It began with peasant farmers running away from their farms if taxes became too heavy or the spring floods failed. It spread to villagers withdrawing in protest of injustices as well as poor pay. For instance, if a man were executed and the villagers felt the sentence was unjust, the whole village might withdraw in protest.
If the authorities attempted to use force to put villagers back to their places or to arrest the ringleaders, it could incite the anakhoresis to spread. On a couple of occasions, the whole Nile valley had been paralyzed, from the delta to the first rapids.
By the 14th century, the practice had spread to even the biggest cities, including Alexandria, even during Byzantine rule. The Empire was disgusted by these unprecedented notions and feared they would spread thought the wider country.