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ATHOS


48


ATHOS


are xasible the coasts of Macedonia and Thrace, even the entire ^^gean from Mount Olympus in Thessaly to Mount Ida in Asia Minor. It is the mountain that the architect Dinocrates offered to turn into a statue of Alexander the Great with a city in one hand and in the other a perennially flowing spring. Medieval Greek tradition designated it as the "high mountain from which Satan tempted Our Lord. Its chief modern interest lies in the fact that at least from the beginning of the Middle Ages it has been the home of a little monastic republic that still retains almost the same autonomy granted a thousand years ago by the Christian emperors of Constantinople. In 1905 the many fortified monasteries and her- mitages of Athos contained 7,553 monks (including their numerous male dependents), members of the Orthodox Greek Church: Greeks, 3,207; Russians, 3,615; Bulgarians, 340; Rumanians, 288; Georgians, 53; Servians, IS; other nationalities 32. The prin- cipal monasteries bear the following names: Laura, Iviron, Vatopedi, Chilandarion, St. Dionysius, Coutlou- mousi, Pantocrator, Xiropotamos, Zographu, Do- cheiarion, Caracalla, Philotheos, Simopetra, St. Paul, Stauroniceta, Xenophon, Gregorios, Esphigmenon, St. Panteleimon, St. Anna (Rossicon), and Karyaes.

History. — The origins of monastic life on Mount Athos are obscure. It is probable that individual hermits sought its lonely recesses during the fourth and fifth centuries, and were numerous in the ninth century at the time of the first certain attempts at monastic organization. The nearest episcopal see was that of Hierissus, and in conformity with an- cient law and usage its bishop claimed jurisdiction over the monks of the little peninsula. In 885 Em- peror Basil the Macedonian emancipated them from the jurisdiction of the monastery of St. Colobos near Hierissus, and allotted to them Mount Athos as their property. Soon after, the oldest of the principal monasteries, Xiropotamos, was built and adopted the rule of St. Basil. Saracen pirates disturbed the monks in the ninth and tenth centuries, but imperial generosity always came to the aid of this domestic "holy land" of the Greeks. About 960 a far-reaching reform was introduced by the Anatolian monk Athanasius of Trebizond, later known as Athonitcs. With several companions from Asia Minor he founded by the seashore the monastery since known as Laura, where he raised the monastic life to a high degree of perfection. Eventually the new settlement was accepted as a model. With the help of the imperial authority of John Tzimisces (969-976) all opposition ■was set aside and the ccenobitic or community life imposed on the hermits scattered in the valleys and forests. Athanasius was made abbot general or superior (Protos) of the fifty-eight monastic com- munities then on the mountain. From this period date the monasteries known as Iviron (Iberians), Vatopedi, and Esphigmenon. At this time, also, there arose a cause of internal conflict that has never been removed. Hitherto only one nationality, the Greek, was represented among the monks. Hence- forth Slavic faith and generosity, and later on Slavic interests, had to be considered. The newly con- verted Slavs sought and obtained admission into the recently opened monasteries; before long their princes in the Balkan Peninsula began to fovmd in- dependent houses for Slavic monks. In this way arose during the reign of Alexius I (1081-1118) the strictly Slavic monasteries of Chilandarion and Zographu. The Byzantine emperors never ceased to manifest their interest in the little monastic re- public and even profited politically by the universal esteem that the religious brotherhood enjoyed throughout the Christian world.

With the aid of the Patriarch of Constantinople, in 1046, Constantine Monomachos regulated the domestic government of the monasteries, the ad-


ministration of their temporal possessions, and their commercial activity. By the imperial document (typicon) which he issued, women are forbidden the peninsula, a prohibition so strictly observed since that time that even the Turkish aga, or official, who resides at Karyaes (Cariez) may not take his harem with him. About the year 1100 the monasteries of Mount Athos were 180 in number, and sheltered 700 monks, with their dependents. At this time there came into general use the term Hagion Oros (Holy Mountain, 07101' Upoi, Monte Santo). Alexius I granted the monasteries immunity from taxation, freed them from all subjection to the Patriarch of Constantinople, and placed them under his immediate protection. They still depended, however, on the neighbouring Bishop of Hierissus for the ordination of their priests and deacons, Alexius also chose to be buried on the Holy Mountain among the brethren (1118). A century later, after the capture of Con- stantinople (1204), the Latin Crusaders abused the monks, who thereupon appealed to Innocent HI; he took them under his protection and in his letters (xiii, 40; xvi, 168) paid a tribute to their monastic virtues. However, w-ith the restoration of Greek political supremacy the monks returned (1313) to their old allegiance to Constantinople.

In the fourteenth century a pseudo-spiritualism akin to that of the ancient Euchites or Messalians, culminating in the famous Hes.ychast controversies (see Hestchasm; Palamas), greatly disturbed the mutual harmony of Greek monasteries, especially those of Mount Athos, one of whose monks, Callistus, had become Patriarch of Constantinople (1350-.54) and in that office exhibited great severity towards the opponents of Hesychasm. Racial and national discord between the Greeks and the Servians added fuel to the flames, and for a while the monks were again subjected to the immediate supervision of the Bishop of Hierissus. In the meantime the PaUso- logi emperors at Constantinople and the Slav princes and nobles of the Balkan Peninsula continued to enrich the monasteries of Mount Athos, which re- ceived the greater part of their landed wealth during this period. Occasionally a Byzantine emperor took refuge among the monli in the hope of forgetting the cares and responsibilities of his office. Amid the political disasters of the Greeks, during the fourteenth century, Mount Athos appears as a kind of Holy Land, a retreat for many men eminent in Church and State, and a place where the spirit of Greek patriotism was cherished when threatened elsewhere with ruin (Krumbacher, 1058-59). This period was also marked by the attempts of the monastery of Karj'aes to secure a pre-eminence over the others, the final exclusion of the Bishop of Hierissus from the peninsula, fresh attacks from freebooters of all kinds, and the foundation of several new monas- teries: Simopetra, Castamonitu, St. Paul, and St. Dionysius. The Fall of Constantinople (1453) brought no modification of the conditions on the Holy Mountain. The monks, who had stubbornly opposed all atte.mpts at reunion with the Apostolic See, sub- mitted at once to the domination of the Osmanli, and, with rare exceptions, have never been interfered with by the Turkish authorities. The hospodars of Wallachia remained as ever their friends and bene- factors. Though the monks sympathized with the Greeks in the War of Independence (1822-30), their estates on the Greek mainland were secularized by Capo d'lstria and a similar fate has overtaken their properties in the Danubian principal cities. They still hold numerous farms and properties in certain islands of the Archipelago and on the mainland (Kaulen in Kirchenlex., I, 1557-59; Bayet in Grande Encycl., s. v. Athos).

CoNSTiTUTiox AND GOVERNMENT. — This monastic republic is governed by an assembly of 20 members,