HANDING me over to Dorotheus, a Theban ascetic who was spending the sixtieth year in his cave, he ordered me to complete three years with him in order to tame my passions – for he knew that the old man lived a life of great austerity – bidding me return to him afterwards for spiritual instruction. But being unable to complete the three years owing to a breakdown in health, I left Dorotheus before the three years were up, for living with him one got parched and all dried-up. For all day long in the burning heat he would collect stones in the desert by the sea and build with them continually and make cells, and then he would retire in favour of those who could not build for themselves. Each year he completed one cell. And once when I said to him: "What do you mean, father, at your great age by trying to kill your poor body in these heats?" he answered thus: "It kills me, I kill it." For he used to eat (daily) six ounces of bread and a bunch of herbs, and drink water in proportion. [...], I never knew him stretch his legs and go to sleep on a rush mat, or on a bed. But he would sit up all night long and weave ropes of palm leaves to provide himself with food. Then, supposing that he did this for my benefit, I made careful inquiries also from other disciples of his, who lived by themselves, and ascertained that this had been his manner of life from a youth, and that he had never deliberately gone to sleep, only when working or eating he closed his eyes overcome by sleep, so that often the piece of food fell from his mouth at the moment of eating, so great was his drowsiness. Once when I tried to constrain him to rest a little on the mat, he was annoyed and said: "If you can persuade angels to sleep, you will also persuade the zealous man." One day about the ninth hour he sent me to fill the jar at his well in view of a meal at the ninth hour. Well, as it happened, I went and saw an asp at the bottom of the well, and stopped drawing water and went away and said to him: "We are dead men, father, for I saw an asp in the well." But he smiled gravely and looked at me for a time, and then shaking his head said: "If the devil decides to become a serpent or tortoise in every well and to fall into our water-supply, will you refrain from drinking for ever?" And he went out and drew the water himself, and was the first to swallow some of it, fasting, [...]


Adapted from The Lausiac Histories of Palladius