The Venerable Apollonios was the son of the pious parents, Aisi and Amani. According to one version, he had an elder brother, a monk, who died before his birth, who appeared to him in a dream. According to other sources, his parents were childless before the birth of Apollonios.
At the age of fifteen, the Saint retired to the inner desert of the Thebaïd (in Lower Egypt), along with his kinsman Abib. After fourteen years of the solitary life, Saint Apollonios was granted a Divine Revelation. A Voice said: “Apollonios, by your hands I will destroy the wisdom of the wise men of Egypt, and I will remove their knowledge, which is not true knowledge. You will also overthrow those who are reputed to be the wise men of Babel (the Babylon of Egypt), and all their service to devils (idolatry). Now go quickly to the desert, to the region which is near the habitations of men. There you shall beget for me a holy people, who will be exalted by their good works.”
Soon he became known for the multitude of miracles which he performed. He was the head of many monks; and he directed them profitably by his spiritual instructions.
During the reign of Julian the Apostate, God commanded the Saint to go to the near desert. In a spot close to Hermopolis he founded a monastery in which about five hundred monks would gather in the future.The brethren of the Monastery partook of the Holy Mysteries in the morning, and then in the afternoon they studied the Holy Scriptures. Only after sunset did they eat a little food, and then they went off into the desert alone, “in the darkness of the night, devoting themselves to the contemplation of God and His Holy Word,” while some of the monks remained in the monastery.
The monks would eat food just once a day. Apollonios condemned those who adhered to the harsher forms of austerity – these did not cut their hair and wore chains – regarding such things as a sign of vanity. At the same time, Apollonios himself was a strict faster, he ate boiled food on Sundays, and on other days he ate only wild plants.
Once one of the monks was forcibly recruited for military service and was locked up in a prison for refusing to serve. Apollonios and some other monks visited him in the prison. They comforted him and advised him to remain steadfast. When the centurion heard about this, he became very angry and locked Apollonios and his companions in prison, posting many guards. However, an angel of the Lord appeared at midnight, to open the doors of the prison, and the monks left unhindered.
Near the monastery were ten pagan settlements. Saint Apollonios was once a witness to a pagan ritual: priests of the idols, accompanied by a crowd, carried an idol around to the villages, “raging like bacchants.” By the Saint’s prayers, the idolaters were halted and could not continue the procession. Upon learning of the cause of the incident, many of them followed Apollonios, and the idol was destroyed. After this miracle, many pagans became Christians, and some of them even remained in the monastery. Soon there were almost no pagans left in the vicinity of the monastery.
When there was strife between two villages near the monastery, Saint Apollonios managed to convert a robber (who may have been the instigator of the quarrel) to Christ, and so peace was restored.
On another occasion, Apollonios was able to prevent bloodshed between the Christian and pagan villages, punishing the leader of the pagans with a terrible death. When famine occurred at the Thebaïd, Apollonios supplied the inhabitants with food.
Saint Apollonios reposed in peace around the year 395, at very advanced age.
Much of the information about Saint Apollonios was recorded in chapter 9 of Saint Jerome’s History of the Monks of Egypt. The author had visited Apollonios shortly before the latter’s repose, along with his companions. They lived in his monastery for about a week.
Sozomon also provides some details about Apollonios in Book VI, chapter 29 of his Church History, citing Timothy, the primate of the Church of Alexandria, as the source for what we know about Saint Apollonios’s personal discipline as well as his “divine and marvelous deeds.” The Coptic Church has also preserved an ancient testimony of Saint Apollonios in a description of Abba Paul’s journey from Antinoë through the monasteries of Egypt, and another account from a Jacobite Synaxarion (in Arabic). This Synaxarion under 5 Amshire (January 30) calls Apollonios “an Equal of the angels.” The Coptic Church commemorates Saint Apollonios on 25 Papo (October 22).