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The holy men and hermits of late antiquity are distinctive features of early Christianity, often linked to its monasteries, including St Catherine's of Sinai. This lecture considers the realities and textual representations of their relations with animals, landscapes, birds and plants. It contrasts the use and presentation of such items in pagan history, literature and philosophy.

St Catherine's, the traditional site of  ‘The Burning Bush’

© Roussen Collection

Ancient carob tree below the Cave of St John Climacus

St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt

Interior of the Cave of St John Climacus near St Catherine's

Robin Lane Fox is Emeritus Fellow of New College, Oxford. His books include Pagans and Christians and Augustine: Conversions to Confessions, the 2016 Wolfson History Prize winner. His new book, on early Greek medicine, will be published in 2020.

The Cave of St John Climacus, near St Catherine's

White poplar tree growing in a cleft in the mountains to the north of St Catherine's'

Pear blossoms in the Sinai desert