And since this book is about the training of one who renounces this world, whereby, making a beginning of true humility and perfect obedience, he may be enabled to ascend the heights of the other virtues as well, I think it well to set down just by way of specimen, as we promised, some of the deeds of the elders whereby they excelled in this virtue, selecting a few only out of many instances, that, if any are anxious to aim at still greater heights, they may not only receive from these an incitement towards the perfect life, but may also be furnished with a model of what they purpose. Wherefore, to make this book as short as possible we will produce and set down two or three out of the whole number of the Fathers; and first of all Abbot John who lived near Lycon 783 which is a town in the Thebaid; and who was exalted even to the grace of prophecy for his admirable obedience, and was so celebrated all the world over that he was by his merits rendered famous even among kings of this world. For though, as we said, he lived in the most remote parts of the Thebaid, still the Emperor Theodosius did not venture to declare war against the most powerful tyrants before he was encouraged by his utterances and replies: trusting in which as if they had been brought to him from heaven he gained victories over his foes in battles which seemed hopeless. 784
This John of Lycopolis was one of the most celebrated hermits of the fourth century. Originally a carpenter, he retired at the age of twenty-five into the wilderness, and after the death of his instructor settled near Lycopolis. Here, as Cassian tells us, he received as reward for his obedience the gift of prophecy, and was consulted by crowds who came to him for this purpose and among others by the Emperor Theodosius, to whom he foretold (1) his victory over the usurper Maximus (a.d. 388), and (2) his success against Eugenius in a.d. 395. He is mentioned again by Cassian in the Conferences I. xxi., XXIV. xxvi., etc. A full account of him is given by Rufinus in his history of the monks c. i. and by Palladius in the Lausiac History 43–60; he is also mentioned by Augustine De Civitate Dei, Book V. c. xxvi, De Cura pro mortius gerenda, c. xvii., and Jerome Ep. cxxxiii. ad Ctesiphontem, as well as by Theodoret H. E. V. xxiv, and Sozomen H. E. VI. xxviii.
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