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E01236: Gregory of Nazianzus, in his Oration 21 of 379/380, mentions the Life of *Antony ('the Great', monk of Egypt, ob. 356, S00098) by Athanasius of Alexandria, which he describes as a rule for monastic life in the guise of a narrative account. He expresses the hope that a similar life will be written for *Athanasius (bishop of Alexandria, S00294) himself. Written in Greek at Constantinople.

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posted on 2016-03-31, 00:00 authored by Bryan
Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 21, On Athanasius of Alexandria (CPG 3010.21; BHG 186), 5. 1-7

On the context of this passage, see E01235

Πάντα μὲν δὴ τὰ ἐκείνου λέγειν τε καὶ θαυμάζειν μακρότερον ἂν εἴη τυχὸν, ἢ κατὰ τὴν παροῦσαν ὁρμὴν τοῦ λόγου καὶ ἱστορίας ἔργον, οὐκ εὐφημίας· ἃ καὶ ἰδίᾳ παραδοῦναι γραφῇ παίδευμά τε καὶ ἥδυσμα τοῖς εἰς ὕστερον, εὐχῆς ἔργον ἐμοὶ, ὥσπερ ὃν ἐκεῖνος Ἀντωνίου τοῦ θείου βίον συνέγραφε, τοῦ μοναδικοῦ βίου νομοθεσίαν, ἐν πλάσματι διηγήσεως.

‘To tell his full story and praise would take much longer than the present occasion of my talk permits, and would be a subject for a book rather than a panegyric. For me it would be highly desirable to commit these things to a special book for the pleasure and instruction of posterity, just like the life of the divine Antony, which he wrote providing a rule for monastic life in the guise of a narrative account.’

Text: Mossay and Lafontaine 1980
Translation: E. Rizos


Evidence ID


Saint Name

Antony, 'the Great', monk of Egypt, ob. 356 : S00098 Athanasios, bishop of Alexandria, ob. 373 : S00294

Saint Name in Source

Ἀντώνιος Ἀθανάσιος

Type of Evidence

Literary - Sermons/Homilies Literary - Hagiographical - Lives of saint


  • Greek

Evidence not before


Evidence not after


Activity not before


Activity not after


Place of Evidence - Region

Constantinople and region

Place of Evidence - City, village, etc


Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)

Constantinople Constantinople Κωνσταντινούπολις Konstantinoupolis Constantinopolis Constantinople Istanbul

Major author/Major anonymous work

Gregory of Nazianzus

Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and Customs

Transmission, copying and reading saint-related texts

Cult Activities - Protagonists in Cult and Narratives

Ecclesiastics - bishops


Gregory was born in c. 330 to a wealthy Christian family in Cappadocia. He was educated at Nazianzos, Kaisareia/Caesarea, Athens, and Alexandria, and in 361 he returned to Nazianzos where he was ordained priest by his father, Gregory the Elder, who was bishop of Nazianzos. He was ordained bishop of Sasima in Cappadocia by Basil of Caesarea in 372, but stayed in Nazianzos, administering the local community after the death of his father. After retreating as a monk in Isauria for some years, he moved to Constantinople in 379, in order to lead the struggle for the return of the city to Nicene Orthodoxy. Two years later, the Arians were ousted by the emperor Theodosius I, and Gregory became bishop of Constantinople. In 381, he convened the Council of Constantinople, at the end of which he resigned his throne and retired to Cappadocia where he died in 390. Oration 21 belongs to Gregory’s Constantinopolitan period, and was probably composed and delived in 379 or 380 for a memorial held on the anniversary of Athanasius' death (2 May 373). On the manuscript tradition of this oration, see Mossay and Lafontaine 1980, 103-109 and:


This is the earliest reference to the Life of Antony, which had been written about twenty years earlier by Athanasius (E00631). The text had a wide and rapid success, and, as this phrase suggests, it was immediately established as model for hagiography: Gregory expresses the wish that a Life of Athanasius is produced according to its model. This did not happen until much later.


Text and French translation: Mossay, J., and Lafontaine, G., Grégoire de Nazianze, Discours 20-23 (Sources chrétiennes 270; Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1980), 86-193. English Translation: Schaff, P., and Wace, H. (eds.), A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: Second Series. Vol. 7 (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 269-280. Further reading: Bernardi, J., La prédication des pères Cappadociens (Université de Paris, Sorbonne, 1968). Daley, B.E., Gregory of Nazianzus (The Early Church Fathers; London: Routledge, 2006). McGuckin, J.A., St Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001). Gwynn, D.M., Athanasius of Alexandria: Bishop, Theologian, Ascetic, Father (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

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    Evidence -  The Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity



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