Basil the Great


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Related to Basil the Great: John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa

Basil the Great

 

(also Basil of Caesarea). Born circa 330, in Caesarea, Cappadocia; died there on Jan. 1, 379. Christian church leader. One of the church fathers. Bishop of Caesarea from 370.

Basil the Great belonged to circles of the eastern Roman aristocracy that accepted Orthodox Christianity without reservation. Striving to consolidate the forces of Christianity, Basil opposed Arianism. He preached asceticism and supported the monastic way of life. Basil defended the independence of the church from the emperor. He considered it possible to make “valuable use” of the ancient pagan Greco-Roman culture in the interests of Christianity (the sermon Address to the Youth).

Basil the Great’s principal works are Philocalia (an anthology of the works of Origen, compiled with Gregory the Theologian), Against Eunomius (a refutation of Arian doctrine), and conversations (including the Commentary on the Six Days of Creation, in which the grounds for Christian cosmogeny are expounded). The works of Basil the Great (especially the Philocalia and the Commentary on the Six Days of Creation)were translated into Slavic languages and served as a source for acquainting readers with ancient Greco-Roman thinkers, many of whom Basil cited. The letters of Basil the Great (about 250) are an especially important source for the history of the ecclesiastical conflict in the empire during the fourth century.

WORKS

Patrologia Graeca, vols. 29-32. Edited by J. P. Migne. Paris, 1912.
Lettres, vols. 1-3. Paris, 1957-66.
In Russian translation:
“Tvoreniia izhe vo sviatykh otsa nashego Vasiliia Velikogo. …” In Tvoreniia sviatykh otsov, vols. 5-11. Moscow, 1843-1915.

REFERENCES

Allard, P. Saint Basile, 4th ed. Paris, 1903.
Treucker, B: Politische und sozialgeschichtliche Studien zu den Basilius-Briefen. Munich, 1961.
Dehnhard, H. Das Problem der Abhängigkeit des Basilius von Plotin. Berlin, 1964.

A. P. KAZHDAN

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