Athanasius I Gammolo

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Athanasius I Gammolo
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
ChurchSyriac Orthodox Church
PredecessorJulian I
SuccessorJohn III
Personal details
BornSamosata, Eastern Roman 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.[1]


Athanasius was born in the 6th century in the city of Samosata where he was brought by his mother, Mania, after the death of his father. He and his brother Severus later entered the Monastery of Qenneshre where they became monks, and Athanasius became as Gammolo (Syriac for "camel driver"), because he delivered salt to the monastery from Aleppo by camel. Following the death of Patriarch Julian I, bishops gathered at the Monastery of Qenneshre to elect a new patriarch. According to tradition, the bishops had a vision from God that the new patriarch would be the first monk to 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.[1]

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.[2] As the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch was forbidden from entering Antioch, Athanasius lived 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 Romans 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, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, 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.[3] Athanasius remained at the Monastery of the Ennaton outside Alexandria, where Anastasius lived as he was forbidden from residing in the city, for a month before returning to Syria.[3]

In 628, after Emperor 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, the capital of the Sasanian Empire. He then appointed Marutha of Tagrit as Maphrian of the East, who lived in Tagrit and reorganised the Jacobite Church in the Sassanian Empire. Athanasius also gave special privileges to the Monastery of Mar Mattai. In 629, Athanasius and twelve other bishops met with Heraclius in Mabbogh for twelve days to discuss union with the Imperial Church.[4]

Early academic literature says An agreement was struck whereby the Jacobites were to return to the Imperial Church on the basis of the single energy doctrine, and Athanasius was to be made Patriarch of Antioch after Anastasius III of Antioch. Then in 630, Bishop Cyrus was made Patriarch of Alexandria, and he soon won over another Non-Chalcedonian group. Very soon three of the five Patriarchates – Constantinople, Antioch and Alexandria – were teaching about Christ's "one theandric energy".[5] Even the Church of the East made concessions to the Romans.[6] However, Anastasius III was actually succeeded by Macedonius of Antioch and more recently Mark Tomass has asserted that Athanasius refused to yield to Heraclius' demands that he accept monoenergism and the emperor ordered the confiscation of many Syriac Orthodox churches and monasteries.[4]


  1. ^ a b Barsoum (2003)
  2. ^ Palmer (1993)
  3. ^ a b Morgan (2016)
  4. ^ a b Tomass (2016), p. 56
  5. ^ Bury, John B., A history of the later Roman empire from Arcadius to Irene, Volume 2 1889 pg 251
  6. ^ Wilmshurst, The Martyred Church, 69


  • Bury, John B., A history of the later Roman empire from Arcadius to Irene, Volume 2 1889
  • Barsoum, Ignatius Aphrem I (2003). Matti Moosa, ed. The Scattered Pearls: The History of Syriac Literature and Sciences
  • Morgan, Robert (2016). History of the Coptic Orthodox People and the Church of Egypt. FriesenPress.
  • Palmer, Andrew (1993). The Seventh Century in the West-Syrian Chronicles. Liverpool University Press.
  • Tomass, Mark (2016). The Religious Roots of the Syrian Conflict: The Remaking of the Fertile Crescent. Springer.
Preceded by
Julian I
Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch
Succeeded by
John III