The desert stood in stark opposition to the oikoumene, the inhabited world of the fourth century. Not because the world was a bad place, but because the desert - understood geographically, religiously, spiritually, and mystically - was the harsh, uncomprising place where the Christian could be perfected by God. Far from the Christian metropolis of Alexandria, removed from the well-known and much-visited monastic settlements of the Thebaid, and infintely remote from Rome, lay the garrison towns of Aswan and Philae. There Christians and pagans coexisted. Integral to the christian community on this desert frontier of Empire were the local monks - ascetics, intercessors, contemplatives, and miracle workers.