Amphilochius Of Iconium


Some scholars have thought that Amphilochius of Iconium deserves to rank alongside BASIL THE GREAT of Caesarea, GREGORY OF NYSSA, and GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS as the fourth great Cappadocian of the end of the fourth century. Educated at the school of Libanius at Antioch, then an advocate in Constantinople, Amphilochius was invited to accept the episcopate of the town of Iconium by Basil of in 373, in order to stand in the way of the Arians who were endeavoring to gain possession of all the sees. He died after 394; Basil had died in 379. More than one letter exchanged between them testifies to their preoccupation with countering APOLLINARIANISM and the doctrines of the Arian Eunomius.

The extant writings of Amphilochius are less numerous and in general less theological than those of the other Cappadocian fathers. He left a treatise against the heretics in which the moral deviations of the ascetic sects—the Apotactites, the Messalians, and the Gemellites—are the principal target. Eleven homilies are considered to be authentic (Geerard, 1974, pp. 230-23). They already witness to a liturgical cycle in the preaching at Iconium. Some of them give evidence of a desire to oppose ARIANISM and Eunomianism in a more developed form than that encountered by Basil and Gregory in the years up to 380.

Amphilochius answers Eunomius doctrine of the innate names by an orthodox interpretation of the Gnostic speculations on the names of Christ. One of the homilies has been handed down only in Bohairic Coptic. It is preserved in a tenth-century codex of Saint MACARIUS (Vatican Coptic 61, fols. 194r- 209v). The text of this homily on Abraham has been edited by L. van Rompay (Datema, 1978, pp. 269-307).

It contains some theological traits parallel to the other homilies, of which one of the most remarkable formulas, no doubt retouched by an ardent Monophysite, is “One who came forth from Mary will suffer in (his) body, but outside of his Godhead.” A parallel development on the sacrifice of Isaac in the Greek homily VII runs: “While the flesh suffered, the divinity did not suffer” (Datema, 1978, p. 302). Amphilochius also left some canonical writings: the Iambi ad Seleucum (Geerard, 1974, no. 3230), a synodical letter and a creed (nos. 3243-3244). Nearly twenty-five fragments have also been collected.

Georg Graf (1944-1953, Vol. 1, p. 329; Vol. 3; p. 139, n. 20) points out that in the eighteenth-century Ilyia ibn al-Fakhr included the Iambi ad Seleucum in his canonical collection preserved in the manuscripts of Beirut 517 (autograph) and Jerusalem, Holy 1 (1886, pp. 397-99). But the works of Amphilochius that were especially widespread in Arabic were two writings generally considered apocryphal: a panegyric on Basil of Caesarea (Geerard, no. 3252) and a series of miracles of the same Basil (no. 3253).

The panegyric on Saint Basil is contained, unfortunately, mutilated, in the very old Arabic codex Sinaiticus 457, the writing of which dates from the end of the ninth century. The manuscript was amply described by J.-M. Sauget in 1972. The title on folio 70 is “Of the sermon which Amphilochius bishop of Iconium pronounced on Basil and . . . ” (p. 154). The complete panegyric is chiefly known in Syriac. The oldest copy is Vatican Syriac 369, of the eighth century, fol. 5-15, also described by Sauget in 1961. It has been published several times in Syriac.

P. J. Alexander (1953, p. 61, no. 22) has found a Greek fragment in the testimonia of the acts of the Iconoclastic Council of Saint Sophia in 815. Arguments against authenticity were advanced by A. Vööbus in 1960. They are not really convincing unless we accept that in the patristic period the idea of a panegyric included a need to recall the elements of a biography. This is not the case. Gregory of Nyssa left the life of Melitius in complete obscurity at the point when he wrote his panegyric. Vööbus has shown the parallelism between the anonymous life of Rabbula of Edessa, preserved in Syriac and dating from the sixth century, and that of Basil by Amphilochius. There is nothing to prevent our believing that the anonymous author drew his inspiration from the panegyric on Basil, which he already knew.

The problem of the Life, or rather the Miracles, of Saint Basil is entirely different. In the Greek tradition they are attributed either to Amphilochius of Iconium or to Basil’s successor Helladius of Caesarea. The series of the miracles consists of anecdotes badly stitched together. Since Helladius speaks in the first miracle, one can understand the attribution being gradually transferred to him. It is less obvious to think of the attribution to Amphilochius as added to that of Helladius. F. Combefis, the first editor in 1644, published the Miracles under the name of Amphilochius. The majority of patrologists rejected this association, quoting, in particular, the story in which Ephraem is present at Basil’s ordination. One of them even suggested that we should recognize here the hand of Amphilochius of Cyzicus, a contemporary of in the ninth century. The enormous diffusion of the collection makes this untenable, and the Eastern translations are generally ancient.

In Arabic, the Miracles are attributed to ’ladyus in Manuscript Sinai 457, as well as in the Strasbourg codex Orientalis 4226, the of which, today in Leningrad, is dated to 885 and is due to Antony of Baghdad, who wrote at Saint Sabas. The story of Peter of Sebaste, pointed out among the Leningrad fragments by G. L. Fleischer in 1854, is in reality part of the same codex as that of Strasbourg, and is one of the Miracles of Basil. The later Arabic tradition transformed the name Helladius into Hilarion, and under this name lists seven manuscript witnesses. Several other collections have transcribed the same miracles anonymously, as Graf again points out. Whatever the objections against authenticity, it should not be forgotten that the literary genre of the miracles is quite different from that of the panegyric. Gregory of Nyssa did not scorn the popular miracles transmitted with regard to Gregory Thaumaturgus. And the Life of Saint Antony contains anachronisms that have not prevented the majority of patrologists from acknowledging the attribution to ATHANASIUS I of Alexandria.

One of the Lives of Amphilochius (Bibliotheca hagiographa Graeca 72-75) also passed into Arabic, but it has not been established which one. See Manuscript British Add. 9965 (Arabic Christian 28, collection of Macarius Ibn al-Za‘im), fols. 200r-204v; Sinai Arabic 397 (A.D. 1333) 6 and 475 (thirteenth century); Graf, 1944-1953, Vol. 1, p. 515.


  • Alexander, P. J. “The Iconoclast Council at St. Sophia (815) and Its Definition (Horos).” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 7 (1953):35-66.
  • Datema, C., ed. Amphilochii Iconiensis Opera. Corpus Christianorum, Series Graeca 3. Turnhout-Louvain, 1978. Includes bibliography.
  • Esbroeck, M. van. “Un Feuillet oublié du codex Or. 4226 à Strasbourg.” Analecta Bollandiana 96 (1978):383-84.
  •  . “Amphiloque d’Iconium et Eunome: l’homélie CPG 3238.” Augustinianum 21 (1981):517-39.
  • Garitte, G. “Homélie d’Ephrem sur la mort et le diable.” Le Museon 82 (1969):125-26.
  • Geerard, M. Clavis Patrum Graecorum, Vol. 2, Corpus Christianorum, pp. 230-42. Turnhout-Louvain, 1974.
  • Sauget, J. M. “Deux homéliaires syriaques de la Bibliothèque Vaticane.” Orientalia Christiana Periodica 27 (1961):414.
  •  . “La Collection homilético-hagiographique du manuscrit Sinai 457.” Proche-Orient chrétien 22 (1972):129-67, 147- 52.
  • Schiwietz, S. Das morgenländische Mönchtum, pp. 129-32. Mödling, 1938.
  • Vööbus, A. “Das literarische Verhältnis zwischen der Biographie des Rabbula und dem Pseudo-Amphilochianischen Panegyrikus über Basilius.” Oriens Christianus 44 (1960):40-45.