In 1971 Peter Brown published his justly famous article, ‘The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity’. It is no exaggeration to say that this article — and the host of articles and books that succeeded it — have transformed the way we think about saints and their cult in late antiquity. This change is part of a wider transformation of the study of the world of early Christianity, a change that has much to do with the changing, not to say declining, place of Christianity in Western society. The very words Peter Brown used in the title of his article are emblematic of this changed perspective: holy, man, late antiquity. Others have noted the change of words from what one might have expected, or from what one would have expected a few decades, even years, earlier. Averil Cameron spoke of Peter Brown ‘rightly avoiding the term “saint”, for in this early period there were no formal processes of sanctification, and no official bestowal of sainthood’. Put like that, it seems obvious why Brown talked about the ‘holy man’. I want to suggest that the nature of the change involved is much less easy to track down, and furthermore that awareness of the specific suggestions implicit in Brown’s choice of words will enable us to contemplate the world of late antiquity from the perspective Brown was largely inaugurating, while not losing the other perspectives that were implicit in the language and concepts laid aside.