Τρίτη 12 Ιουνίου 2012


Kirshopp-Lake, The early days of monasticism on Mount Athos, Oxford 1909.



The following pages are the by-product of various visits 
to the Monasteries of Mount Athos for the study of Biblical 
and Patristic MSS. It is impossible for any one to visit 
these districts without becoming interested in the local 
history. I trust that Byzantine scholars will pardon my 
invasion of their provinca 

It is also probably worth noting that the list of aifheodota 
"hagiographica could be enormously increased by the con- 
sistent cataloguing of the lives of Saints in the various 
libraries other than the Laura ; for the extraordinary wealth 
of Mount Athos in this respect is obscured by the fiftct that 
the Cambridge catalogue of Lambros does not as a rule 
do-more than record the month to which a volume of ^Iol 
belongs. It is of course a help to know which MSS. have 
)3ibi, but the really valuable work of cataloguing the 
contents has still to be done. 

The pleasant duty is once more laid on me of acknow- 
ledging my indebtedness to the Trustees of the Revision 
Surplus, the Hort and the Hibbert Funds. This is the 
seventh book which I have had published, and of these 
seven five are entirely the result of grants made to me by 
some or all of these societies ; it is unnecessary for me to 
say more to prove that I have reason to be grateful for 
their help. 

EiBsopp Lake. 

Leiden, 1909. 


The history of Greek monasticism seems, in all '] 
the places in which it flourished, to a£Ebrd examples \ 
of a development passing through three more or \ 
less clearly defined periods. 1 

There is first of all the hermit period, in which 
a desolate piece of couniay is selected by hermits 
as a£Ebrding the necessary solitude for an ascetic 
life. Secraidlyi^^ere is the period of loose organiza- 
tion of herm it s in laijira s ; that is to say, a collec- 
tion of hermits* cells, more or less widely scattered, 
grows up roimd the common centre provided by 
the cell of a hermit of remarkable fame, who has 
attracted, and in some degree become the leader 
of, the others. Thirdl^ there comes a time^when 
<he loose ia:ganizaiiQiijtftibfi.te bj.the 

stricter rule of a monastery with definite buildings 
and fixed regulations, under the control of an 
7iyovii€vos or abbot The passage from the previous 
stage to this was no doubt frequently hastened by 
the fact that the Byzantine authorities encoiu'aged 
monasteries, but were not as a rule favourable to 

The present treatise on the early history of 
Mount Athos is an attempt to collect the few and 
scattered pieces of evidence which bear on the 
first two stages — ^the hermit and the laura — on 
Mount Athos, and to show that no exception is 
afforded to the general rule of development. 
Although the evidence is scanty, it is sufficient to 
prove that there were hermits before there were 
lauras, and lauras before there were monasteries, 
on the Holy Mountain. 

It would therefore have been logical to divide 
the discussion into the three periods dominated by 
hermits, laiu'as, and convents; but in practice it 
has proved impossible to do this, for the same man 
often began life ^in a monastery, and afterwards 
became successively a hermit, the centre of a laura, 
and the founder of a monastery. This is especially 
the case, natmrally enough, in the middle period, 
when the mountain was occupied partly by hermits 
and partly by monks in lauras, whom force of cir- 
cumstances compelled to adopt an increasingly more 
developed form of organization. 

In the following pages I have therefore divided 
the discussion according to the saints and monas- 
teries which play the chief part in the story. The /^ 
first division is dominated by Peter the Athonite, 
who was a hermit, and nothing else, in the middle 
of the ninth century ; his life, the text of whicli I 
append, has never previously been published. The ^ 
chief personage in the second division is Euthymius 
of Thessalonica, who was first a hermit, and after- 
wards the centre of a laura, on Mt. Athos. The y 
third division is not connected with the name of 
a monk who lived on Moimt Athos, but with that of 


Johannefi EoloboB, who about 970 founded dose to 
the mountam a monastery which played a con- 
siderable part in forcing the hermits and lauras 
of Mount Athos to adopt a more^ definite organi- 

The fourth and last division deals with the 
position of afiBure in tiie tentii century as revealed 
by various docmnents connected with Athanasius 
the Athonite, and includes the final decay of the 
laura system and its replacement by fully organized 
monasteries, together with the final absorption of 
the monastery of Eolobou by the monks of the 
mountain. For the sake of clearness I have as 
largely as possible kept the discussion free from 
any very long quotations from original documents, 
and have collected the evidence afforded by these 
in a series of pieces juslificatives forming appendices 
to each chapter. 



Lff the Acta Samdarmm for June 12 (also in Migne's 
BOrologiii GroML, x6L 160, eoL 989 £) k printed 
what daims to be the life of Peter the Atfaonitey 
as told in the fotirteenth oentniy by Or^;orioB 
PalamaSy the femous c^iponent of Rariaam in the 
Hesychast oontroyersy* No <me, however, has ever 
tried to find in this docmnent any serious history 
concerning Peter, and it was impossible to say 
wheUier it was the free composition of Or^ioiy, 
or based on some earlier tradition firom which he 
had selected the miracaloas episodes which edified 
him, while omitting the historical details which 
would have interested u& 

Fortunately for history, in the Laura on Mount 
Athos and in other libraries there are preserved MSS. 
of an earlier life of Peter which was written (so 
at least it claims) by a certain Nicolaus, and was 
imdoubtedly the source used by Gr^ory Palamas. 
This has never been published and, though not a 
document of the first rank, is worth studying. 

Besearch in menologies would probably reveal 
the existence of a fair nimiber of MSS. At present, 
however, the only ones with which I am acquainted 
are as follows : — 


(1) In the Laura on Mount Athos, Cod. A 79 (saec. 
Xn, 36. 3 X 26. cm. 2 col. 33 IL), a beautifully 
written MS. containing the lives of the Saints and 
encomia for April, May, Jime, July, and August. 
This MS. has been used by M. Louis Petit for his 
edition of the life of Michael Maleinos ; ^ he there 
ascribes the MS. to the thirteenth century, but 
although it is exceedingly difficult to date these 
large hagiographical hands, I doubt if it can be 
put so late. Lideed my own opinion is that it 
was written early rather than late in the twelfth 
century. The last page of the life of Peter is 
imfortimately missing, but the text can be supplied 
from the other MSS. 

(2) Also in the Laura,. Cod. E 190 (written at the 
expense of Simeon, proegoumenos of the Laura, 
cK 7^9 xd^pa^ KapvoTovy and given by him to the 
library in 1646). This MS. is clearly a copy of 
A 79, and it was obviously not worth while to 
collate it : but it is valuable as giving the text of 
the lost page of A 79. 

(3) In Eome, Cod. Vat. 1190 (ff. 1003-1012), a 
MS. written in 1542 for *Georgius episcopus Siti- 
ensis et Hierapetrensis ' and given by him to Pope 

(4) In Paris, Cod. Coislin. Paris 307 (ff. 398-410), 
a MS. which formerly belonged to the monastery of 
Castamonitou on Mount Athos and was obtained from 

^ Vie et Office de Michel Maleinos^ &c., par Louis Petit. 
Fans, Picard et fils, 1903 (in the BibliotMque Hagiographique 
Orimtale, edit^ i>ar Leon Clugnet). 


it (it is almost certain) for Siguier, the Chancellor of 
Louis XrV, by the famous Pere Athanase, whose 
story is told by M. Henri Omont in his Missions 
arcMologiques franpaises en Orient^ av»x XVII et 
XVIII si^les."^ 

(5) Also in Paris, Cod. Coislin. 109, a MS. of the 
tenth century, which Siguier most probably also 
acquired from P^re Athanase, containing on fol. 
249^1 a short extract (in a later hand) from the 
life of Peter. This is important because the MS. 
itself came from tov evicrripLov rrjs vnepayCas %€ot6kov 
Kal TOV oaCov irarpos rfii&v TIerpov rov ^Kdon/irov (on 
f. 266). 

No doubt further investigations would reveal 
more MSS., but the text of A 79 is not bad, and 
it is not probable that the collation of other MSS. 
would give any results at all proportionate to the 
labour of collating them. 

In editing the text I have kept strictly to my 
copy of the MS. except in the insertion of iota 
subscript, and the treatment of enclitic accents. 
Where my copy attests a probably corrupt reading, 
and supports it by a ^, I have noted the fact 
with sic cod. Where I fear that I have made a 
mistake in copying, as the reading is apparently 
wrong, and is nevertheless not supported by a sic 
cod. J I have noted the fact by sic without cod. Merely 
orthographical variations I have printed without 

^ Paris, Iw^mem nationdkf 1902. 


The Story of Petev's Life. 

The story told by Nicolaus is a typical example 
of the methods followed by the Greek hagiographers. 
All the emphasis is laid on the visions, miracles, 
contests with demons, and general asceticism of the 
saint during his life, and on the history and efficacy 
of his relics after his death. There is often a 
tendency to describe all this kind of narrative as 
unhistorical ; but it would be truer to say that it 
narrates certain abnormal psychological experiences 
and combines them with a ' Weltanschauung ' which 
is entirely foreign to modem ways of thinking. 
The Ada Sanctorum would, I think, afford magni- 
ficent material to any one who would treat the 
psychology of the later saints in somewhat the 
same way as that made famous by Prof. W. James 
in his Varieties ofBdigious Experience. 

At the same time it is certainly true that this 
side of the narrative has no importance for fixing 
the historical facts connected with Peter. It is 
tiberefore probably expedient to tell over again in 
a few wcmls the few piu^ly historical parts of the 
story, as these afford the only foundation for any 
diacnssion of the date of Peter, and of the li^t 
thrown on the early history of the mountain by 
his life. 
Peter was originally a soldier (a axoXapu^ of 
the fifth <rxoXi}) who was captured by the Arabs 
in Syria and imprisoned at Samara — sl misfortane 
wfaidi he r^jaided as the direct resolt of his n^gleeft 


to fulfil a vow to become a monk. He entreated 
St. Nicolaus to help him, and promised that if he 
obtained his liberty he would go to Some, and there 
take monastic vows. After some difficulty, to over- 
come which the further intercession of St. Simeon 
was necessary, the help of the Saints proved 
effectual, and Peter obtained his liberty. In accor- 
dance with his vow he went to Some and was 
ordained monk by the Pope. After a short stay 
in Some he joined a ship bound for the Levant, 
but when he was close to Mount Athos the ship was 
miraculously delayed, and he thus recognized that 
this was the place in which, as St. Nicolaus had 
told him, he was to pass the remainder of his 
days as a hermit. On disembarking he foimd the ^ 
mountain uninhabited and lived there for fifty 
years in a cave. Here he was tempted by devils 
L in danger from mU b«»ts, but uliimaky w<» 
mtoriouB ofer both. Towards the end of h^ kat 
year he was accidentally discovered by a himter, 
to whom he told his story, advising him to 
follow his example and adopt the ascetic life» His 
words had so much influence that the himter 
promised to return after a farewell visit to his 
family ; but when he came back the following year, 
bringmg with him his brother and some monks, 
he found that Peter was already dead. But since 
according to mediaeval ideas the corpse of a saint 
is worth even more than his living body, the two 
brothers proceeded to take away the relics in the 
boat in which they had come. They rowed and 


sailed along the east coast of the mountain, but 
when they were opposite the monastery of Clementos 
(where the present Iveron ^ stands), their boat stood 
still in spite of a favourable wind which filled their 
saiL So long were they stationary that the monks 
of Clementos put out to them, and made them land 
with the relics, the story of which they told very 
reluctantly, as they felt that it was improbable that 
they would be allowed to keep them. Nor were 
ihey mistaken : the relics were received with many 
honours and placed in the shrine of the Virgin' 
'where they are accustomed to hold the annual cele- 
brations '. After this the himter and his brother 
departed, but the monks who had accompanied 
them were not prepared to abandon the relics, and 
after diverting suspicion by professing a desire to 
join the foimdation of Clementos, stole the body of 
Peter and sailed off at night to their own coimtry. 
The monk Nicolaus, in whose name the book is 
written, says that he was an eyewitness of their 
departure The nionks who had taken the relics 
successfully escaped to Phocamin in Thrace, but the 
miraculous power of their burden becoming known, 
the bishop and clergy of the place forced them to sell 
it| and the relics remained permanently in that place. 
In this story there are three points which arrest 
attention as likely to supply material for dating the 
life of Peter. These are (1) the imprisonment at 
Samara, (2) the pilgrimage to Bome, (3) the monastery 
of Clementos.  

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