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St. Amphilochius, Bishop of Iconium

IV Century
Amphilochius was a cousin of Gregory the Theologian, and a lifelong friend of Basil the Great. Born around the year 340, he studied law and rhetoric and lived in Constantinople as a young intellectual professional, but began feeling called to the life of a hermit. Instead, around 374, he was forced by Basil into the episcopate, and made the reluctant bishop of Iconium (modern Konya, Turkey). Amphilochius was a poet and rhetor in the manner of the age, and wrote 333 iambic verses on the Christian life as well as a number of homilies and a tract against pseudo-ascetic practices. One of his poems contains a listing of the books of the Bible accepted in his diocese as canonical.

The episcopate of Amphilochius was occupied largely with struggle against heresy. At the Council of Constantinople in 381, he spoke against the Macedonians, who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. (Basil's treatise on the Spirit was written at the request of Amphilochius and is dedicated to him.) Amphilochius also led the opposition to Messalianism, a movement which taught that the devil was too powerful to be driven out by baptism and that only a life of constant prayer and extreme physical asceticism could purify the soul. He was not averse to invoking civil authority against heresy, successfully lobbying an initially unwilling Emperor Theodosius to prohibit Arianism. Although less famous than Basil and Gregory, Amphilochius was mentioned with them by the later Ecumenical Councils as one of the chief exponents of the orthodox position.

Norman Hugh Redington

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