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(CE:1445a-1445b)

LETTER OF AMMON. The two most important manuscripts that


have transmitted the text of the first Greek Life of Pachomius to us,
the Florentinus and the Atheniensis, have also preserved the text of a
document known as the Epistula Ammonis. It is a letter addressed by
a bishop called Ammon to a certain Theophilus and is followed in
the manuscripts by a response from the latter.
The texts of the letter and of the answer were first published by
Papenbroech in 1680 in his ACTA SANCTORUM (Bollandus,
1643) and again by F. Halkin in 1932 in his Sancti Pachomii Vitae
Graecae, according to the Florentinus manuscript. Halkin published
the version of the Atheniensis manuscript in 1982.
No translation of this text appeared before the two published in
1982: one by A.-J. Festugière, following the Atheniensis manuscript
(with footnotes indicating the divergent readings of the Florentinus
manuscript), and the other by A. Veilleux, following the Florentinus
manuscript but taking into account the readings of the Atheniensis
manuscript.
From the details given in the letter itself, we know that Ammon,
born to pagan parents in Alexandria, was converted to Christianity at
the age of seventeen and went to Pbow as a monk in 352, six years
after the death of PACHOMIUS OF TABENNESE, when
THEODORUS OF TABENNESE was at the head of the Pachomian
koinonia (community). He spent three years there in the house of the
Alexandrian brothers and then transferred to NITRIA, where he
spent many years before becoming a bishop. His letter is a kind of
panegyric of Theodorus, for whom he developed a great admiration
during the three years he spent at Pbow. It is accompanied in the
manuscripts by a response from a certain Theophilus and was
published by Papenbroech under the title Epistula Ammonis Episc.
ad Theophilum Papam Alexandriae. But since the lemma of the
Florentinus manuscript has no mention of Theophilus and that of the
Atheniensis manuscript speaks of "a certain Theophilus," it is far
from certain that the addressee of the letter was really the archbishop
of Alexandria.
The authenticity and the historical value of Ammon's letter,
generally acknowledged by historians, was radically questioned by
L. T. LEFORT (1943), whose conclusions were in turn rejected by
P. PEETERS (1946) and especially by D. J. Chitty (1954).
Ammon knew Theodorus personally and heard about him from
various people, especially from two monks called Ausonius and
Elourion. Although he wrote some forty years after leaving the
THEBAID, Ammon seems to have had a very good memory for
dates, and his letter is extremely useful in reconstructing the
chronology of early Pachomian monasticism. But the fact that he
lived for a long time at Nitria after only three years at Pbow and that
he wrote his letter so many years later certainly explains that his
terminology and even his preoccupations (e.g., the possibility of
forgiveness of sins committed after baptism) are not particularly
Pachomian. Of Theodorus and the other Pachomians he has
remembered not so much their virtues and their graces of prayer as
their gift of prophecy and their miracles.
BIBLIOGRAPHY
Bollandus, Acta sanctorum. Antwerp, 1643. Continued by J. B.
Carnendet, G. Henschenius, D. Papenbroech. Venice, 1734;
Paris, 1863.
Chitty, D. J. "Pachomian Sources Reconsidered." Journal of
Ecclesiastical History 5 (1954):38-77.
Halkin, F. Sancti Pachomii Vitae Graecae. Subsidia Hagiographica
19. Brussels, 1932.
______. Le Corpus athénien de saint Pachôme avec une traduction
française par A.-J. Festugière. Cahiers d'orientalisme 2. Geneva,
1982.
Lefort, L. T. Les Vies coptes de saint Pachôme et de ses premiers
successeurs, pp. li-lxii. Bibliothèque du Muséon 16. Louvain,
1953; repr. 1966.
Peeters, P. "Le Dossier copte de S. Pachôme et ses rapports avec la
tradition grecque." Analecta Bollandiana 64 (1946):258-77.
Veilleux, A. La Liturgie dans le cénobitisme pachômien au IVe
siècle, pp. 108-111. Studia Anselmiana 57. Rome, 1968.
______. Pachomian Koinonia, Vol. 2, Pachomian Chronicles and
Rules. Cistercian Studies 46. Kalamazoo, Mich., 1981.

ARMAND VEILLEUX