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"Whoever writes your life story, I will write his name in the book of life": the Arabic Life of Antony attributed to Serapion of Thmuis in manuscripts of the Red Sea monasteries

posted on 2022-03-28, 10:18 authored by Elizabeth Agaiby
Antony the Great has had a compelling lure on the imaginations of Christians from Late Antiquity to the present day. The success of his Vita attributed to Athanasius of Alexandria, elevated Antony above his ascetic peers and established him as the “father of monasticism” throughout the Christian world. The Vita is still considered the primary source for the study of Antony and his monastic environment. However, Antony has another Vita attributed to Serapion of Thmuis that has hitherto remained overlooked and unpublished. Originally composed in Arabic around the 13th century, it quickly gained more popularity and influence in Egyptian monasteries than the Athanasian Vita, and from the 14th century to the mid-20th century, it not only won widespread acceptance, but the authority of liturgical texts. The aim of this study is two-fold: (1) to examine how the Life of Antony attributed to Serapion of Thmuis bears witness to the reinterpretation of the religious memory of Antony, exploring the possible origins of this tradition via a first edition and translation of the Arabic Life; and (2) to provide a typology of the manuscripts that contain an Arabic version of the Life of Antony in the Red Sea monasteries, and thus offer new insights into the scribal and liturgical practices of the monks, in particular from the 17th to 20th centuries.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1. Sources : the manuscripts -- Chapter 2. The pseudo-Serapionic Life of Antony "old wine in a new bottle" -- Chapter 3. Codicological methodlogy and scribal conventions -- Chapter 4. Scribal activity and an overview of manuscripts containing The life of Antony in Arabic, in the Red Sea monasteries -- Chapter 5. St Antony (history) 104 -- Conclusion -- Appendices -- Bibliography.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 532-599

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Ancient History

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Heike Behlmer

Additional Supervisor 1

Malcolm Choat


Copyright Elizabeth Agaiby 2016. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (596 pages) colour illustrations

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