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322 The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity
into its edifice, and man7 of the larger tombs give similar proofs
of occupation. In certain districts there were whole colonies of
monasteries of men and women: such was the case about Annan t,
Jeme near Thebes, the vicinity of Akhmim, round about Siut,
and in the Faiyum. Most of these are now deserted and ruinous,
but there are a few still in use, such as Deir Rifa on the rising
ground some eight miles south-west of Asyut (Siut).
Meanwhile a separate monastic development had been taking
place in Lower Egypt, a development of the simpler Antonian
rather than the regimented Pakhomian. A pious man named
Amun went out to the edge of the Western Desert and settled
in Mount Pernuj close by the place where merchants came
periodically to get natron. Amun left his wife at her suggestion
as she urged him to join one of the colonies of ascetes settled
along the edge of the desert, so there were monks already settled
about there. Amun is said to have died before Antony, there-
fore before 356. But Mount Pernuj turned out to be not very
suitable because of the throngs of natron merchants who came
there, so Amun moved farther into the desert to Niri, Nimone,
or Kellia, 'the cells', where he built two domed cells and lived
twenty-two years. To this settlement came Macarius the Great,
possibly about 300, having already had experience as a village
recluse: at first he settled at Pernuj, then moved right into the
desert to a site afterwards known as Shiet or Scetis. The date
of this move is not given, but a community existed at Shiet in
340, and by 356 it was inconveniently crowded. Gradually
other monasteries were established near by. The whole district
was commonly known as Nitria, now Wadi el-Natrun 'the
Valley of Natron', where a group of monasteries, Deir Abu
Maqar 'the monastery of Father Macarius', and others still exist
and continue on the old lines. The teaching and spiritual tone
of these Nitrian monks can still be studied in the collected say-
ings of the fathers, the Apophtbegmata written in the SaicUc
dialect which Shenoute brought into fashion. Shiet stood well