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Evagrius Ponticus

345-399. Eastern writer. Born at Ibora in Pontus Galaticus, he was ordained reader by Basil and deacon by Gregory of Nazianzus at Constantinople. He attended the council in 381, and on Gregory's departure from Constantinople remained to assist the new bishop, Nectarius, in dealing with theological questions. Because of a developing relationship between himself and a married woman, Evagrius left Constantinople for Jerusalem. There he was influenced by Melania to adopt the ascetic life. At her instigation he went to Egypt, where he practiced and taught the ascetic life in Nitria and Cellia, north of Nitria, until his death. He numbered among his pupils Palladius, Rufinus, and Heraclides of Cyprus, later bishop of Ephesus.

It seems probable that John Cassian* met Evagrius during his visit to Egypt, and certainly Cassian's own writings on monasticism reveal the influence of Evagrian ideas. Although his extant works show little evidence of Origenism,* he was condemned by Jerome for this and for his association with Melania and Rufinus. Jerome speaks contemptuously of his writings, especially his book Peri apatheias, when combating the tenet ascribed to the Origenists that a man can rise above temptation and live without sin. In the same context Jerome refers to another work by Evagrius on monks, but as this book is not referred to by anyone else, Jerome may have wrongly attributed Palladius's Historia Lausiaca to Evagrius. The latter's works are largely lost or extant only in Latin or Syriac translations. They include works on the ascetic and spiritual life and commentaries on the Psalms and Proverbs.

For a list of Evagrius's known writings see H. Wace and W.C. Piercy, A Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature (1911). His extant works are given by J.P. Migne, PG, XL, pp. 1213- 86, also LXXIX, pp. 1165-1200 (De Oratione of “Nilus of Ancyra”).