On the Illustrious Men

In the year 392, the great Doctor of the Church, St Jerome, wrote a book at the urging of Dexter giving "a systematic account of ecclesiastical writers." This work, entitled On the Illustrious Men (De Viris Illustribus) contains 135 brief chapters introducing authors who ought to be known by those teach and write on Christianity, starting with Simon Peter the Apostle and ending with Jerome himself. The early parts are, as his preface explains, dependent upon Eusebius of Caesarius's Ecclesiastical History; the later parts favor Greek and Latin authors, mentioning only the Syriac works that had been translated. While the work is not exhaustive and does not enumerate every treatise by every author, Jerome tries to identify the author, their station in church life, an indication of their orthodoxy, a sense of what they wrote about, and often gives an assessment of their style as well.

Gennadius, a priest of Marseilles, continued and updated the work around 480, adding 99 new entries. He too, focuses on Greek and Latin authors although he also includes some authors who wrote exclusively in Syriac. The burgeoning interest in Eastern monasticism and its emergence in the West can be clearly seen in Gennadius's selections.

The current text has been taken directly from the Nicene/Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol 3. Death dates are approximate, especially for those earlier in the catalog.

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