Personal disagreements aside, the men who started monasteries, despite quirks, were men who really cared about God and holiness.
History considers Anthony to be the founder of monasticism. He sold all his stuff and gave his money to the poor to live a life of meditation. I remember seeing some subtitle movie about him. Although it had terrible acting, the man being portrayed won my favor.
In the eastern empire, Anthony influenced people who were not so sane. Simeon Stylites sat on a pole near Antioch for 35 years. One man never undressed or bathed. Another went around naked. These were more of a fringe group.
Pachomius started the first monastery in Egypt near the Nile. He sought simplicity, work, devotion, and obedience. Basil of Caesarea became a monk when he was 27 and later was made Bishop of Cappodicia. Monks under his rule should work, pray, read the Scriptures, and do good deeds. He did not accept extreme asceticism. Orthodox monks look to him as their influence.
Western Rome followed a more practical monasticism, the kind that approve. They rejected idleness and pure asceticism and told their monks to work as well as meditate. Athanasius was the first to influence monastery life in the western empire. He attracted pilgrims and support from Martin of Tours, Jerome, Augustine, and Ambrose. However, Benedict of Nursia is the one who most influenced monasticism today. His followers took vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience, a tradition which is required for monks and nuns today.