Skip to main content

Basil of Ancyra


4th-century bishop and writer; d. in exile, c. 364. A former physician, Basil became bishop of Ancyra (modern Ankara) when Marcellus was deposed for suspected Sabellianism in 336; and he soon became the leader of the moderate semi-Arian party at the Synod of Ancyra (358). In both his Synodal Letter and Dogmatic Memoir on the Trinity (preserved by Epiphanius, Haer. 73.2), Basil defended the homoiousian position, saying that "the Son is in all things like the Father, in will as well as hypostasis, in existence and in being."

Despite the efforts of Basil and his colleagues Eustathius of Sebaste and Eleusius of Cyzicus, the extreme Arian party, the Anomoeans, succeeded in winning over Emperor Constantius II, and both the Western synod held at Ariminum and the Eastern synod at Seleucia turned against the formula of Basil. He and his colleagues were sent to Constantius at Constantinople, where they signed the homoean formula of Ariminum in 359. As leadership of the group thus passed from Basil to Acacius of Caesarea, Arianism was at least temporarily in control. Acacius held a synod at Constantinople in 360, at which Basil and his friends were deposed and sent into exile. Basil was banished to Illyria; he apparently attempted to be reinstated under Emperor Jovianus, but died in exile c. 364 after recanting his consent to the formula of Ariminum.

Although epiphanius of constantia is harsh on Basil, claiming he was merely an Arian in disguise, hila ry of poitiers and Athanasius are far more just; Athanasius (De synodis 41) suggests that his doctrine, apart from his rejection of the homoousios, was nearly equivalent to the orthodox position, and such men "must not be treated as enemies." Athanasius' moderate view accords with Basil's actions during his last years and is surely right.

Jerome (De vir. ill. 89) mentions two other works, Against Marcellus, which has been lost, and a treatise On Virginity, which is almost certainly to be identified with the treatise On the True Purity of Chastity, dedicated to Letoius, recovered from the works of Basil the Great by F. Cavallera [Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 6 (1905) 514]. The physiological and anatomical details found throughout this work suit the tradition that Basil had been a physician. The angelic life of virginity can be achieved only on the foundation of bodily harmony, which must be fostered by fasting, austerities, the avoidance of condiments and wine, and care in the use of foods that arouse the passions and lend a foothold to the devil. Moderation and balance are always to be observed: the reins of the chariot must be neither too tight nor too loose. Basil's doctrine here is Neoplatonic and Alexandrian. The Slavonic text of the treatise has been edited by A. Vaillant (Paris 1943), who disputes the thesis of Cavallera.

Bibliography: f. cavallera, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique: Doctrine et histoire (Paris 1932) 1:1283. j. janini cuesta, "Dieta y virginidad," Miscelánea Comillas 14(1950) 187197. Patrologia Graeca (Paris 185766) 30:669810. j. quasten, Patrology (Westminster, Md. 1950) 3:201203.

[h. musurillo]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Basil of Ancyra." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 17 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Basil of Ancyra." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (January 17, 2019).

"Basil of Ancyra." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved January 17, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.