By Ariel G. Lopez
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Extra info for Shenoute of Atripe and the Uses of Poverty: Rural Patronage, Religious Conflict, and Monasticism in Late Antique Egypt
26 From his desert cave, a voice cries out in the wilderness and denounces the lawlessness of the world. 27 Indeed, Shenoute’s language is so well blended with that of the prophets that they can hardly be distinguished. In his writings, Panopolis takes on the contours of Samaria or Jerusalem; his enemy Gesios those of a sinful Old Testament king. Like a good old prophet, he claims to be an outsider, both to his community and to the world at large; he acts as the (reluctant) intermediary between God and a world for whose sins he can but weep; he is a lawgiver—for his own communities—and an interpreter of the (biblical) law; he stands for social justice and the poor; and last but not least, he endures perpetual persecution.
They compete with him and his city on the “hill”—that is, his monastery—for access to usually well-minded but ignorant foreign governors, whose ears they poison with lies about him. Shenoute does not represent Panopolis before Roman magistrates. He represents the “poor,” and the oppressors of the “poor” happened to be landowners who lived and ruled in Panopolis. His attitude toward the “violent”—as he usually calls these villains—wavers between self-righteous victimization and daring provocation.
62 Let us take the case of Hypatius, for example, one of the many holy men who pursued a career in the area around Constantinople. When Thrace was devastated by the Goths at the end of the fourth century, he protected the poor at his monastery and interceded on their behalf before the imperial authorities. Shenoute did exactly the same thing some time later when Upper Egypt was invaded by Nubian tribes. ), Hypatius attacked the sacred trees of Bithynia and threatened violence when a prefect intended to celebrate the Olympic games at Chalcedon.