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Stylites, Symeon (c.390–459)

  1. John Anthony McGuckin

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc1325

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

McGuckin, J. A. 2011. Stylites, Symeon (c.390–459). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

Abstract

Late antique Syrian Christian saint and pillar-dweller (style) from which derives his name. Symeon was the first, and remains the most famous, of the stylite ascetics. He lived for 37 years exposed to the elements in a life of ascetical penance, perched on top of columnar stone drums. The resistance of the stylite saints to the elements (burning sun and freezing cold and rain in winter) was a dramatic sign of their renunciation of earthly comfort for the sake of attaining the kingdom of heaven. In the wider context of late antique Roman imperial society (which still included numerous pagans in the rural hinterland at this period), the extreme ascetic lifestyle of the stylite also signaled the adoption of the life of the philosopher: for whom the “despising” of the world was by then a trope common to both pagan and Christian. Such figures were widely accepted as mediators and intercessors (both political and religious) in the often chaotic political environment of that era. Symeon and the other stylites who came after him were usually attended by disciples who sent up food for the recluse and controlled the people who came to seek his advice and prayers.

Keywords:

  • Stylites, Symeon (c.390–459);
  • late antique syrian christian, saint and pillar-dweller;
  • resistance of the stylite saints to elements, renunciation;
  • “Symeon's mansion”