Reference address :

ELPENOR - Home of the Greek Word

Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Sketch of the Life and Works of Saint Basil the Great

St Basil the Great Resources Online and in Print


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

130 Pages

Page 26

VII.--The Breach with Gregory of Nazianzus.

Cappadocia, it has been seen, had been divided into two provinces, and of one of these Tyana had been constituted the chief town. Anthimus, bishop of Tyana, now contended that an ecclesiastical partition should follow the civil, and that Tyana should enjoy parallel metropolitan privileges to those of Caesarea. To this claim Basil determined to offer an uncompromising resistance, and summoned Gregory of Nazianzus to his side. Gregory replied in friendly and complimentary terms, [187] and pointed out that Basil's friendship for Eustathius of Sebaste was a cause of suspicion in the Church. At the same time he placed himself at the archbishop's disposal. The friends started together with a train of slaves and mules to collect the produce of the monastery of St. Orestes, in Cappadocia Secunda, which was the property of the see of Caesarea. Anthimus blocked the defiles with his retainers and in the vicinity of Sasima [188] there was an unseemly struggle between the domestics of the two prelates. [189] The friends proceeded to Nazianzus, and there, with imperious inconsiderateness, Basil insisted upon nominating Gregory to one of the bishoprics which he was founding in order to strengthen his position against Anthimus. [190] For Gregory, the brother, Nyssa was selected, a town on the Halys, about a hundred miles distant from Caesarea, so obscure that Eusebius of Samosata remonstrated with Basil on the unreasonableness of forcing such a man to undertake the episcopate of such a place. [191] For Gregory, the friend, a similar fate was ordered. The spot chosen was Sasima, a townlet commanding the scene of the recent fray. [192] It was an insignificant place at the bifurcation of the road leading northwards from Tyana to Doara and diverging westward to Nazianzus. [193] Gregory speaks of it with contempt, and almost with disgust, [194] and never seems to have forgiven his old friend for forcing him to accept the responsibility of the episcopate, and in such a place. [195] Gregory resigned the distasteful post, [196] and with very bitter feelings. The utmost that can be said for Basil is that just possibly he was consulting for the interest of the Church, and meaning to honour his friend, by placing Gregory in an outpost of peril and difficulty. In the kingdom of heaven the place of trial is the place of trust. [197] But, unfortunately for the reputation of the archbishop, the war in this case was hardly the Holy War of truth against error and of right against wrong. It was a rivalry between official and official, and it seemed hard to sacrifice Gregory to a dispute between the claims of the metropolitans of Tyana and Caesarea. [198]

[187] Greg. Naz., Ep. xlvii.

[188] cf. Maran, Vit. Bas. xxiii. 4.

[189] Greg. Naz., Or. xliii. 58, and Ep. xlviii. Bas., Epp. lxxiv., lxxv., lxxvi.

[190] It has been debated whether the odium theologicum was here mixed up with the odium ecclesiasticum. Gregory (Orat. xliii. 58) represents Anthimus as defending his seizure of the metropolitan revenues on the ground that it was wrong dasmophorein kakodoxois, to pay tribute to men of evil opinions, and LeClerc (Bibl. Univer. xviii. p. 60) has condemned Anthimus as an Arian. He was undoubtedly Are& 187;os (Greg. Naz., Ep. xlviii.), a devotee of Ares, as he shewed in the skirmish by Sasima; but there is no reason to suppose him to have been Areianos, or Arian. He probably looked askance at the orthodoxy of Basil. Basil would never have called him homopsuchos (Ep. ccx. 5) if he had been unsound on the incarnation. cf. Baronius, Act. Sanc. Maj. ii. p. 394.

[191] Ep. xcviii., but see note, p. 182, on the doubt as to this allusion.

[192] Greg. Naz., with grim humour, objects to be sent to Sasima to fight for Basil's supply of sucking pigs and poultry from St. Orestes. Ep. xlviii.

[193] "Nyssa was more clearly than either Sasima or Doara a part of Cappadocia Secunda; it always retained its ecclesiastical dependence on Caesarea, but politically it must have been subject to Tyana from 372 to 536, and afterwards to Mokissos. All three were apparently places to which Basil consecrated bishops during his contest with Anthimus and the civil power. His bishop of Nyssa, his own brother Gregory, was ejected by the dominant Arians, but the eminence and vigour of Gregory secured his reinstatement and triumphant return. Basil's appointment was thus successful, and the connexion always continued. His appointment at Sasima was unsuccessful. Gregory of Nazianzus would not maintain the contest, and Sasima passed under the metropolitan of Tyana. At Doara, in like fashion, Basil's nominee was expelled, and apparently never reinstated. Ep. ccxxxix. Greg. Naz. Or. xiii." Ramsay, Hist. Geog. of A.M. 305.

[194] As in Carm. De Vita Sua: Stathmos tis estin en mese leophoro Tes Kappadokon hos schizet' eis trissen hodon. ,'Anudros, achlous, oud' holos eleutheros, Deinos epeukton kai stenon komudrion, Konis ta panta, kai psophoi, sun harmasi, Threnoi, stenagmoi, praktores, streblai, pedai; Laos d' hosoi xenoi te kai planomenoi, Haute Sasimon ton emon ekklesia. [N.B.--The last line marks the quantity.] "A post town on the king's high road, Where three ways meet, is my abode; No brooklet, not a blade of grass, Enlivens the dull hole, alas! Dust, din, all day; the creak of wheels; Groans, yells, the exciseman at one's heels With screw and chain; the population A shifting horde from every nation. A viler spot you long may search, Than this Sasima, now my church!"

[195] It is curious that a place which had so important a connexion with Gregory the divine should have passed so completely into oblivion. From it he derived his episcopal rank. His consecration to Sasima was the main ground of the objection of his opponents at Constantinople in 381 to his occupying the see of the imperial city. He was bishop of Sasima, and, by the fifteenth Canon of Nicaea, could not be transferred to Constantinople. He never was bishop of Nazianzus, though he did administer that diocese before the appointment of Eulalius in 383. But while the name "Gregory of Nazianzus" has obscured the very existence of his father, who was really Gregory of Nazianzus, and is known even to the typical schoolboy, Gregory has never been described as "Gregory of Sasima." "The great plain which extends from Sasima nearly to Soandos is full of underground houses and churches, which are said to be of immense extent. The inhabitants are described by Leo Diaconus (p. 35) as having been originally named Troglodytes....Every house in Hassa Keni has an underground story cut out of the rock; long narrow passages connect the underground rooms belonging to each house, and also run from house to house. A big solid disc of stone stands in a niche outside each underground house door, ready to be pulled in front of the door on any alarm....Sasima was on the road between Nazianzus and Tyana. The distances point certainly to Hassa Keni....An absolutely unhistorical legend about St. Makrina is related at Hassa Keni. Recently a good-sized church has been built in the village, evidently on the site of an ancient church; it is dedicated to St. Makrina, who, as the village priest relates, fled hither from Kaisari to escape marriage, and to dedicate herself to a saintly life. The underground cell in which she lived is below the church." Ramsay, Hist. Geog. of Asia Minor, pp. 293, 294. Paul Lucas identified Sasima with Inschesu.

[196] cf. Greg. Naz. Ep. l.

[197] cf. De Joinville's happy illustration of this in Histoire du roi Saint Louis, p. 18. Ed. 1617. The King of France would shew more confidence in the captain whom he might choose to defend La Rochelle, close to the English pale, than in the keeper of Monthlery, in the heart of the realm.

[198] At the same time it is disappointing to find Gregory mixing up with expressions of reluctance to assume awful responsibilities, objections on the score of the disagreeable position of Sasima. Perhaps something of the sentiments of Basil on this occasion may be inferred from what he says in Letter cii. on the postponement of private to public considerations in the case of the appointment of Poemenius to Satala.

Previous Page / First / Next Page of St Basil - Life and Works
The Authentic Greek New Testament Bilingual New Testament I
St Basil the Great Home Page / Works ||| More Church Fathers

Elpenor's Free Greek Lessons
Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Greek Literature - Ancient, Medieval, Modern

St Basil the Great Home Page   St Basil the Great in Print

Learned Freeware

Reference address :