Athanasius, Saint

Athanasius, Saint

biographical name

(born 293, Alexandria, Egypt—died May 2, 373, Alexandria; feast day May 2) Early Christian theologian and staunch opponent of Arianism. He studied philosophy and theology at Alexandria, Egypt, and in 325 he attended the Council of Nicaea, which condemned the Arian heresy. He welcomed the council's teaching that the Son is “consubstantial with the Father” and defended that teaching throughout his career. In 328 he was appointed patriarch of Alexandria, but theological disputes led to the first of several banishments in 336. He returned from exile repeatedly and resumed his office, but Arian opposition continued. After being banished by Constantius II in 356, Athanasius lived in a remote desert in Upper Egypt and wrote theological treatises, including his Four Orations Against the Arians. The emperor's death in 361 gave Athanasius a brief respite under the toleration proclaimed by Julian, but a controversy with Julian's heathen subjects forced him to flee into the Theban desert. At the time of his death he again possessed the see at Alexandria.

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