Life of Mar Aba – chapter 9

The Life continues in the well-worn path of hagiography.  We may believe that he did indeed go to Constantinople and stay there for a year. 

The heretics mentioned, who decide to murder him, are probably the monophysites, still very powerful at this period.  We may believe that he disputed with some of these in Athens.   Mar Aba was to have trouble with them later.

9.  Some sophists (σοφιστής) who were well-known for their paganism, were impressed when they listened to his erudition and knowledge of the truth and burned their books of fables.  The news of this spread throughout the whole land of Achaia, and became known and God was praised. 

The heretics who were there were stirred up by his erudition, because he competently solved their objections and refuted their reasonings, and they therefore sought to kill him.  He got into a ship, travelled to the imperial capital Constantinople, and there he taught the true faith for about a year.  Many brought him some gold and costly clothing; but he did not condescend to take it.  He supported himself by the work of his own hands, so far as his livelihood necessitated, by weaving baskets (σπυρίς) and selling them and living thereby, so that in the land of Cilicia (?) five loaves  (? φοῦρνος) of bread and a little green plant were enough to support him and his disciple for seven months. 

What can I say about the thieves who left off their robberies and returned to the cities and villages, repented of their wrongdoing and became friendly to strangers (ξένοι)?  One day when he was in the Thebaid, which is full of robbers, he took a road which looked dangerous, and he encountered (some) who said, “Take off and put down everything you have.”  He did so, and they saw that he had nothing other than his textbook.  The robbers wept, fell at his feet and begged him to forgive them for troubling him and said to him, “Take gold and silver from us, as much as you want.”  But he would not.  They turned away from their work and gave what they possessed to the poor.

Which must have seemed a less good idea in the morning, when they had to go out and earn a living. 

These robbers, then, seem to be stock characters of fiction, whose sole role is to threaten, repent and then conveniently vanish.

2 thoughts on “Life of Mar Aba – chapter 9

  1. There were also a lot of monasteries in the Thebaid, IIRC, and a lot of folks up and went to the monasteries, traditionally including a fair number of bandits wishing to retire. (And the tough monasteries were generally a sanctuary from prosecution for such people, probably because the monks had such a rough life that the imperial government weren’t worried about such people not going to prison for their crimes.)

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