The image of the city pervades hagiographical texts in two ways: it is used either as a literary topos, where the city is traditionally defined as opposed to the desert, or as the framework in which the hagiographical narrative takes place, either entirely or partly. In Christian literature urban vocabulary was a powerful tool of high literary style to eloquently describe Christian ideas, even in texts promoting the denial of urban life by ascetics. In the Life of St Antony the desert where the Egyptian holy man fled is defined in urban terms: ‘the hermits have transformed the desert into a city’. At the end of late antiquity the Empire was changing rapidly amidst waves of enemy invasions, the Avars and Slavs in the Balkans, and the Persians and Arabs in the East. The military aggressiveness and danger that cities faced created a new role for the saints and a new intimate relation between them and the city.