, it appears, completely independent of EVAGRIUS PONTICUS. It is of basically biblical origin.
The most complete collection of the letters of Ammonas is preserved in Syriac (Kmosko, 1913). Seven letters preserved in Greek have been published by F. Nau (1914). A Latin translation from Arabic has been published in J. P. Migne in Patrologia Graeca. An unpublished Georgian series is almost as complete as the Syriac collection (Garitte, 1952, pp. 103-107).
- Chitty, Derwas J. The Desert a City, pp. 38-39. Oxford, 1966. Cotelier, J. P., ed. Apophthegmata Patrum. Patrologia Graeca 65,24. 120-24. Paris, 1864.
- Festugière, A. J., ed. Historia monachorum in Aegypto, p. 111. Brussels, 1971.
- Kmosko, M. Ammonii Eremitae Epistolae. PO 10, pp. 567-616. Paris, 1913.
- Nau, F. Lettres d’Ammonas. PO 11, pp. 432-64. Paris, 1914.