Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century/Amphilochius (1), archbishop of Iconium
Amphilochius (1), archbp. of Iconium. Of this great Catholic leader, who was regarded by his contemporaries as the foremost man in the Eastern church after his friends Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus, very scanty information remains. The works ascribed to him are mostly spurious; and the Life (Migne, Patr. Gk. xxxix. p. 14) is a later fiction. Various references to the writings of Basil and Gregory contain nearly all that is known of him and his family. Amphilochius appears to have been a first cousin of Gregory Nazianzen. The language of Basil (Ep. 161) might imply that he was born and lived in Basil's own town Caesarea. Gregory expresses regret that he did not see much of Amphilochius during his earlier years (Ep. 13). Their intimate friendship commenced at a later date. Amphilochius, like many other eminent Christian fathers, was educated for the bar. The letters of his cousin imply that he carried on his profession at Constantinople.
It is not improbable that trouble in regard to money matters about 369 weaned Amphilochius from his worldly pursuits and turned his thoughts inward. He had abandoned his profession, and was then living in retirement at Ozizala, devoting himself apparently to religious exercises and to the care of his aged father. His cousin Gregory appears to have been mainly instrumental in bringing about this change. At least he says with honest pride, that "together with the pure Thecla" he has "sent Amphilochius to God" (Op. ii. p. 1068). And now his closer friendship with Basil and Gregory begins. Ozizala was situated not far from Nazianzus, for Gregory's correspondence implies that they were near neighbours. A letter of Basil, apparently belonging to this period, is in the name of one Heraclidas, who, like Amphilochius, had renounced the profession of the bar and devoted himself to a religious life. Heraclidas, lodged in a large hospital (πτωχοτροφεῖον) recently erected by Basil near Caesarea, and enjoying the constant instructions of the bishop, urges Amphilochius to obtain leave from his father to visit Caesarea and profit by the teaching and example of the same instructor (Ep. 150). This letter was written in the year 372 or 373 (see Garnier's Basil. Op. iii. p. cxxxiv.). The invitation to Caesarea appears to have been promptly accepted, and was fraught with immediate consequences. It does not appear that at that time Amphilochius was even ordained; yet at the very beginning of the year 374 we find him occupying the important see of Iconium. Amphilochius can hardly have been then more than about 35 years of age. A few months before Faustinus, bp. of Iconium, had died, and the Iconians applied to the bp. of Caesarea to recommend them a successor (Basil. Ep. 138). It is impossible not to connect this application to Basil with the ultimate appointment of Amphilochius.
From this time forward till his death, about five years afterwards, Basil holds close intercourse with Amphilochius, receiving from him frequent visits. The first took place soon after his consecration, about Easter 374, and was somewhat protracted, his ministrations on this occasion making a deep impression on the people of Caesarea (Ep. 163, 176).
It was probably in another visit in 374 (see Garnier, Op. iii. p. cxl.) that Amphilochius urged Basil to clear up all doubt as to his doctrine of the Holy Spirit by writing a treatise on the subject. This was the occasion of Basil's extant work, de Spiritu Sancto (see § 1), which, when completed, was dedicated to the petitioner himself and sent to him engrossed on vellum (Ep. 231). During this and the following year Basil likewise addresses to Amphilochius his three Canonical Letters (Ep. 188, 199, 217), to solve some questions relating to ecclesiastical order, which the bp. of Iconium had propounded to him. At this same period also we find Amphilochius arranging the ecclesiastical affairs of Isauria (Ep. 190), Lycaonia (Ep. 200), and Lycia (Ep. 218), under the direction of Basil. He is also invited by Basil to assist in the administration of his own diocese of Caesarea, which has become too great a burden for him, prostrated as he now is by a succession of maladies (Ep. 200, 201). The affectionate confidence which the great man reposes in his younger friend is a powerful testimony to the character and influence of Amphilochius.
After the death of Basil, the slender thread by which we trace the career of Amphilochius is taken up in the correspondence of Gregory. Gregory writes with equal affection and esteem, and with more tenderness than Basil. He has been ill, and he speaks of Amphilochius as having helped to work his cure. Sleeping and waking, he has him ever in his mind. He mentions the many letters which he has received from Amphilochius (μυριάκις γράφων), and which have called forth harmonies from his soul, as the plectrum strikes music out of the lyre (Ep. 171). The last of Gregory's letters to Amphilochius (Ep. 184) seems to have been written about the year 383. Not long before (A.D. 381) Amphilochius had been present with his friend at the council of Constantinople, and had subscribed to the creed there sanctioned, as chief pastor of the Lycaonian church, at the head of twelve other bishops (Labb. Conc. ii. p. 1135, ed. Coleti). At this council a metropolitan authority was confirmed to, rather than conferred on, his see of Iconium; for we find it occupying this position even before his election to the episcopate. During this sojourn at Constantinople he signs his name as first witness to Gregory's will (Greg. Op. ii. p. 204), in which the testator leaves directions to restore to his most reverend son the bp. Amphilochius the purchase-money of an estate at Canotala (ib. p. 203). It was probably on this occasion also that Amphilochius fell in with Jerome and read to him a book which he had written on the Holy Spirit (Hieron. de Vir. Ill. 133) as Jerome is known to have paid a visit to Gregory Nazianzen at this time (Hieron. Op. xi. 65 seq., ed. Vallarsi).
About two years later must be placed the well-known incident in which the zeal of Amphilochius against the Arians appears (Theod. H. E. v. 16). Obtaining an audience of Theodosius, he saluted the emperor himself with the usual marks of respect, but paid no attention to his son Arcadius, who had recently (νεωστί) been created Augustus and was present at the interview. Theodosius, indignant at this slight, demanded an explanation. "Sire," said the bishop, "any disrespect shewn to your son arouses your displeasure. Be assured, therefore, that the Lord of the universe abhorreth those who are ungrateful towards His Son, their Saviour and Benefactor." The emperor, adds Theodoret, immediately issued an edict prohibiting the meetings of the heretics. As Arcadius was created Augustus in the beginning of the year 383 (Clinton, Fast. Rom. i. p. 504), and as Theodosius issued his edict against the Eunomians, Arians, Macedonians, and Apollinarians in Sept. of that year (ib. p. 507), the date is accurately ascertained (see Tillem. Mém. eccl. vi. pp. 627 seq., 802). In 383 also we find Amphilochius taking energetic measures against heretics of a different stamp. He presided over a synod of 25 bishops assembled at Sida in Pamphylia, in which the Messalians were condemned, and his energy seems to have instigated the religious crusade which led to the extirpation of this heresy (Photius, Bibl. 52; Theod. E. H. iv. 10; cf. Labb. Conc. ii. 1209, ed. Coleti).
The date of Amphilochius's death is uncertain. When Jerome wrote the work quoted above, he was still living (A.D. 392); and two years later (A.D. 394) his name occurs among the bishops present at a synod held at Constantinople, when the new basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul was dedicated (Labb. Conc. ii. 1378, ed. Coleti). On the other hand, he is not mentioned in connexion with the troubles of St. Chrysostom (A.D. 403 seq.); and it is a fairly safe assumption that he was no longer living. Despite the martyrologies, he probably died in middle life. His day is Nov. 23 in both Greek and Latin calendars.
The works ascribed to Amphilochius (Iambi ad Seleucum, Homilies, etc.) seem to be mostly spurious, with the exception of an Epistola Synodica (Migne, p. 94), on the Macedonian heresy. Its object is to explain why the Nicene fathers did not dwell on the doctrine of the Spirit, and to justify the ordinary form of the doxology. It is entitled Ἀμφιγοχίῳ Βασίλειος in one MS., but was certainly not written by Basil, who indeed is mentioned in it.
Of his ability as a theologian and a writer the extant fragments are a wholly inadequate criterion; but his reputation with his contemporaries and with the later church leaves very little ground for doubt. His contemporary Jerome, an eminently competent judge, speaks of the Cappadocian triad, Basil, Gregory, and Amphilochius, as writers "who cram [refarciunt ] their books with the lessons and sentences of the philosophers to such an extent that you cannot tell which you ought to admire most in them, their secular erudition or their Scriptural knowledge" (Ep. 70, i. p. 429).
Of his character his intimate friends are the best witnesses. The trust reposed in him by Basil and Gregory appears throughout their correspondence. The former more especially praises his love of learning and patient investigation, addressing him as his "brother Amphilochius, his dear friend most honoured of all" (de Spir. Sanct. § 1); while the latter speaks of him as "the blameless high-priest, the loud herald of truth, his pride" (Carm. ii. p. 1068). He seems to have united the genial sympathy which endears the friend, and the administrative energy which constitutes the ruler, with intellectual abilities and acquirements of no mean order.
- This seems to be the same Thecla with whom Gregory elsewhere corresponds, and not the monastery of St. Thecla, whither Gregory retired.
- Sozomen (vii. 6) tells the story, but without the name of the bishop. He describes him as "an old man, a priest of an obscure city, simple and inexperienced in affairs." This description is as unlike Amphilochius as it could possibly be.