The Temptation of Saint Anthony Characters

Gustave Flaubert

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Saint Anthony

Saint Anthony, a hermit for thirty years but now despondent because he feels that his life has been a failure. He is tempted by gluttony, avarice, and lust, but he overcomes them all. His disciple, Hilarion, appears to accuse him of ignorance and to tempt him intellectually by exposing him to all the confusing heresies of the early church and to the false gods of history, each of whom contained some element of truth. He is even carried into space by Satan, to be shown that the universe is limitless and meaningless and to be urged to curse God and acknowledge the Devil. Even this temptation Anthony overcomes, as well as the urgings of Death and Lust that he escape through them the ugliness of the world. When, the next day, Anthony sees the face of Christ in the sun, he knows that he has emerged victorious from his trials.

The Devil

The Devil, who subjects Anthony to the horror of infinity.


Hilarion, Anthony’s former disciple, who exposes him to the sins of the intellect.

The Queen of Sheba

The Queen of Sheba, who represents lust.


Tertullian, who drives away the heresiarchs.


Apollonius, who almost conquers Anthony by the offer of the power of having visions and of curing the sick.


Marcellina, a woman who tells Anthony that with the aid of a silver image she can cause Christ to appear.


Montanus, who, according to a strange woman Anthony meets, is the incarnation of the Holy Ghost.