A philological and theological analysis of the ancient Latin translations of the “Vita Antonii”

Lois Gandt, Fordham University


The two ancient Latin translations of the Vita Antonii were prepared within sixteen years after Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, composed that text following the abba's death in 356. The elegantly literary Evagrian translation is extant in numerous medieval manuscripts, but the existence of the earlier anonymous translation was confirmed only in 1914, when a manuscript containing that translation was discovered in a Vatican archive. This study is based on a careful analysis of the minor, but tendentious, revisions that are included in these Latin texts and that reveal the character and the intentions of their translators. Although both translations were prepared during the third quarter of the fourth century, they represent divergent perspectives on Antony of Egypt and early monasticism, as well as on the theological issues of those decades. The anonymous translator, who most probably was one of the desert monks, emphasizes Antony's role as a monastic leader and amplifies Athanasius's demonology by associating the demons with the Arian heretics. In contrast, the Evagrian translation presents Antony as both a pillar of the triumphal Church and a model for all Christians because of his victories over the demons through the Cross of Christ and his pursuit of heavenly rewards.

Subject Area

Ancient languages|Religious history|Ancient history

Recommended Citation

Gandt, Lois, "A philological and theological analysis of the ancient Latin translations of the “Vita Antonii”" (2008). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3310418.