Anthony The Great
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Basic Information

Saint Anthony, also known as Anthony of Egypt or Anthony the Great, was one of the most prominent of the "Desert Fathers", monks and ascetics living in Egypt around the 3rd Century AD. He's sometimes called the "Father of Monasticism", because the disciples who came to him formed the nucleus of one of the earliest organized monastaries of the Christian Church.

He was born around 251 AD in the town of Coma in lower Egypt to wealthy landowning parents. As a young man he gave away most of his property, sold the rest to give to the poor, left his dependent sister in the care of a group of Christian virgins and became the disciple of a local hermit.

He decided that he would also go off into the desert west of Alexandria, where he remained for thirteen years. While he was there, the legend goes, he was tormented by visions of women sent by the devil to tempt him, but he remained steadfast.

Later he took up residence in an abandoned Roman fort where he sealed himself away from civilization so that he could devote himself to prayer and fasting. There he was also afflicted by hallucinations which he warded off with prayer.

As the fame of his piety grew, others came to his outpost seeking spiritual teaching and the man who sought to get away from worldly distractions wound up the leader of a community in the desert. In his teachings and in his community he emphasized a combination of prayer and work.

He became the model for the ascetic life, and his community the model for later monastic orders.

He died in 356 and was buried in a simple unmarked grave.

In the Middle Ages, The Temptation of St. Anthony became a popular subject for religious art. His feast day is celebrated on January 17 in the Catholic Church, and January 30 in the old calender Orthodox Church. His special provinence is considered to be skin diseases such as ergotism and shingles, ergotism in particular being known as "St Anthony's Fire".


Game and Story Use

  • St. Anthony is a possible model for an ascetic hermit NPC
    • Not least for the amusement value of someone so famous for being a hermit that it provokes others to go and visit him.
    • This sort of NPC might be found squatting in some ruin or dungeon that the PCs are exploring … and would probably be quite confusing to a lot of modern players, especially if he was completely irrelevant to the plot of the adventure.
    • Possibly also useful as a waypoint for PCs lost in the wilderness after wandering off from what they are meant to be doing (or as a rescuer for those left for dead).
    • PCs with something to atone for might spend a certain amount of time being mentored by such a figure - especially useful for those buying off "sinful" disadvantages like addictions, glutton or magical corruption.
    • For plot reasons, you might chose to have the NPC in question be atoning for something themselves - Anthony seems to have been a natural ascetic but others taking to this sort of life have been known to do so as expiation for earlier wickedness.
  • For a Darklands style game, PCs might invoke St Anthony for protection against hostile magic (especially glamours and illusions), possibly at the cost of material wealth miraculously vanishing.
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