Athanasius I Gammolo

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Athanasius I Gammolo
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Church Syriac Orthodox Church
See Antioch
Installed 595
Predecessor Julian I
Successor John II
Personal details
Birth name Athanasius
Born Samosata, Byzantine Empire

Athanasius I Gammolo was the Patriarch of Antioch, and head of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch from 595 until his death in 631. Athanasius was also the author of The Life of Severus of Antioch, a biography of the first Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch.


Athanasius was born in the 6th century in the city of Samosata where he was brought up by his mother, Mania. Later, Athanasius and his brother Severus became monks at the monastery of Qinnasrin. During this time he was known as Gammolo, which meant "camel driver" because he delivered salt to the monastery from Aleppo by camel.[1]

After the death of Julian I, the metropolitan bishops gathered at the monastery of Qinnasrin to elect a new patriarch. According to tradition, one of the Metropolitans was told by God in a dream that the new patriarch would be the first monk who will knock on the door of the monastery in the following morning. In the following morning, Athanasius arrived with his salt and was chosen to be patriarch.[2]

This election, according to Michael the Great, took place in 595, immediately after Julian's death, however Jacob of Edessa states the date as 603. It is believed that Michael removed the vacancy so as to remove doubt on the legitimate succession of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchs since St. Peter.[3]

As the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch was forbidden by the Byzantines to enter Antioch, Athanasius resided at the Monastery of Mor Zacchaeus near Raqqa. He later appointed his brother Severus as the bishop of Samosata. In 603, the final and longest war between the Byzantines and Sassanians began as Khosrau II invaded Mesopotamia and Syria, and by 610 Antioch had been conquered.

In 607, upon receiving a letter from the Pope Anastasius of Alexandria, who hoped to establish closer relations since the split in 580, Athanasius travelled to Alexandria with five bishops, including his brother Severus, to discuss implementing their new-found unity. Athanasius remained at the Monastery of the Ennaton outside Alexandria, where Anastasius resided as the Coptic Orthodox Church was also forbidden, for a month before returning to Syria.

In 628, after Heraclius' victory over Khosrau, Athanasius sent his secretary and eventual successor, John of the Sedre to meet with the new king, Kavadh II in Ctesiphon. He then appointed Marutha of Tagrit as Maphrian of the East, who resided in Tagrit and reorganised the Jacobite Church in the Sassanian Empire. Athanasius also gave special privileges to the Monastery of Mar Mattai.

The following year, Athanasius and twelve other bishops met with Heraclius in Mabbogh for twelve days to discuss union with the Imperial Church, and become the recognised Patriarch of Antioch if he supported Monothelitism. Athanasius accepted the union but on ambiguous terms and refused to sign anything; he died shortly after and the union was not fulfilled.


Preceded by
Julian I
Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch
Succeeded by
John II