Christian History Timeline: Antony and the Desert Fathers

Pioneer Years(251–312)

c. 251 Antony is born; Paul of Thebes begins living in the desert

c. 271 Antony takes up “the discipline,” learning from scattered Christian hermits in Egypt

c. 275 Chariton settles in Fara, becoming the first monk in Palestine

286 Antony withdraws into his fort

306 Antony emerges from his fort

c. 308 Hilarion begins ascetic life near Gaza

311 Antony visits Alexandria to comfort those persecuted by Maximin


249–251 Decius instigates empire-wide persecution of Christians; many in Egypt flee to the desert

251 Novatian teaches that the lapsed (those who denied the faith in persecution) should not be admitted back into the church—the first sign that some Christians believe the church is becoming lax

254 Origen dies from injuries suffered in the persecution

303 The “Great Persecution” of Diocletian begins; copies of Scripture confiscated and destroyed; thousands of Christians suffer

Explosive Growth (313–357)

313 Antony withdraws to the Inner Mountain, near the Red Sea

c. 320 Pachomius founds the first monastic community, at Tabennesi

c. 330 Athanasius flees authorities, hiding with monks in the Thebaid; Amoun moves to Nitria, inspiring a monastic settlement; Marcarius the Great begins a monastery in Scetis, which grows rapidly; monasteries spring up in Palestine

338 Antony visits Alexandria and Nitria; founding of the Cells, a monastic community near Nitria

340 Athanasius, Ammonius the Tall, and Isidore visit Rome, and the monastic ideal spreads in the West

c. 350 John of Lycopolis begins his 48 years as a recluse

356 Antony dies

357 Athanasius writes his Life of Antony, which becomes a “best seller”


313 Edict of Milan gives official toleration to Christians

325 Constantine calls for the Council of Nicea to unify church and empire; council condemns Arianism, affirms divinity of Christ

328 Athanasius becomes bishop of Alexandria

328–361 Arians control key political and ecclesiastical posts; orthodox bishops in exile

c. 340 First conversion of the Goths by (Arian) missionary Ulfilas

Second Generation(358–403)

 358 Basil the Great founds his first monastery

360 Martin of Tours takes up the monastic life

383 Evagrius moves to Nitria

385 Jerome and companions found a monastery near Bethlehem; Cassian and Germanus arrive in Egypt

388 Palladius visits Alexandria, Nitria, and Cellia

391–2 Monks help destory the Temple of Sarapis in Alexandria

394 Seven monks from Jerusalem visit Egyptian monks (and will later, 405, record their journey)

399 Theophilus turns against the teachings of Origen

400 Synod at Alexandria condems Origenism; Tall Brothers and others exiled from Egypt

403 Synod of the Oak condemns Tall Brothers and John Chrysostom; exiled monks return to their monastaries


380 Theodosius I makes Christianity the official religion of the empire

381 Council of Constantinople reaffirms Nicene Creed

386 Augustine converts after hearing about Antony

391 Theodosius I, in his Christianizing campaign, orders the closing of pagan temples

Movement Memorialized (404–500)

 404 Jerome translates the Pachomian Rule into Latin

405–10 The History of the Monks of Egypt (based on the journey of 394) is completed

407–8 First devastation of Scetis by Berber tribes

419–20 Palladius writes Lausiac History, a key source for this era

420 Cassian begins writing his Institutes and Conferences

423 Simeon Stylites begins living on a pillar in Antioch, Syria

483 Sabas establishes a monastic settlement outside of Bethlehem

c. 500 Benedict of Nursia withdraws to a cave to begin the monastic life

Refining Theology


410 Alaric sacks Rome; Pelagius begins teaching salvation by good works

431 First Council of Ephesus condemns the Nestorians and affirms that Christ is one person; Pelagius is also condemned

451 Council of Chaldecon condemns monophysitism and affirms that Christ has two natures

For more information on this topic, see:

Medieval Sourcebook: Athanasius: Life of Antony, Full Text—antony.html

ATHANASIUS, St, Bishop of Alexandria—EB.html

A Eulogy for Basil the Great

St. Pachomius

Chapter 37 of Gibbon's The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire 

By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #64 in 1999]

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