Eva'grius4. Of PONTUS, an eminent ascetic and ecclesiastical writer. The place of his birth was probably Ibora, a small town in Pontus, on the shore of the Euxine near the mouth of the Halys; but the expressions of Nicephorus Callisti would rather imply that he was of the race of the Iberians, who inhabited the modern Georgia, on the southern side of the Caucasus. Palladius, his disciple, says he was of Pontus, of the city (or rather a city) of the Iberians (πόλεῳς Ἰβήρων, or as one MS., according to Tillemont, has it, Ἰβώρων), which is ambiguous. Jerome calls him " Hyperborita," an expression which Martianay, the Benedictine editor of Jerome's works, alters to "Iberita," and which has given occasion to other conjectural emendations. (Cotelerius, Eccles. Graec. Monumenta, vol. iii. p. 543.) His father was a presbyter, or perhaps a chorepiscopus. (Heraclides, apud Tillemont.) He was placed in early life under the instruction of Gregory Nazianzen. There is extant a letter of Gregory to an Evagrius, to whom he expresses his pleasure at the growing reputation of one whom he terms " our son," and of whom he had been the instructor both in literature and religion. If, as is conjectured, this letter refers to our Evagrius, his father and he were of the same name. Gregory also in his will leaves a legacy, with strong expressions of regard, to Evagrius the deacon; but it is not certain that this is our Evagrius. Evagrius was appointed reader by the great Basil, and was ordained deacon either by Gregory Nyssen or Gregory Nazianzen. According to Socrates, he was ordained at Constantinople by Gregory Nazianzen; and Sozomen says, that when Gregory occupied the see of Constantinople, he made Evagrius his archdeacon. If these statements are received, the removal of Evagrius to Constantinople must be placed during or before the short time (A. D. 379 to 381) of Gregory's episcopate at Constantinople. But according to Palladius (whose personal connexion with Evagrius would make his testimony preferable, if the text of his Lausiac History was in a more satisfactory state), Evagrius was ordained deacon by Gregory Nyssen, and taken by him to the first council of Constantinople (the second general council), and left by him in that city, under the patronage of Nectarius, who succeeded Gregory Nazianzen. The age and intellectual character of Evagrius disposed him to polemical discussion; and " he obtained high reputation in controversy," says Palladius, " in the great city, exulting with the ardour of youth in opposing every form of heresy." His popularity was probably increased by the beauty of his person, which he set off by great attention to his dress. The handsome deacon won and returned the affection of a married lady of rank ; but Evagrius, though vain, was not profligate, and struggled hard against the sinful passion. It is doubtful, however, if he would have broken away from the snare, but for an extraordinary dream; in which he dreamed that he took a solemn oath to leave Constantinople. Deeming himself bound by his oath, he at once left the city; and by this step, according to Sozomen, preserved not only his virtue, but his life, which was in imminent danger from the jealousy of the lady's husband. His first sojourn after leaving Constantinople, was at Jerusalem. Here, recovering from the alarm into which his dream had thrown him, lie gave way again to vanity and the love of dress; but a long and severe illness, and the exhortation of Melania Romana, a lady who had devoted herself to a religious life, and had become very eminent, induced him to renounce the world, and give himself up to an ascetic life. He received the monastic garb from the hands of Melania, and departed for Egypt, the cradle of monasticism, where he spent the remainder of his life. Some copies of Palladius are thought to speak of a visit made by him to Constantinople, in A. D. 394; but the passage is obscure, and Tillemont and the Greek text of Palladius, in the Bibliotheca Patrum, refer the incident to Ammonius. Socrates states that he accompanied Gregory Nazianzen into Egypt; but there is no reason to think that Gregory visited Egypt at that time. Evagrius's removal into Egypt was probably late in A. D. 382, or in 383. The remainder of his life was spent on the hills of Nitria, in one of the hermitages or monasteries of Scetis or Scitis, or in the desert " of the Cells," to which, after a time, he withdrew. He was acquainted with several of the more eminent solitaries of the country, the two Macarii, Ammonius, and others, whose reputation for austerity of life, sanctity and miracles (especially healing the sick and casting out daemons) he emulated. He learned here, says Socrates, to be a philosopher in action, as he had before learned to be one in words. He had many disciples in the monastic life, of whom Palladius was one. His approval of the answer which one of the solitaries gave to the person who informed him of the death of his father: " Cease to blaspheme; for my Father (meaning God) is immortal," shews that Jerome's sarcastic remark, that he recommended an apathy which would shew that a man was " either a stone or God," was not undeserved. Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, would have ordained him a bishop; but he fled front him to avoid an elevation which he did not covet. Palladius has recorded many singular instances of his temptations and austerities ; and, besides a separate memoir of him, has mentioned him in his notices of several other leading monks. Evagrius died apparently about A. D. 399, at the age of fifty-four.
WorksThere is considerable difficulty in ascertaining what were the writings of Evagrius. Some are known to us only from the notice of them in ancient writers, others are extant only in a Latin version, and of others we have only disjointed fragments. As nearly as we can ascertain, he is the author of the following works:--
1. Μοναχὸς(perhaps we should read Μοναχικὸς) ἢ περὶ Πρακτικῆς.
EditionsFragments of this work, but apparently much interpolated, are given in the Monumenta Eccles. Graec. of Cotelerius, vol. iii. pp. 68-102, and in the edition of the Dialogus Vita St. Joannis Chrysostomi, erroneously ascribed to Palladius, published by Emmer. Bigotius (4to., Paris, 1680) pp. 349-355. Possibly the whole work is extant in these fragments (which are all given in the Bibliotheca Patrum of Gallandius, vol. vii.); although a quotation given by Socrates (Hist. Eccles. 3.7) as from this work (but which Cotelerius considers was probably taken from the nextmentioned work) is not included in it. An introductory address to Anatolius, given by Cotelerius, was evidently designed as a preface both to this work and the next. A Latin translation of the Monachus was revised by Gennadius, who lived toward the close of the fifth century.
περὶ τοῦ καταξιωθέντος) γνάσεως, in fifty chapters, and Ἑξακόσια Προγνωστικὰ Προβλήματα. These two pieces, which are by ancient and modern writers noticed as distinct works, are by the writer himself, in the address to Anatolius just mentioned, regarded as one work, in six hundred and fifty chapters. Perhaps the complete work constituted the Ἱερά, one of the three works of Evagrius mentioned by Palladius. The fifty chapters of the Γνωστικός were first translated into Latin by Gennadius.
EditionsIt is possible that the " paucas sententiolas valde obscuras," also translated by Gennadius, were a fragment of the Προβλήματα: Fabricius thinks that the treatise entitled Capita Gnostica published in Greek and Latin by Suaresius, in his edition of the works of St. Nilus, is the Γνωστικός of Evagrius.
3. Ἀντιρρητικὸς(or Ἀντιρρητικὰ) ἀπὸ τῶν θείων λραφῶν, πρὸς τοὺς πειράζοντας δαίμονας. This work was translated by Gennadius. It was divided into eight sections corresponding to the eight evil thoughts. Fabricius and Gallandius consider that the fragment given by Bigotius (as already noticed) is a portion or compendium of this work, the scriptural passages being omitted.
EditionsBut although that fragment, a Latin version of which, with some additional sentences not found in the Greek, appears in the Biblioth. Patrum (vol. v. p. 902, ed. Paris, 1610, vol. iv. p. 925, ed. Cologn. 1618, vol. v. p. 698, ed. Paris, 1654, and vol. xxvii. p. 97, ed. Lyon, 1677) treats of the eight evil thoughts, it belongs, we think, to the Μοναχός rather than the Ἀντιρρητικός.
EditionsA Latin version of these appears in the Appendix to the Codex Regularum of Holstenius, 4to., Rome, 1661, and reprinted in vol. i. pp. 465-468 of the Augsburg edition of 1759, and in the Biblioth. Patrium, vol. xxvii. pp. 469, 470, ed. Lyon, 1677, and vol. vii. of the edition of Gallandius. Jerome, who mentions the two parts of these Στίχηρα, appears to refer to a third part addressed " to her whose name of blackness attests the darkness of her perfidy," i. e. to Melania Romana; but this work, if Jerome is correct in his mention of it, is now lost. Gennadius mentions the two parts, not the third: and it is possible that, as Cave supposes, these, not the Γνωστικός, may constitute the Ἱερά of Palladius.
Περὶ Ἀπαθείας; in which words he may describe the Μοναχός and this work Τῶν κατὰ Μοναχων, both which are contained in one MS. used by Cotelerius.
7. Κεφάλαια λγ́ κατ̓ ἀκολουθίαν, 8. Πνευματικαὶ γνῶμαι κατὰ ἀλφάβητον, and 9. Ἕτεραι γυῶμαιThese three pieces are published by Gallandisus as the works of Evagrius, whose claim to the authorship of them he vindicates. They have been commonly confounded with the works of St. Nilus.
Editionsboth published by Suaresius among the works of St. Nilus, but assigned by him, on the authority of his MS., to Evagrius. Gallandius positively ascribes the sermon to Basil of Caesareia.
Εὐάγριος). Some understand Suidas to mean not " Notes on the Proverbs," but a "work on the model of the Proverbs of Solomon," and suppose that the Στίχηρα are referred to. Fabricius, however, is inclined to regard it as a commentary.
Ἀποφθέγματα περὶ τῶν μεγάλων γερόντων both mentioned by Cotelerius (Eccles. Graec. Mon. vol. iii. pp. 547, 552) as extant in MS. 15. Trithemius ascribes to Evagrius " a work on the life of the Holy Fathers;" but he either refers to one of his works on "the monastic life," or has been misled by passages in Gennadius and Jerome. It is doubtful, however, whether these and several others of his writings extant in MS. and variously entitled, are distinct works, or simply compilations or extracts from some of the above. The genuineness of several of the above works must be regarded as doubtful. There are many citations from Evagrius in different writers, in the Scholia to the works of others, and in the Catenae on different books of Scripture. Jerome attests that his works were generally read in the East in their original Greek, and in the West in a Latin version made "by his disciple Rufinus."