Tired of Life? Join the Essenes!

Pliny, Natural History 5.15:

“To the west lie the Essenes, who escape the noxious effects of the shores. They are a solitary race, and marvelous beyond others in the whole world: living without a woman, having given up venereal pleasure, and lacking money – they are the companions of the palm trees. Every day, their number is increased by the masses of people flocking to them, whom Fortune has driven them, tired of life, upon her waves to the society of the Essenes. And so through thousands of ages – marvelous to say! – has their race in which no one is born continued. So fruitful for them is the fatigue which people feel with life!”


Ab occidente litora Esseni fugiunt usque qua nocent, gens sola et in toto orbe praeter ceteras mira, sine ulla femina, omni venere abdicata, sine pecunia, socia palmarum. in diem ex aequo convenarum turba renascitur, large frequentantibus quos vita fessos ad mores eorum fortuna fluctibus agit. ita per saeculorum milia — incredibile dictu — gens aeterna est, in qua nemo nascitur. tam fecunda illis aliorum vitae paenitentia est!

St. Anthony: SUPER LAME!

Athanasius, Life of St. Anthony:

“Antonius was an Egyptian by birth, of good parents who had gotten hold of enough wealth to make them self-sufficient, and since they were Christians, he himself was brought up as a member of that sect. Being a child, he was brought up by his parents, not knowing anything except them and their household. But when the boy was growing, and on the verge of leaving his youth, he did not suffer to learn his letters, with the intention of remaining estranged even to the other children. He possessed an all-consuming passion, as was written of Jacob, to live wholly uncultured in his own house. He was, to be sure, raised with his parents in the Lord’s House. And he did not simply play around as a child, nor as he advanced through his youth did he grow haughty; rather, he always obeyed his parents and attended to their lessons, and paid careful attention to the profit which he received from them. Nor again, as a child brought up in a fairly rich family, did he bother his parents for fancy and expensive food, nor did he seek pleasure from it. He was satisfied with what he came upon, and sought nothing more.”


 ᾿Αντώνιος γένος μὲν ἦν Αἰγύπτιος, εὐγενῶν δὲ γονέων καὶ περιουσίαν αὐτάρκη κεκτημένων, καὶ  Χριστιανῶν αὐτῶν ὄντων, Χριστιανικῶς ἀνήγετο καὶ αὐτός. Καὶ παιδίον μὲν ὢν, ἐτρέφετο παρὰ τοῖς γονεῦσι, πλέον αὐτῶν καὶ τοῦ οἴκου μηδὲν ἕτερον γινώσκων· ἐπειδὴ δὲ καὶ αὐξήσας ἐγένετο παῖς, καὶ προέκοπτε τῇ ἡλικίᾳ, γράμματα μὲν μαθεῖν οὐκ ἠνέσχετο, βουλόμενος ἐκτὸς εἶναι καὶ τῆς πρὸς τοὺς παῖδας συνηθείας· τὴν δὲ ἐπιθυμίαν πᾶσαν εἶχε, κατὰ τὸ γεγραμμένον περὶ τοῦ ᾿Ιακὼβ, ὡς ἄπλαστος οἰκεῖν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ. Συνήγετο μέντοι μετὰ τῶν γονέων ἐν τῷ Κυριακῷ· καὶ οὔτε ὡς παῖς ἐῤῥᾳθύμει, οὔτε ὡς τῇ ἡλικίᾳ προκόπτων κατεφρόνει· ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῖς γονεῦσιν ὑπετάσσετο, καὶ τοῖς ἀναγνώσμασι προσέχων, τὴν ἐξ αὐτῶν ὠφέλειαν ἐν ἑαυτῷ διετήρει. Οὔτε δὲ πάλιν ὡς παῖς ἐν μετρίᾳ περιουσίᾳ τυγχάνων ἠνώχλει τοῖς γονεῦσι ποικίλης καὶ πολυτελοῦς ἕνεκα τροφῆς, οὔτε τὰς ἐκ ταύτης ἡδονὰς ἐζήτει· μόνοις δὲ οἷς ηὕρισκεν ἠρκεῖτο, καὶ πλέον οὐδὲν ἐζήτει.

Monasticism and Gallic Gluttony

Sulpicius Severus, Dialogues 1.8:

“’Jerome was, in addition to the merit of his faith and the gift of his virtues, educated not just in Latin and Greek, but even in Hebraic literature, to such an extent that no one would dare to compare themselves to him in any field of knowledge. I would be surprised if he is not known to you through the many works which he has written, since he is read all around the world.’

The Gaul responded to me, ‘Oh, he is all too well known to us. About five years ago I read a certain little book of his, in which the whole nation of our monks is hassled and reproved by him. And a Belgian friend of mine often gets angry because Jerome said that we are accustomed to feed until we vomit. I would give him a pass on it, however, and I think that he was talking more about eastern monks than those in the west, since a fondness for eating is considered gluttony among the Greeks, but among us Gauls it is just nature.’”


uir enim praeter fidei meritum dotemque uirtutum non solum Latinis atque Graecis, sed et Hebraeis litteris ita institutus est, ut se illi in omni scientia nemo audeat conparare. Miror autem, si non et uobis per multa quae scripsit opera conpertus est, cum per totum orbem legatur.

Nobis uero, Gallus inquit,nimium nimiumque conpertus est. nam ante hoc quinquennium quendam illius libellum legi, in quo tota nostrorum natio monachorum ab eo uehementissime uexatur et carpitur. unde interdum  Belgicus noster ualde irasci solet, quod dixerit, nos usque ad uomitum solere satiari. ego autem illi uiro ignosco, adque ita sentio, de orientalibus illum potius monachis quam de occidentalibus disputasse. nam edacitas in Graecis gula est, in Gallis natura.

F**k Y’all, My Treasure’s In Heaven!

Orosius, History Against the Pagans 7.33:

“Meanwhile in parts of Africa, Firmus made himself the king of the provoked tribes of the Moors and laid waste to Africa and Mauretania. He gave Caesarea, the noblest city of Mauretania which had been taken by fraud and then filled with murder and flames, to the barbarians as a prize. Then count Theodosius, the father of the Theodosius who later ruled as emperor, was sent by Valentinian and broke the tribes of the Moors, who were scattered after many battles. He drove Firmus, now afflicted and oppressed, to death. Afterward, when he had with the most knowing foresight returned all of Africa with Mauretania to their previous states, he received the order (thanks to provoking and clamoring envy) that he was to be executed. He chose to be baptized in Carthage in order to remit his sins, and after he attained the sacrament of Christ which he had sought, he cheerfully offered his neck to the executioner following a glorious life, and secure of the life hereafter.”

Interea in Africae partibus Firmus sese excitatis Maurorum gentibus regem constituens Africam Mauretaniamque uastauit; Caesaream urbem nobilissimam Mauretaniae dolo captam, deinde caedibus incendiisque conpletam barbaris in praedam dedit. igitur comes Theodosius, Theodosii qui post imperio praefuit pater, a Valentiniano missus effusas Maurorum gentes multis proeliis fregit, ipsum Firmum afflictum et oppressum coegit ad mortem. post cum experientissima prouidentia totam cum Mauretania Africam meliorem pristinis reddidisset, instimulante et obrepente inuidia iussus interfici, apud Carthaginem baptizari in remissionem peccatorum praeoptauit ac postquam sacramentum Christi quod quaesierat adsecutus est, post gloriosam saeculi uitam etiam de uitae aeternitate securus percussori iugulum ultro praebuit.

Augustine’s Superficial Learning

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire XXXIII:

“The youth of Augustin had been stained by the vices and errors which he so ingenuously confesses; but from the moment of his conversion to that of his death, the manners of the bishop of Hippo were pure and austere: and the most conspicuous of his virtues was an ardent zeal against heretics of every denomination; the Manichaeans, the Donatists, and the Pelagians, against whom he waged a perpetual controversy. When the city, some months after his death, was burnt by the Vandals, the library was fortunately saved, which contained his voluminous writings; two hundred and thirty-two separate books or treatises on theological subjects, besides a complete exposition of the psalter and the gospel, and a copious magazine of epistles and homilies. According to the judgment of the most impartial critics, the superficial learning of Augustin was confined to the Latin language; and his style, though sometimes animated by the eloquence of passion, is usually clouded by false and affected rhetoric. But he possessed a strong, capacious, argumentative mind; he boldly sounded the dark abyss of grace, predestination, free will, and original sin; and the rigid system of Christianity which he framed or restored, has been entertained, with public applause, and secret reluctance, by the Latin church.”

Gerard Seghers (attr) - The Four Doctors of the Western Church, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430).jpg

Haters Gonna Hate the Apostate

Ammianus Marcellinus, Histories XVII:

“Just when these things were learned among the retinue of Constantius – for it was necessary to bring all matters to the attention of the Augustus, the Caesar being in something like the station of a lieutenant – all of those who possessed power in the palace, all of the reverend and learned professors were turning all of the well planned and prosperously accomplished actions of Julian into a joke, croaking out endlessly in a rather witless way that ‘he came into hatred with his victories – a goat, not a man’, carping at Julian for being hairy, and calling him the chatty mole and the royal ape and the Greek language wizard. They would say these and similar things over and over again to Constantius as though ringing a chime in his ears; he rejoiced in hearing these and similar things, while his ministers tried to cover over his virtues with their impudent words, accusing Julian of being lazy, timid, withdrawn, but inclined to hype up his own deeds with polished speeches. This was not the first time that this had happened. For, as it happens that all the most ample glory is always subject to envy, we read vices and crimes imputed even to ancient and magnificent generals; and if such vices could not be discovered, malignity hostile to their most renowned deeds has contrived to fabricate them.”


 Haec cum in comitatu Constantii subinde noscerentur — erat enim necesse tamquam apparitorem Caesarem super omnibus gestis ad Augusti referre scientiam — omnes qui plus poterant in palatio, adulandi professores iam docti recte consulta prospereque conpleta vertebant in deridiculum: talia sine modo strepentes insulse “in odium venit cum victoriis suis capella, non homo” ut hirsutum Iulianum carpentes appellantesque loquacem talpam et purpuratam simiam et litterionem Graecum: et his congruentia plurima aeque ut tintinnabula principi resonantes, audire haec taliaque gestienti, virtutes eius obruere verbis inpudentibus conabantur ut segnem incessentes et timidum et umbratilem gestaque secus verbis comptioribus exornantem: quod non tunc primitus accidit. Namque ut solet amplissima quaeque gloria obiecta esse semper invidiae, legimus in veteres quoque magnificos duces vitia criminaque, etiam si inveniri non poterant, finxisse malignitatem spectatissimis actibus eorum offensam.

Theological Controversy Against the Postal Service

Ammianus Marcellinus, Histories XXI:

“The bitterness of these times was increased by the insatiable rapacity of the suppliants who conferred upon Constantius more hatred than money. This seemed to many to be rather intolerable because he never heard a case nor had a care for the indemnity of the provinces when they were being vexed by the multiplied tributes and taxes.

Confounding the pure and simple Christian religion with the superstition of an old lady, Constantius excited many quarrels in scrutinizing this religion with more perplexity than settling it with authority, and he nursed these quarrels in a broader channel once they had developed through the idle wrangling of words. The result was that the various factions of theological opponents, rushing here and there on the public posts to their synods (as they call them) in an effort to bend every rite to their own judgment, nearly cut the sinews of the public transport.”

Augebat etiam amaritudinem temporum flagitatorum rapacitas inexpleta plus odiorum ei quam pecuniae conferentium. Hocque multis intolerantius videbatur, quod nec causam aliquando audivit nec provinciarum indemnitati prospexit, cum multiplicatis tributis et vectigalibus vexarentur. Eratque super his adimere facilis quae donabat.

Christianam religionem absolutam et simplicem anili superstitione confundens, in qua scrutanda perplexius quam conponenda gravius, excitavit discidia plurima, quae progressa fusius aluit concertatione verborum, ut catervis antistitum iumentis publicis ultro citroque discurrentibus per synodos, quas appellant, dum ritum omnem ad suum trahere conantur arbitrium, rei vehiculariae succideret nervos.