Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.


Alternate Names: Musä, Moses the Black
Ancient Christian Church

Musä, Anba, also known as Moses the Black, was an Ethiopian monk who lived in the Egyptian desert. Said by Palladius to have been a slave, he was obliged because of insubordination to leave his native country, and became a robber, and even, according to Cassianus, a murderer. After swimming across the Nile with a sword between his teeth to kill a shepherd against whom he bore a grudge, he is said to have seen a vision, and hearing of the ascetics of the Western Desert, he decided to join them. He met St. Isidore and St. Macarius and lived a highly ascetic life in spite of constant temptations. Later he was ordained as a priest and subsequently, learning of a possible raid on their settlement at al-Baranus by the Mazices, he warned his disciples, then seventy in number, advising those who wished to make their escape. For his part he remained behind with seven other monks in the hope of gaining martyrdom, and is believed to have died at the age of seventy-five. Anba Musä is remembered in both the Ethiopian and Coptic Synaxaria, in the former on 24 Säné, and has been described by the modern German scholar Otto Meinardus as “the first martyr of the desert fathers.”

Richard K. P. Pankhurst


Palladius, Historia Lausiaca, XIX.

Cassianus, Collationes Patrum XIII, 5, 2.

E. A. Wallis Budge, The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Church (Cambridge, 1928), Vol. IV, 1030-2.

O. F. A. Meinardus, Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert (Cairo, 1961), 120, 129, 136, 138, 151, 218, 223, 278, 384.

——–, “Ethiopian Monks in Egypt,” Publications de l’Institut d’Etudes Orientales de la Bibliothèque Patriarchale d’Alexandrie, No. 11 (Alexandrie, 1962): 61-2.

——–, “Ecclesiastica Aethiopica in Aegypto,” Journal of Ethiopian Studies, Vol. III, No. 1 (1965): 30.

W. Wright, Catalogue of the Ethiopic Manuscripts in the British Museum (London, 1871), 171, 175.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from The Dictionary of Ethiopian Biography, Vol. 1 ‘From Early Times to the End of the Zagwé Dynasty c. 1270 A.D.,’ copyright © 1975, edited by Belaynesh Michael, S. Chojnacki and Richard Pankhurst, Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. All rights reserved.