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(450 - 550) Greece




Hilaria was, according to legend, the older daughter of the Emperor Zeno (430 - 491). Having a strong inclination towards monastic life, she steals away from her father's palace and reaches the valley of Skete. She goes to the wilderness of St. Macarius where she meets St. Pemwah. There she lives henceforth in a cell or grotto, disguised as a man, for many years under the name of Hilarion the Eunuch.

Her sister Thaopesta, having been attacked by a severe illness, is sent by Zeno to the monks in order to be healed. This task is entrusted to Hilaria. After having recovered the girl is sent back to the Emperor, to whom she relates how a monk, a eunuch, kept her in his cell and healed her. Zeno, being disturbed by this fact, summons the monk to his residence. Here it appears that the so-called eunuch is Hilaria.

Then the Emperor wrote to the Governor of Egypt asking him to send to the monks of the Wilderness a hundred bushels of wheat, six hundred measures of oil and all that the monks needed in the Wilderness, on a yearly basis. The Emperor also saw to it that many cells were built for the monks. He also built a beautiful palace in the Monastery of St Macarius. As a result, from that time on, the number of monks increased in the Wilderness.

She returns to the desert and only after her death it becomes more generally known that she was a woman.


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