Skip to main contentAccessibility feedback


Author b. in Galatia, 368; d. probably before 431

Click to enlarge

Palladius (Greek: Palladios), b. in Galatia, 368; d. probably before 431. The identity of the author of the “Historia Lausiaca”, of the Palladius who wrote a life of St. John Chrysostom, and of the Bishop of Helenopolis, long disputed, has been vindicated of late years (Preuschen, Butler, op. cit.) and is now generally accepted. A disciple of Evagrius of Pontus (q.v.) and an admirer of Origen, he became, when twenty years of age, a monk on the Mount of Olives under a certain priest, Innocent. After three years he went to Egypt to study the life of the famous Egyptian monks (see Monasticism), but later, falling into ill-health, wandered from one colony of monks to another, and made the acquaintance of Didymus the Blind (d. 395) who had known St. Anthony. In the Nitrian desert, then inhabited by thousands of monks living partly in communities and partly as isolated hermits, he met Evagrius. For nine years he stayed among these monks, observing their life and hearing the traditions of their founders, Anthony, Paul, Pachomius, Pambo, etc.; he also visited the monks and nuns of the Thebaid and Scete, so that he saw all the chief monastic colonies of Egypt. On the death of Evagrius (399), Palladius set out for his own country (Asia Minor) by Alexandria and Palestine. At Bethlehem he met St. Jerome, whose great knowledge, he declares, was marred by “envy and jealousy” (Hist. Laus., 1, Of Possidonius). The great opponent of Origen was naturally not sympathetic to his visitor. At Jerusalem Palladius saw Rufinus of Aquileia and Melania. In Bithynia he was ordained bishop (ibid., xlix, Of John of Lycus). St. John Chrysostom ordained him for the See of Helenopolis, but Bardenhewer thinks that Palladius of Helenopolis mentioned by Socrates, “Hist. Eccl.”,. VII, xxxvi (Freiburg, 1894, p. 354), is another person. From this time he becomes a zealous adherent of his patriarch, whose troubles in 403 he shared. He was imprisoned for eleven months in a dark cell (Hist. Laus., loc. cit.). Later he lived for a time in Palestine near Jericho under a famous hermit, Elpidius of Cappadocia (Hist. Laus., lx, Of Elpidius). In 405 he went to Rome to plead the cause of Chrysostom with Innocent I (401-17) and Emperor Honorius (395-422. He came back to Constantinople as a member of the mission sent by Honorius to Arcadius (395-408) in favor of the banished patriarch. But there he and his colleagues were imprisoned and then banished, Palladius being sent to Syene in Upper Egypt. Later he went to Antinoe and was in Ancyra after 412. In 417 he changed his Diocese of Helenopolis for Aspuna in Galatia (Socrates, loc. cit.). In 420 he wrote his “Historia Lausiaca” (Butler, “The Lausiac History”, I, 179 sq.). After that he disappears; but he died apparently before 431, in which year a certain Eusebius was Bishop of Aspuna. His chief work is the “Historica Lausiaca”, a history of the monks of Egypt and Palestine in the form of anecdotes and short biographies. Its name comes from the dedication to Lausos, a chamberlain of Theodosius II (408-50) `H Greek: pros Lauson istoria and then shortly, Lausiakon or Lausaikon.

Difficulties about the text are examined and in great part solved by Dom Cuthbert Butler (see below). The chief difficulty is that Palladius repeats nearly all the contents of Rufinus, “Historia monachorum” (written from a Greek source between 404 and 410). The text, as it is in Migne, evidently depends on Rufinus’s source. There are also many variant texts. The book was popular among monks all over the East, who appear to have added to it considerably in transcribing it. The first edition was a Latin version by Gentianus Hervetus (Paris, 1555), reprinted by H. Rosweyde (“Vitae patrum”, VIII, Paris, 1628). A shorter Greek text was published by J. Meursius (Leyden, 1616), and a longer one by Fronton Leduc (“Auctarium bibliothecae Patrum”, IV, Paris, 1624), and a still more complete one by J. Cotelerius (“Monumenta eccl. graecae”, III, Paris, 1686; reprinted in P.G., XXXIV, 995-1260). This longer version contains the text of Rufinus. Butler, Preuschen, and others think that the shorter text (of Meursius) is Palladius’s authentic work, the longer version being interpolated. Amélineau (op. cit.) holds that the longer text is all Palladius’s work, and that the first thirty-seven chapters (about the monks of Lower Egypt) are mainly an account of what the author saw and heard, though even here he has also used documents. But he thinks the second part (about Upper Egypt) is merely a compilation from a Coptic or Greek document which Rufinus also used; so that Palladius’s visit to Upper Egypt must be a literary fiction. (See also Fessler-Jungmann, op. cit.) But the shorter text itself exists in various forms. A Syrian monk, Anan-Isho, living in the sixth-seventh centuries in Mesopotamia, translated the “Lausiac History” into Syriac with further interpolations (“Paradisus Patrum”, ed. Bedjan, “Acta martyrum et sanctorum”, VII, Paris, 1897; tr. E. A. Wallis Budge, “The Paradise of the Fathers”, 2 vols., London, 1907). At one time the “Lausiac History” was considered a compilation of imaginary legends (see Weingarten, “Der Ursprung des Mönchtums”, Gotha, 1877, and others). Later research has very considerably rehabilitated Palladius; the chief authorities now (Butler, Preuschen) consider the “Lausiac History” to be in the main a serious historical document as well as an invaluable picture of the lives and ideas of the earliest Christian monks (cf. Preuschen, op. cit., 210). Palladius’s object is not so much to save material for history as to provide spiritual reading; at the same time the author has a controversial purpose as an Origenist. Rosweyde in his edition adds to the “Lausiac History” an alphabetic list of “Sayings of the Fathers” (Greek: `Apophthegmata ton pateron, in the “Vitae Patrum”, V—VI). These are later and consist partly of old traditions of Egyptian monks, partly of apocryphal additions (Butler, “The Lausiac History”, I, 208-15). Under the name of Palladius there is also a life of St. John Chrysostom (Dialogue with Theodore, deacon of the Roman Church, about the life and manners of John Chrysostom). It was first edited in Greek with a Latin translation by E. Bigot (Paris, 1680); it is included in de Montfaucon’s edition of Chrysostom (XIII, Paris, 1718-38), and in P.G. (XLVII, 5-82). There are difficulties about the identification of its author with that of the “Lausiac History” and the Bishop of Helenopolis, so that all possible combinations have been suggested, including that of three separate persons. The chief of these difficulties is that the biographer distinguishes himself from the bishop (c. iii, “P.G.”, loc. cit., 13). Bardenhewer (“Patrologie”, 354) and Fessler-Jungmann (“Institutiones Patrologiae”, II, i, 209-10) identify the author of the “Lausiac History” and the biographer, but distinguish from them the bishop. It is, however, now very common to identify the bishop and the Lausiac author (Dr. Wallis Budge, “The Paradise of the Fathers”, p. xxi), so that we come to the identity of all three as supposed in this article. Preuschen explains the difficulty in the Dialogue as a literary fiction (Palladius u. Rufinus, 246).


Did you like this content? Please help keep us ad-free
Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission!