Athanasius was born to a Christian family in the city of Alexandria or possibly the nearby Nile Delta town of Damanhur in 293. His parents were wealthy enough to afford giving him a fine secular education. Alexandria was the most important trade center in the whole empire during Athanasius’s boyhood. Intellectually, morally, and politically—it epitomized the ethnically diverse Graeco-Roman world, even more than Rome or Constantinople, Antioch or Marseilles.
Athanasius recounts being a student, as well as being educated by the Martyrs of the Great (tenth) and last persecution of Christianity by pagan Rome. In 319 the Bishop Alexander of Alexandria invited Athanasius to be his commensal and secretary. He had been well educated, and was versed in grammar and rhetoric, and had already, while still a young man, and before reaching the episcopate, given proof to those who dwelt with him of his wisdom and acumen. Finally In 325 Athanasius attended Bishop Alexander as deacon at the Council of Nicaea.
A recognized theologian and ascetic, Athanasius was the obvious candidate to succeed Alexander when the latter died in 328. The first years of his episcopate were devoted to visitation of his extensive patriarchate, which included all of Egypt and Libya. During this time he established important contacts with the Coptic monks of Upper Egypt and their leader St. Pachomius.Read More »