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The phrase "desert fathers" encompasses an influential fourth century group of [[Hermit|hermits]] and cenobites who settled in the Egyptian desert. The origins of Western [[monasticism]] lie in these primitive hermitages and religious communities. [[Paul of Thebes]] is the first hermit recorded to set the tradition of monastic asceticism and contemplation, and [[Pachomius the Father of Coenobitic Monasticism|Pachomius of Thebaid]] is considered the founder of cenobitism, or early monasticism. At the end of the third century, however, the revered [[Anthony the Great|Anthony of Egypt]] oversaw colonies of hermits in the middle region. He soon became the archetypal recluse and relgious hero for the Western church--a fame due in no small part to the vast encomiums displayed in [[Athanasius of Alexandria|Athanasius]]' biography of him ([http://www.zeitun-eg.net/ecf1.htm ''Vita St. Antoni'']). These early monastics drew a sizeable following to their austere retreats through the influence of their simple, individualistic, rugged, and concentrated search for salvation and unity with God. The desert fathers were often appealed to for spiritual guidance and counsel by their disciples. Their responses were recorded and collected in a work called [[The Paradise of the Desert Fathers|Paradise or Apophthegms of the Fathers]] [http://www2.evansville.edu/ecoleweb/glossary/desert.html Definition by Emily K. C. Strand].