Monastic Space : The Ascetic Between Sacred and Civil Spheres in Theodoret of Cyrrhus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


Syrian monasticism has often been judged by its extremes, with Symeon the Stylite as the prime example of someone leaving the human world behind to reach for God. In this interpretation, hagiographical renderings seem only to underline an opposition between sacred and civil spheres, between the cells of the ascetics and human society. With this article, however, I wish to call such a conclusion into question with the help of one of the more well-known textual sources about Symeon and the other Syrian ascetics, Theodoret's Philotheos Historia (PH). My aim is to examine how different ascetic environments are displayed in the PH, to see if and how they are related to longstanding ideas and ideals about civilization. My concern is therefore not so much the historical places (or circumstances) of the ascetics as Theodoret's literary presentations of monastic space. In the end, I will suggest a "one-space-model", where I will argue that the different locations of ascetics are exhibited along a graded scale, which situates them differently between the poles of human and divine realms, and that there is room for moving in both directions. In fact, the evolution of the monastic movement in Syria is depicted as an ongoing civilization in the PH.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
  • Religious Studies
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpaces in Late Antiquity : Cultural, Theological and Archaeological Perspectives
EditorsJuliette Day, Raimo Hakola, Ulla Tervahauta, Maijastina Kahlos
ISBN (Print)9781472450166
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2016
Publication categoryResearch