Mark the Monk, also known, less correctly, as the Hermit or the Ascetic, is a difficult figure to place. 1 In some respects he is more elusive even than the author of the Macarian writings. Our only advantage with Mark is that we can be sure about his name. We have very few clues as to his location or position. In his To Nicholas, he writes of his having retired into the desert 'with the true labourers and athletes of Christ', but gives no clues as to where that desert was (v 1029b). 2 The Controversy with an Advocate suggests that Mark was at some stage the superior of a monastic community—again with no reference to the location of that community.
We have slightly more information as to Mark's dates. The terminus ad quem for his writings is 534, the date of a Syriac MS containing a translation of a selection of his writings. 3 Another