1. AEGYPTIUS, the EGYPTIAN. There were in the fourth century in Egypt two eminent ascetics and contemporaries, though probably not disciples of St. Antony, as is asserted by Rufinus, and perhaps by Theodoret. [ANTONIUS, No. 4, p. 217b.] Of these the subject of the present article is generally distinguished as the EGYPTIAN, sometimes as MAGNUS, the GREAT, or as MAJOR or SENIOR, the ELDER; while the other is described as Macarius of Alexandria. [No. 2.]
Macarius the Egyptian was the elder of the two, and was born, according to Socrates, in Upper Egypt.
At the age of thirty he betook himself to a solitary life. His place of retreat was the wilderness of Scete or Scetis, a part of the great Lybian desert, which D'Anville places about 60 miles, but Tillemont as much as 120 miles S. of Alexandria, a wretched spot, but on that account well suited to the purpose of the ascetics who occupied it. Here Macarius, though yet a young man, gave himself up to such austerities as to acquire the title of παιδαριογέρων
,"the aged youth."
At forty years of age he was ordained a priest, and is said to have received power to cast out evil spirits and to heal diseases, as well as the gift of prophecy; and many marvellous stories are related by his biographers, Palladius and Rufinus, of his employment of these supernatural qualifications.
It was even reported that he had raised the dead in order to convince an obstinate heretic, a Hieracite [HIERAX, No. 3], with whom he had a disputation: but this miracle was too great to be received implicitly even by the credulity of Rufinus and Palladius, who have recorded it only as a report.
During the persecution which the orthodox suffered from Lucius, the Arian patriarch of Alexandria [LUCIUS, No. 2] during the reign of the emperor Valens, Macarius was banished, together with his namesake of Alexandria and other Egyptian solitaries, to an island surrounded by marshes and inhabited only by heathens.
He died at the age of ninety; and as critics are generally agreed in placing his death in A. D. 390 or 391, he must have been born about the beginning of the fourth century, and have retired to the wilderness about A. D. 330.
He is canonized both by the Greek and Latin churches; his memory is celebrated by the former on the 19th, by the latter on the 15th January. (Socrat. H. E.
4.23, 24; Sozomen, H. E.
3.14, 6.20; Theodoret, H. E.
4.21; Rufin. H. E.
2.4; and apud Heribert Rosweyd, De Vita et Verbis Senior.
2.28; Apophthegmata Patrum,
apud Coteler. Eccles. Graec. Monum.
vol. i. p. 524, &c.; Pallad. Histor. Lausiac.
100.19; Bolland, Acta Sanctor.
a. d. 15 Januar.;
vol. viii. p. 574, &c.; Ceillier, Auteurs Sacrés,
vol. vii. p. 709. &c.)
The writings of Macarius have been the subject of much discussion. Gennadius of Marseilles, our earliest authority, says (De Viris Illustrib.
100.10) that he wrote only a single Epistola
or letter to his juniors in the ascetic life, in which he pointed out to them the way of attaining Christian perfection. Miraeus endeavours to identify this Epistola
with the monastic rule, ascribed to one of the Macarii, and given in the Codex Regularum
of St. Benedict of Anagni; but which, with the letter which follows it, is rather to be ascribed to Macarius of Alexandria.
The subject would lead us to identify the Epistola
mentioned by Gennadius with the Opuscula
mentioned below, especially as a cursory citation by Michael Glycas in his Annales
(Pars i. p. 105, ed. Paris, p. 81, ed. Venice, p. 199, ed. Bonn) from "the Epistles (ἐν επιστοαῖς
) of Macarius the Great" is found to bear some resemblance to a passage in the fourth Opusculum,
The writings published under the name of Macarius of Egypt are these:
These homilies, so called, are fifty in number, of unequal length, and possibly interpolated by a later hand. They are ascribed to our Macarius on the authority of MSS. by Picus, Fabricius, Pritius, Tillemont, and Galland; but his authorship is denied by Possin, Dupin, Oudin, and Ceillier, though these are not agreed to whom to ascribe them. Cave hesitates between our Macarius and his namesake of Alexandria [No. 2]; but on the whole is inclined to prefer the latter.
The Homiliae were first published by Joannes Picus, or Pic, 8vo. Paris, 1559
; a Latin version by the editor was separately published in the same or the next year
. The Greek text, with a Latin version by Palthenius, was again published at Frankfort, 8vo. 1594
; and the text and version were reprinted from Picus with the works of Gregory Thaumaturgus [GREGORIUS THAUMATURGUS] and Basil of Seleuceia [BASILIUS, No. 4], fol. Paris, 1621. A revised edition of the Greek text, with the version of Palthenius, also revised, was published by Jo. Georg. Pritius, 8vo. Leipzig, 1698, and again in 1714, and may be regarded as the standard edition. A Latin version is given in the Bibliotheca Patrum, vol. ii. ed. Paris, 1589; vol. iv. ed. Cologn. 1618; vol. iv. ed. Lyon, 1677.
An English version, with learned and valuable notes, by " a presbyter of the church of England" (Fabricius calls him Thomas Haywood), was published 8vo. London, 1721.
Other Homilies not yet published
Some other homilies of Macarius are extant in MS.
The collection so termed comprehends seven treatises, all short:
These Opuscula were first published, with a Latin version, in the Thesaurus Asceticus of Possin, 4to. Paris, 1684
; a more correct edition both of the text and version was published by J. G. Pritius, 8vo. Leipzig, 1699; and again in 1714; and may be regarded as the best edition.
These were published partly by Possin in his Thesaurus Asceticus,
and partly by Cotelerius in his Ecclesiae Graecae Monumenta,
vol. i. (4to. Paris, 1677), among the Apophthegmata Patrum;
and were subjoined by Pritius to the Opuscula.
An English version of the Opuscula and of some of the Apophthegmata (those of Possin) was published by Mr. Granville Penn, 12mo. London, 1816, under the title of Institutes of Christian Perfection.
All the works of Macarius, with a Latin version, are given in the Bibliotheca Patrum of Galland, vol. vii. fol. Venice, 1770
. A monastic rule to the compilation of which our Macarius contributed is noticed below in No. 2. A Latin version of some fragments of other pieces is given in the Bibliotheca Concionatoria of Combéfis
perhaps some pieces remain in MS. beside the homilies already mentioned.
Tillemont and Ceillier, ll. cc.;
Pritius, Praefat. in Macarii Opuscula;
Galland, Bibl. Patrum Proleg.
ad vol. vii.; Oudin, De Scriptorib. Eccles.
vol. i. col. 474, seq.; Cave, Hist. Litt.
ad ann. 373, vol. i. p. 256, ed. Oxford, 1740-1742; Fabric. Bibl.
Graec. vol. viii. p. 361, &c.; Penn, Pref. to the Institutes of Macarius.