The life and conversation of our holy Father, Antony, written and sent to
the monks in foreign parts by our Father among the Saints, Athanasius, Bishop
of Alexandria. Athanasius the bishop to the brethren in foreign parts.
You have entered upon a noble rivalry with the monks of Egypt by your
determination either to equal or surpass them in your training in the way
of virtue. For by this time there are monasteries among you, and the name
of monk receives public recognition. With reason, therefore, all men will
approve this determination, and in answer to your prayers God will give its
Now since you asked me to give you an account of the blessed Antony's way
of life, and are wishful to learn how he began the discipline, who and what
manner of man he was previous to this, how he closed his life, and whether
the things told of him are true, that you also may bring yourselves to imitate
him, I very readily accepted your behest, for to me also the bare recollection
of Antony is a great accession of help. And I know that you, when you have
heard, apart from your admiration of the man, will be wishful to emulate
his determination; seeing that for monks the life of Antony is a sufficient
pattern of discipline.
Wherefore do not refuse credence to what you have heard from those who brought
tidings of him; but think rather that they have told you only a few things,
for at all events they scarcely can have given circumstances of so great
import in any detail.
And because I at your request have called to mind a few circumstances about
him, and shall send as much as I can tell in a letter, do not neglect to
question those who sail from here: for possibly when all have told their
tale, the account will hardly be in proportion to his merits.
On account of this I was desirous, when I received your letter, to send for
certain of the monks, those especially who were wont to be more frequently
with him, that if I could learn any fresh details I might send them to you.
But since the season for sailing was coming to an end and the letter-carrier
urgent, I hastened to write to your piety what I myself know, having seen
him many times, and what I was able to learn from him, for I was his attendant
for a long time, and poured water on his hands ; in all points being mindful
of the truth, that no one should disbelieve through hearing too much, nor
on the other hand by hearing too little should despise the man.
Part I: Antony's Youth and First Struggles with
Part II: He Dwells Among the Tombs
Part III: He Goes to the Desert
Part IV: His Sermon to the Young Men
Part V: His Life in the Desert
Part VI: He Goes to the Inner Desert
Part VII: Advice and Assistance for
Part VIII: His Discourses Against Schismatics,
Arians, and Pagans
Part IX: His Growing Fame
Part X: His Death