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Hilarion, St

HILARION, ST (c. 290-371), abbot, the first to introduce the monastic system into Palestine. The chief source of information is a life written by St Jerome; it was based upon a letter, no longer extant, written by St Epiphanius, who had known Hilarion. The accounts in Sozomen are mainly based on Jerome's Vila; but Otto Zocker has shown that Sozomen also had at his disposal authentic local traditions (see " Hilarion von Gaza " in the Neue Jakrbucher fur deutsche Theologie, 1894), the most important study on Hilarion, which is written against the hypercritical school of Weingarten and shows that Hilarion must be accepted as an historical personage and the Vita as a substantially correct account of his career. He was born of heathen parents at Tabatha near Gaza about 290; he was sent to Alexandria for his education and there became a convert to Christianity; about 306 he visited St Anthony and became his disciple, embracing the eremitical life. He returned to his native place and for many years lived as a hermit in the desert by the marshes on the Egyptian border. Many disciples put themselves under his guidance; but his influence must have been limited to south Palestine, for there is no mention of him in Palladius or Cassian. In 356 he left Palestine and went again to Egypt; but the accounts given in the Vita of his travels during the last fifteen years of his life must be taken with extreme caution. It is there said that he went from Egypt to Sicily, and thence to Epidaurus, and finally to Cyprus where he met Epiphanius and died in 371.

An abridged story of his life will be found in Alban Butler's Lives of the Saints, on the 2 1st of October, and a critical sketch with full references in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopadie (ed. 3). (E. C. B.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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