Awgen, Mar (fl. 4th – early 5th cent.)
Mar Awgen is the traditional founder of monasticism in Mesopotamia. The two primary sources for his life are an anonymous ‘Life of Mar Awgen’ and a brief account preserved in the ‘Book of Chastity’, composed by Ishoʿdnaḥ of Baṣra (9th cent.). He receives an earlier mention in Dadishoʿ Qaṭraya, in the 7th cent. Mar Awgen was an Egyptian, born in the time of Constantine. He worked for twenty-five years as a pearl diver, but then left this occupation to join the nascent monastic movement, and he became a disciple of Pachomius, the famous Egyptian monastic leader. After spending some time in the monastery of Pachomius, Mar Awgen travelled to Nisibis and founded a monastery on nearby Mt. Izla. His seventy disciples who followed him from Egypt were the reputed founders of other monasteries in various parts of Mesopotamia and other Syriac-speaking lands. Mar Awgen himself is said to have performed numerous miracles in the presence of Shapur, the King of Persia. It has also been reported that his remains and those of certain of his disciples were brought to the Monastery of Mar Ḥananya (Dayr al-Zaʿfarān). Mar Awgen is held in the highest esteem in all the eastern churches with Syriac roots.
Scholars have now shown that this traditional account does not have a firm historical foundation and has served primarily to obfuscate the native origins of Syro-Mesopotamian monasticism in favor of reputed Egyptian origins. These accounts of Mar Awgen have been shown to be of late origin, anachronistic, and extremely divergent on important details, e.g., the number of his disciples ranges from eighteen to seventy, and a number of monks named in these accounts actually lived as late as the 7th and even 10th cent. Attempts to connect Mar Awgen to the Aōnes mentioned in Sozomen’s Ecclesiastical History (VI.33) have failed, and it is even possible, as some scholars have surmised, that there was, in fact, no such historical person as Mar Awgen.
- P. Bedjan, Acta Martyrum et Sanctorum, vol. 3 (1890–97), 376–480.
- J.-B. Chabot, Livre de la Chasteté (1896).
- S. Chialà, Abramo di Kashkar e la sua comunità (2005), 13–20.
- J.-M. Fiey, ‘Aônês, Awun et Awgin’, AB 80 (1962), 52–81.
- J.-M. Fiey, Jalons (CSCO 310), 100–11.
- J.-M. Fiey, Saints syriaques (2004), 40–1.
- Labourt, Le christianisme dans l’empire perse, 300–15.
- A. Scher, Histoire nestorienne inédite (Chronique de Séert), Première partie (PO 4; 1907).
- N. Sims-Williams, ‘Eugenius (Mar Awgen)’, EIr , vol. 9 (1999), 64.
How to Cite This Entry
Footnote Style Citation with Date:
Edward G. Mathews, Jr., “Awgen, Mar,” in Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018), https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Awgen-Mar.
Bibliography Entry Citation:
Mathews, Edward G.Jr. “Awgen, Mar.” In Gorgias Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage: Electronic Edition. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018. https://gedsh.bethmardutho.org/Awgen-Mar.
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