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The Pseudo-Amphilochian Vita Basilii: An Apocryphal Life of Saint Basil the Great

The Pseudo-Amphilochian Vita Basilii: An Apocryphal Life of Saint Basil the Great

Wortley, John

Florilegium, Volume 2 (1980) 217-239

Abstract

At a time when the scholarly world is commemorating the sixteen-hundredth anniversary of the death of Saint Basil the Great (ob. 1st January 379), it might not be impertinent to recall to westerners that for almost a millennium the real Saint Basil was virtually unknown to a large segment of Christendom, and that in his stead was honoured a large­ ly fictitious saint of the same name and purlieu whose supposed deeds rendered him well deserving of the popular acclaim which he widely re­ceived.

The greatness of the genuine Saint Basil is of course beyond dispute for a variety of reasons which need hardly be rehearsed in this article. In the famous encomium delivered by Gregory of Nazianzus within three years of the saint’s death he is already referred to without any explana­tion or defence as oktioq, Basil the Great, to which title Gregory seems to be able to assume universal consent. Basil’s greatness was later reinforced by his association with the two other “hierarchs” in popular devotion: the above mentioned Gregory, “the Theologian” as he is known to the Orthodox, and Saint John Chrysostom; and from the tenth century his greatness served the additional purpose of distinguishing him from the once spectacular but now obscure Saint Basil-the-less.

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