The connection between Macarius and the Cappadocian Fathers makes a natural starting-point for our discussion of the influence of the Macarian writings in the later Eastern Christian tradition. This connection is clearest in the case of Gregory of Nyssa, where we have a substantial textual parallel between his De instituto christiano and Macarius' Great Letter. But to understand Gregory of Nyssa's approach to Macarian material, we should begin by examining the links between Basil and Macarius. 1 The connection is not at first sight an obvious one; the predominantly sober and careful tone of Basil contrasts greatly with the experiential approach and exuberant imagery of Macarius. Some form of connection cannot, however, be ruled out. Basil had first-hand experience of the ascetic traditions of Coele Syria and Mesopotamia. 2 Macarius, for his part, is no stranger to the Greek-speaking world, and may even have passed through Cappadocia. 3 While we have no direct evidence of personal contact or even of mutual awareness, there are a number of significant theological and ascetic parallels in their respective works that deserve notice.
To set these parallels in context, we can begin by summarizing the monastic background of the period. 4 The pioneer of monasticism in Asia Minor is generally held to be Eustathius of Sebaste, against whom the Council of Gangra (c.341) was directed. A list of twenty propositions attack the anarchic character of Eustathian communities, in particular their negative attitude to marriage, their lack of consideration for earthly ties of family and social