APOPHTHEGMATA PATRUM (Maxims of the fathers), Graeco-Latin name customarily used to refer to a species of Christian literature consisting of sayings and edifying anecdotes of the monks and solitary ascetics who inhabited the deserts of Egypt during the early centuries of the Christian era. Such stories and sayings circulated widely in Coptic, Greek, Latin, Syriac, and other languages and were often incorporated into homiletic and commentarial works.

A number of Apophthegmata patrum are known in Sogdian versions, all of which are likely to derive from Syriac sources. Some of those attested by the manuscript C2 (see Sogdian literature: Christian) are literal translations of texts included in the Paradise of the fathers by ʿNānišoʿ, the most important collection of Apophthegmata in Syriac. Those known from the manuscript C67 agree in substance but not in wording with stories found in ʿNānišoʿ’s Paradise, while two further anecdotes occurring in C2 form part of a work by Macarius (q.v.).


E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of Paradise . . ., 2 vols., London, 1904 (Figure 1).

O. Hansen, Berliner sogdische Texte II (Abhandlungen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse der Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Jahrgang 1954, no. 15), Mainz, 1955, pp. 8, 70-73, 90-94.

N. Sims-Williams, The Christian Sogdian manuscript C2, Berliner Turfantexte 12, Berlin, (forthcoming), texts 8 and 12.

M. Schwartz, “Studies in the Texts of the Sogdian Christians,” unpublished dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1967, pp. 42-52.

(N. Sims-Williams)

Originally Published: December 15, 1986

Last Updated: August 5, 2011

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