Butler’s Lives of the Saints – Saint Dorotheus, Abbot

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He was surnamed the Theban, because a native of Thebes in Egypt. He retired first into a monastery, but after having learned for some time the exercises of an ascetic life under the most experienced masters, he shut himself up in a cavern in a wilderness nine miles from Alexandria, on the road to Nitria. Here he lived in most austere abstinence and labour. During the greater part of the day, even in the most scorching heat of the sun, he picked up and carried stones, and built cells for other hermits: at night he made cords and baskets of palm-tree leaves, by which he earned six ounces of bread a day, with a handful of herbs, which was his whole subsistence. His watchings were incredible; nor would he allow himself any indulgence in his old age. When his disciples entreated him to afford a little more rest to his enfeebled body, his answer was: “This enemy would destroy me; therefore I am resolved to be beforehand with it, and keep it in subjection.” It happened that his disciple, Palladius, spying an aspic in the well, durst not drink of the water; but the holy abbot, making the sign of the cross upon the cup, drank, and said: “In the presence of the cross of Christ, the devil loseth his power.” This Palladius, upon his coming into the wilderness, chose Saint Dorotheus, who had then lived an anchoret in the same austere manner sixty years, for his first master. The saint died towards the end of the fourth century, and is honoured in the Greek Menæa.

Palladius gives us the foregoing account of his life in the second chapter of the Lausiac history; and Sozomen. He mentions another Dorotheus, who also lived in the fourth age, and was the spiritual director of a monastery of three hundred nuns. And a third, an eminent anchoret at the same time near Antinois, c.97. Another Dorotheus, surnamed the Archimandrite, whom many have confounded with the Theban, flourished two hundred years later near Gaza, was author of twenty-four Ascetic Doctrines, and in his monastery lived Saint Dositheus.

MLA Citation

  • Father Alban Butler. “Saint Dorotheus, Abbot”. Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. CatholicSaints.Info. 4 June 2013. Web. 20 August 2017. <>