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Desert Fathers & Mothers

Desert Fathers & Mothers
The Desert Fathers and Mothers were Hermits, Ascetics and Monks who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt, beginning around the third century CE. They were the first Christian hermits, who abandoned the cities of the pagan world to live in solitude.[1] These original desert hermits were Christians fleeing the chaos and persecution of the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century. They were men who did not believe in letting themselves be passively guided and ruled by a decadent state. Christians were often scapegoated during these times of unrest, and near the end of the century, the Diocletianic Persecution was more severe and systematic. In Egypt, refugee communities formed at the edges of population centers, far enough away to be safe from Imperial scrutiny. In 313 AD, when Christianity was made legal in Egypt by Diocletian's successor Constantine I, a trickle of individuals, many of them young men, continued to live in these marginal areas. The solitude of these places attracted them because the privations of the desert were a means of learning stoic self-discipline. Such self-discipline was modeled after the examples of Jesus' fasting in the desert and of his cousin John the Baptist (himself a desert hermit). These individuals believed that desert life would teach them to eschew the things of this world and allow them to follow God's call in a more deliberate and individual way. Thus, during the fourth century, the empty areas around Egyptian cities continued to attract others from the world over, wishing to live in solitude. As the lifestyle developed, these men and women developed a reputation for holiness and wisdom.
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