The Paradise of the Desert Fathers

“The Paradise of the Desert Fathers” is a collection of sayings and narratives written about the Desert Fathers of the Egyptian desert. The collection is widely known in the Coptic Church as Bustan Al-Rohbaan (transliterated Arabic) or The Monks’ Garden.
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A photoreprint of the 1907 work translated and edited by Ernest A. Wallis Budge (Chatto and Windus, London) – Paradise or Garden of the Holy Fathers, Being Histories of the Anchorites, Recluses, Monks, Coenobites and Ascetic Fathers of the Deserts of Egypt between AD CCL and AD CCCC Circiter Compiled by Athanasius Archbishop of Alexandria; Palladius Bishop of Helenopolis; Saint Jerome; and Others” – is available at [Volume I] and [volume II] and at These volumes are translated from a Syriac manuscript discovered in 1888.
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A photoreprint of the 1909 American reprint of Budge’s work is available at–Paradise_Vol_01.pdf
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Extracts from The Paradise can be found at and
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Various modern editions and reprints (of widely varying qualiuty and accuracy) of the 1907 work are available: for example, “Stories of the Holy Fathers [or The Paradise or Garden of the Holy Fathers: Being Histories of the Anchorites, Recluses, Monks, Coenobites, and Ascetic Fathers…”, Martino Fine Books, 1912; and “The Paradise of the Holy Fathers,” vol. II, translated by E. A. Wallis Budge, Seattle: St. Nectarios Press, 1984.
Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge (27 July 1857 – 23 November 1934) was an English Egyptologist, Orientalist, and philologist who worked for the British Museum and published numerous works on the ancient Near East: see and

Palladius of Galatia (368? – 431?) was a disciple of Evagrius and was ordained bishop by John Chrysostom. He was also one of the earliest historians of Christian monasticism. This work is a set of vignettes of leading Desert Fathers and Mothers.
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Palladius’ Lausiac History (Historia Lausiaca) is a seminal work archiving the Desert Fathers (early Christian monks who lived in the Egyptian desert) written in 419-420 at the request of Lausus, chamberlain at the court of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius II. The introduction declares: “This book is a record of the virtuous asceticism and marvellous manner of life of those blessed and holy fathers, the monks and anchorites which inhabit the desert, (written) with a view of stirring to rivalry and imitation those who wish to realize the heavenly mode of life and desire to tread the road which leads to the kingdom of heaven. It contains also memoirs of aged women and illustrious God-inspired matrons, who with masculine and perfect mind have successfully accomplished the struggles of virtuous aceticism, (which may serve) as a model and object of desire for those women who long to wear the crown of continence and chastity.”
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A translation in English is available at

A photoreprint of the 1898 translation by Dom Cuthbert Butler is available at and of the 1918 translation by W.K. Lowther Clarke is available at

“The Lausiac History by Palladius (c. 365–431) is one of a handful of important texts from which we gain an eyewitness knowledge of early Egyptian monasticism. The text gets its name from the person to whom it is dedicated; Lausus was a chamberlain for the emperor Theodosius II. Palladius himself had been a pupil of the famous desert dweller Evagrius of Pontus. Similar in style and content to the Lives of the Desert Fathers written in the late fourth century, the Lausiac History contains seventy-one biographical “chapters” on desert ascetics in Egypt, Palestine, Syria and even Asia Minor.
The text is written for us, says Palladius, so that we might “emulate and imitate” those early monks in their journey to the kingdom of heaven. But his very first paragraph includes a startling addition. He records the lives of not only the desert fathers but also of the desert mothers or ammas. “It is written also to commemorate women far advanced in years and illustrious God-inspired mothers who have performed feats of virtuous asceticism in strong and perfect intention, as exemplars and models for those women who wish to wear the crown of self-abnegation and chastity.” These “holy highborn women,” writes Palladius, “lived the best and loftiest lives.” Unlike the Lives of the Desert Fathers, Palladius introduces us to several dozen women renunciants.
One writer speaks of the “huge silence” of the desert, but the Lausiac History also demonstrates the sheer scale and scope of early monasticism. There were hundreds of hermitages, large and small, that served tens of thousands of mothers and fathers. Palladius describes their bustling bakeries, tailors, metal workers, shoemakers, weavers, gardeners, carpenters, camel drivers, doctors, fullers, scribes, liturgies, and steady stream of visitors: “They work at every sort of handicraft and from their surplus they provide for the monasteries of women and the prison.” Former slaves, extraordinarily wealthy women like Melania, the blind Didymus, learned scholars, business merchants, a cripple named Eulogius, a rustic herdsman named Paul, palace dignitaries like Innocent, a robber named Capiton — all these and many more grace these pages. They witness to a way of life that feels both strangely ancient but nevertheless attractive, renouncing all in order to gain all.”


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