|St Amoun of Nitria
The Lausiac History – (Palladius) Chapter VIII.
[I] (ARSISIUS) used to say that Amoun lived in this wise. When he was a young man
of about twentytwo he was constrained by his uncle to marry a wifehe (himself) was
an orphan. Being unable to resist the pressure of his uncle, he thought it best to be
crowned and take his seat in the nuptial chamber and undergo all the marriage rites.
When all (the guests) were gone out, after settling 1 the pair to sleep on the couch in
the bridal chamber, Amoun gets up and locks the door, then he sits down and calls
his blessed companion to him and says to her:  "Come here, lady, and then I will
explain the matter to you. The marriage which we have contracted has no special
virtue. Let us then do well by sleeping in future each of us separately, that we may
please God by keeping our virginity intact." And drawing from his bosom a little book,
he read to the girl, who could not read at all, in the words of the apostle and the
Saviour, and to most of what he read he added all that was in his mind and explained
the principles of virginity and chastity; so that convinced by the grace of God she
said:  "I too am convinced, my lord. And what further commands have you now?" "I
command," he said, " that each of us lives alone in future." But she could not endure
this, saying, "Let us dwell in the same house, but in different beds." So he lived in
the same house with her eighteen years.
During each day he occupied himself with his garden and balsam grovefor he
prepared balsam. Balsam grows like a vine, requiring cultivation and pruning and
much hard work. Then in the evening he would enter the house and offer prayers and
eat with his wife; and then having said the night prayers would go out.  Such was
their practice, and both having attained impassivity, the prayers of Amoun prevailed,
and she says to him at last: "I have something to say to you, my lord; that, if you
hearken to me, I may be convinced that you love me in a godly way." He says to her:
" Say what you wish.') She says to him: " It is just that we should live apart you
being a man and practicing righteousness, and I also eagerly following the same way
as you. For it is absurd that you should live with me in chastity and yet conceal such
virtue as this of yours."  But he, thanking God, says to her: "Then you keep this
house; but I will make myself another house." And he went out and settled in the
inner part of the mount of Nitriafor there were no monasteries there yetand he
made himself two round cells. And having lived twentytwo years more in the desert
he died, or rather fell asleep. He used to see that blessed lady his wife twice each
The blessed Athanasius the bishop in his life of Antony told a marvelous story about
this man, how that he came to the bank of the river Lycus with his disciple
Theodorus, and shrinking from removing his clothes lest he should see him naked, he
was found on the other side, having been carried across by angels without using the
ferry. Such then was the life of the blessed Amoun and such his perfection that the
blessed Antony saw his soul carried to heaven by angels. I crossed this river once in a
ferry, but with fear; for it is a canal leading from the great Nile.
THIS great saint was born in Egypt of a rich and noble family. At the age of
twenty-two years his tutors and trustees obliged him to marry, in the year 308; but,
on the day of his marriage, he read to his wife what St. Paul has written in
commendation of the holy state of virginity, by which she was easily persuaded to
consent to their making a mutual vow of perpetual continence.
They lived together eighteen years under the same roof in perfect continency; and he
was so severe in his mortifications as to have gradually inured and prepared his body
to bear the austerity of long fasts. For having spent the day in hard labor in tilling a
large garden in which he planted and cultivated balsamum, a shrub about two cubits
high, which distills balsam and produces an apple, some time ago more famous in
medicine than at present, (the tree is cultivated like a vine, and produces its fruit in
the third year,) at evening he supped with his wife on herbs or fruits, and
immediately retired to prayer, in which exercise he passed a great part of the night.
When his uncle and other friends who opposed his retreat were dead, he retired to
mount Nitria with his wife's consent. She assembled and governed in her house a
society of religious women, who, in the exercises of a penitential and ascetic life,
vied with the most fervent anchorets in the deserts, as is related by Rufin and
others. St. Ammon first inhabited this desert; which Cassian places five miles from
the city Nitria in the close of the fourth century, Cassian reckoned fifty monasteries
on mount Nitria, inhabited by five thousand hermits.
St. Ammon's first disciples lived dispersed in separate cells, till the great St. Antony
advised him to found a monastery, and to assemble the greatest part of them under
the inspection of an attentive superior. That great patriarch of monks made choice
himself of the place for erecting this monastery, by setting up a cross. If St. Antony
sometimes visited St. Ammon, our saint often repaired to St. Antony on mount
Troicus, where he then kept his cell.
St. Ammon lived in great austerity, when he first retied into the desert, taking only a
refreshment of bread and water once a day. This he afterwards extended to two, and
sometimes to three or even four days. The desert of cells into which St. Ammon
extended his hermitages, was ten or twelve miles distant from mount Nitria, though
one continued wilderness.
St. Ammon wrought many miracles. That which follows seemed to St. Athanasius to
contain so important an instruction, as to deserve to be inserted in his life of St.
Anthony, where he has recorded it. The authors of the histories of the Fathers of the
desert, and of the life of St. Ammon also mention it. One day, as he was going to
cross a river called Lycus, when the banks were overflowed, in company with
Theodorus his disciple, he desired him to withdraw, that they might not be seen
naked in swimming over. Ammon, though alone, stood pensive on the bank, being
unwilling and ashamed, out of modesty; to strip himself, reflecting that he had never
seen himself naked. God was pleased to recompense his virginal love of purity by a
miracle, and while he stood thus, he found himself on a sudden transported to the
other side of the river. Theodorus coming up, and seeing he was gone over without
being wet, asked him how it came to pass, and pressed him so earnestly, that he
confessed the miracle to him, making him first promise not to mention it to anyone
till after his death. St. Ammon, otherwise written Amun, died at the age of sixty-two
years; and St. Antony, though at the distance of thirteen days' journey from him,
knew the exact time of his death, having seen his soul in a vision ascend to heaven.
St. Ammon is honored on the 4th of October in many Greek Menologies. See
Palladius, Rufin, Socrates. Sozomen, &c., in Rosweide; also Cotelier, Mon. Graec., t.
1., p. 352; Cassian Collat 6, c. 1, &c.(C)
The APOPHTHEGMATA PATRUM includes about fifteen items relating to a
fourth-century Abba Ammonas who spent at least fourteen years at SCETIS and was
in touch with Saint ANTONY (Cotelier, 1864, pp. 120-24, Ammonas 7-8, Antony 26)
before becoming a bishop. It is not too bold to identify this person with the
Ammonas who is mentioned in Chapter 15 of the HISTORIA MONACHORUM IN
AEGYPTO and who is supposedly Antony's immediate successor as leader of the
monks of Pispir.
This Ammonas is also thought to be the author of spiritual exhortations in the form
of letters, preserved in different languages. Along with the letters of Antony, with
which they have been intermingled in the Coptic and Arabic tradition, these letters of
Ammonas are among the
few documents that tell us something about the mysticism of the desert fathers.
Their central theme is the acquisition of the Spirit, coming to perfect the purification
and illumination of the monk's soul.
According to his own experience, the author describes the wonderful effects of this
divine gift, what one must do to make oneself worthy of it, the trials to be borne and
the temptations to be overcome. This original teaching is, it appears, completely
independent of EVAGRIUS PONTICUS. It is of basically biblical origin.
The most complete collection of the letters of Ammonas is preserved in Syriac
(Kmosko, 1913). Seven letters preserved in Greek have been published by F. Nau
(1914). A Latin translation from Arabic has been published in J. P. Migne in Patrologia
Graeca. An unpublished Georgian series is almost as complete as the Syriac collection
(Garitte, 1952, pp. 103-107).
|St. Ammon Hermit
Butler's Lives of the Saints, October 4.
Lives of the Saints
Anchorite and Bishop
Coptic Encyclopedia, (CE:113a-113b)