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From the onset of Christianity Christians, following the example of prophet Elijah and St. John the Baptist, neglected the pleasures of the world, exercised modesty in food, wore coarse clothing, in short, committed ascetic feats.
Many retreated to the desert seeking solitude and intimacy with God, relying solely on His care. For their strong faith many of them received spiritual gifts for which they became renowned.
Hermts, however, yearned not for vain human glory, but divine, and for that they were bestowed with abundant grace for enlightening the world. That is why many hermit monks even as they retreated to places uninhabited by people, did not become unknown, but quite the contrary – some of them are well known since III century. Some desert dwellers gathered in small groups, settling in cells or caves located not far from each other. Anthony the Great – the father of all hermits, is considered to be the first of Desert Fathers. Early monks lacked religious designations because they avoided church office, preferring instead peace of mind, unceasing prayer and contemplative life. The IV century gave hermits renowned for their unparalleled feats. Some of them fed only on grass, some lived standing on pillars, yet others - in ravines.
Such feats, because of their uniqueness, were not attainable by majority of monks living in communities. As these communities grew and merged, they developed regulations restricting extreme forms of asceticism. These regulated communities gradually started accepting celibate monks with ecclesiastical rank.
The monastic regulations did not tether feats of asceticism, but instead, by restricting the extremes of ancient austere asceticism, made the ultimate goal of holiness attainable for all who seek salvation. In result, the monks enriched the Christian faith with many divinely revealed truths so essential to every Christian on their path to salvation. The Church remembers with reverence and gratitude all holy monks, praising them in Sharakans (hymns), reading their lives from Synaxariums.
Especially revered by believers is the compilation called Patericon, which contains short narratives about the lives of hermit monks and their godly teachings.