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Desert Fathers

  1. Steven R. Harmon

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0414

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Harmon, S. R. 2011. Desert Fathers. The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


“Desert Fathers” refers both to the practitioners of Christian asceticism during the formative period of monasticism in the 3rd to 5th centuries ad in Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, and Palestine, and to the distinctive body of literature that collected and preserved the sayings of renowned ascetics.


  • desert fathers;
  • practitioners of Christian asceticism, 3rd to 5th centuries;
  • withdrawal of Anthony the great, from Christian society;
  • the beginnings of Christian monasticism;
  • emergence of two forms of monasticism;
  • eremitic monasticism and cenobitic monasticism;
  • monasticism, in upper Egypt, under pachomius;
  • sayings of the desert fathers, parabolic sayings;
  • surviving collections, alphabetical collection in Greek