The Enaton Ennaton

A monastic district southwest of Alexandria (Egypt) on the coastal road to Cyrene (Libya) which flourished esp. in the 5th to 7th cent. It was called ‘The Enaton’ (i.e., ‘The Ninth’) after the ninth milestone from Alexandria (Greek ennea ‘nine’). The Enaton served as a relay-post for travellers to and from Alexandria, to the monasteries of the Nitrian Desert, the Kellia, and the Scetis and shared in the permanent circulation of pilgrims, tourists, and merchants. A part of its own population was of international provenance. The district was a conglomeration of autonomous monasteries and cells of varying size and identifications of their own (e.g., the ‘Three Cells’ of Abba Zenon, the Monastery of ‘the Fathers’, of ‘Salomon’, of the ‘Antonines’). The ‘History of the Patriarchs’ (ed. B. Evetts [PO 1; 1948], 472) gives the number of six hundred monasteries, which might rather be true for the total of monasteries in the region of Alexandria. A sort of federal constitution is reflected by the election of a common hegumenos (in the ‘Life’ of Longinus, ed. R. Basset [PO 11, 1916], 764–7).

The origins of the Enaton are shrouded in darkness. When Longinus became hegumenos in the mid–5th cent., it had been in existence for a long time. His ‘Life’ presents him and the monks of the East as fervent opponents of the Council of Chalcedon (451), and this theological feature dominated in the time to follow (though ca. 542/3 there was a period when the monks of the Enaton followed the decisions of Chalcedon and received a theological tract from the Emperor Justinian  I). Miaphysitism was established in 453 when the monks of the monastery of Peter the Iberian at Maïuma/Gaza in Palestine were expelled and took refuge in the Enaton. Notable Miaphysite refugees were Julian of Halicarnassus and Severus of Antioch after his deposition (518), who died in Egypt (538) and was buried in the Enaton; and Tumo of Ḥarqel ( bp. of Mabbug) together with Pawlos of Tella after the expulsion from their sees in 599. As the Coptic Miaphysite patriarchs could not reside in the Melkite (Chalcedonian) Alexandria, the Enaton was the appropriate place for them to stay (Peter IV, Damian).

The quasi-autonomous status of this monastic district in which the multi-national population intermingled with emigrants, expelled bishops, and fugitive patriarchs yielded a fertile milieu of theological controversy and negotiation. This milieu helped bring about a settlement, in 616, of the schism between the Coptic and Syriac Miaphysites (Maspero, ‘Histoire des Patriarches’, chap.  x), which dated from the time of Pope Damian (578–606) and the Patr. Peter of Kallinikos (581–91). The Enaton is not expressly mentioned, but no doubt this location brought together the leaders Anastasios (Apozygarios, 607–619) and Athanasios I Gamolo of Antioch (594–631) who both had no access to Alexandria. This reunion was based on extensive philological work on the Holy Scriptures, which took place in the Enaton in the monastery ‘of the Antonines’ (cf. Honigmann, Évêques, 238) and was favored by the vicinity of Alexandria with its philological traditions and resources. Pawlos of Tella provided a translation of the Septuagint (‘Syro-Hexapla’), and Tumo of Ḥarqel a translation of the NT (Ḥarqlean version). According to the subscriptions of the Ḥarqlean Gospels (Hatch, The Subscription), Acts, and Pauline epistles this translation was executed ‘at the Enaton of (i.e., near) Alexandria, the great city, in the holy Convent of the Antonines (…) in the year 927 of Alexander, in the fourth indiction’ (i. e., 615/16), while the subscriptions of the ‘Syro-Hexapla’ refer to the progress of the work between 615/17 (Vööbus, The Hexapla, 36–44). Shortly after the completion of the translation work the Persians invaded Egypt and sacked the Enaton in 619. A visit of Alexandria is reported for Yaʿqub of Edessa, who thoroughly revised the OT. The Enaton is not mentioned, but the location ‘Alexandria’ does not necessarily exclude this monastic district.


  • F.-M.  Abel, ‘To Ennaton’, OC ns 1 (1911), 77–82.
  • R.  Basset, Le Synaxaire arabe jacobite (rédaction copte). Les mois de Ṭubeh et d’Amchir (PO 11.5; 1916), 764–7.
  • P.  van Cauwenbergh, Étude sur les moines d’Égypte (1914).
  • J.  Gascou, ‘The Enaton’, in The Coptic Encyclopedia 3 (1991), 954–8.
  • W. H. P.  Hatch, ‘The Subscription in the Chester Beatty Manuscript of the Harclean Gospels’, HTR 30 (1937), 141–155.
  • Honigmann, Évêques et évêchés monophysites, 143–5, 238.
  • C. B.  Horn and R. R.  Phenix, Jr., John Rufus: The Lives of Peter the Iberian, Theodosius of Jerusalem, and the monk Romanus (SBL Writings from the Greco-Roman World 24; 2008). (Syr. with ET)
  • J. Maspero, Histoire des Patriarches d’Alexandrie (1923), 158–59.
  • R.  Raabe, Petrus der Iberer. Ein Charakterbild zur Kirchen- und Sittengeschichte des fünften Jahrhunderts. Syrische Übersetzung einer um das Jahr 500 verfassten griechischen Biographie (1895).
  • A.  Vööbus, The Hexapla and the Syro-Hexapla (1971).

| The Enaton |


Front Matter A (73) B (53) C (26) D (36) E (27) F (5) G (30) H (22) I (31) J (15) K (11) L (12) M (56) N (19) O (3) P (28) Q (11) R (8) S (71) T (39) U (1) V (5) W (3) X (1) Y (41) Z (4) Back Matter
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