Evagrius Ponticus, anchoret and writer
Evagrius (12) Ponticus, anchoret and writer, born at Ibora in Pontus
Galaticus, according to Tillemont, in 345. He was ordained reader by Basil, and
deacon by Gregory Nyssen, who took him to the council of Constantinople,
a.d. 381, teste his pupil
Palladius (Hist. Lausiac. c. 86, p. 1010). Gregory Nyssen thought so highly
of Evagrius as a theologian and dialectician that he left him behind in Constantinople
to aid the newly appointed bishop, Nectarius (who, before his consecration, was
a layman destitute of theological training) in dealing with heretics. The imperial
city proved a dangerous home for the young deacon. The wife of an ex-prefect conceived
a guilty passion for him, which he returned. The husband's jealousy was awakened,
and Evagrius only escaped assassination by a timely flight, being warned of his
peril by a dream (Soz. H. E. vi. 30). Jerusalem was the place of his retreat.
Here he was hospitably received by Melania the elder, by whom he was nursed during
a severe attack of fever, and who, perceiving the weakness of his disposition,
led him to embrace an ascetic life as the only safeguard against the temptations
of the flesh. Evagrius went to Egypt, where, after two years spent in great austerities
in the Nitrian desert, he plunged still deeper into the solitude, and practised
severer mortifications in the cells of Scetis. Here the two Macarii were his instructors
and models in the ascetic life. After enduring many terrible temptations, recorded
by Palladius, and having obtained mastery over his bodily passions, he became
qualified to instruct others in asceticism. Palladius became his companion and
disciple in 391. Among his other disciples were Rufinus, and Heraclides of Cyprus,
afterwards bp. of Ephesus (ib. viii. 6). Palladius gives several anecdotes
illustrative of the height of ascetic virtue attained by Evagrius and his fellow-hermits.
On one occasion he threw into the fire a packet of letters from his parents and
other near friends lest their perusal should re-entangle him in worldly thoughts
(Cassian, v. 32; Tillem. x. 376). Theophilus, the metropolitan of Alexandria,
desired to make him a bishop, and Evagrius fled to resist his importunities (Socr.
H. E. iv. 23). Evagrius remained in the cells of Scetis until he died,
worn out with austerities, in the 17th year of his recluse life,
a.d. 398, at the age of 54, "signis
et prodigiis pollens" (Gennad. Illust. Vir. c. xi.). He was a zealous champion
of the doctrines of Origen, for which he fell under the lash of Jerome, whose
enmity had also been aroused by his having been the instructor of Rufinus during
his sojourn in Egypt and having enjoyed the patronage of Melania. Jerome speaks
in contemptuous terms of his writings (ad Ctesiph.), especially of his
book περὶ ἀπαθείας, when combating the tenet
ascribed to the Origenists that a man could raise himself to a superiority to
temptation (i.e. as Jerome says, "becoming either a stone or god") and
live without sin. He also charges him with being a precursor of Pelagius (in
Pelag. p. 260), and including in his book de Monachis many who never
were monks at all, and also Origenists who had been condemned by their bishops.
The existing remains of his writings are printed by Galland, Bibl. Patr.
vii. 551-581, and Migne, Patr. vol. 86. Socrates, Gennadius, Palladius,
and Suidas, sub voc. "Macarius," mention as by him: (1) Monachus,
on "active virtue," in 100 chapters. (2) Gnosticus. (3) Antirrheticus,
a collection of passages of Scripture against the eight divisions of evil thoughts.
(4) A Century of Prayers. (5) 600 Gnostic Problems. (6) A Letter
to Melania. (7) A book, περὶ ἀπαθείας.
(8) 100 Sentences for the Use of Anchorets living simply. (9) Short
Sentences. (10) Στιχηρά, in two books,
one addressed to monks, and the other to a virgin dedicated to God. (11) Liber
de rerum monachalium rationibus. (12) Scholion de tetragrammato Dei nomine.
Oudin, i. 883; Tillem. Mém. eccl. x. pp. 368 ff.; Fabr. Bibl. Graec.
ix. 284, ed. Harles; Dupin, Hist. Eccl. iii. 1; Cave, Hist. Lit.
i. 275; cf. O. Zickler, Evagrius Ponticus (Munich, 1893); J. Dräseke, "Zu
Evag.-Pont." in Zeitschrift für wissensch Theol. 1894, xxxvii. 125 ff.