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Asketikon also known as “Rule of St. Basil, Monastic Rule of St. Basil” Alexopoulos, Lampros


The “Asketikon” of St. Basil the Great, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, is a text that aims to define the way of life of the monks in the coenobitic (communal) monastic system and to set conditions of behavior and conduct within the monastery. The text was originally composed for the members of the monastery that Basil founded in ca. 356 on the banks of the river Iris in Cappadocia. Before forming this monastic community, Basil traveled to the great monastic centers of his time in Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia and Palestine in order to witness for himself the manner of life led by the monks in these countries. He observed that the monastic life tended to become exceedingly seclusive and he felt that there was a danger for this kind of monasticism to fall into extreme habits and practices. He believed that communal life is better than the anchoretic-hermitical life. It corresponds better to human nature, for love of neighbor is best lived out in communal life, allowing thus the monks to easily fulfill the commandment of Christ. Hence, upon his return to Cappadocia, Basil formed his monastery and deliberately set himself against these tendencies. Τhe “Asketikon” therefore is a series of rules that regulates the day-to-day life of the monks, down to the smallest detail, settles practical affairs and solves questions and issues of the monastic practice. With the “Asketikon” Basil laid down principles which guide both the abbots (or superiors) and the monks in their conduct. The Bible is the basis of all monastic legislation, the true Rule. The “Asketikon” is divided into two parts: the “Greater Monastic Rules” (Regulae fusius tractatae) and the “Lesser Rules” (Regulae brevius tractatae). In 397, Rufinus, the translator of the “Asketikon” into Latin, united the two into a single Rule under the name of “Regulae sancti Basilii episcopi Cappadociae ad monachos”. From the 5th century Eastern monasticism generally modelled itself almost exclusively on Basil’s Rules. Moreover, the Rules were a major source for the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia (AD 480–550), who is regarded as the founder of Western monasticism.

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