Athanasius (ca. 300-373) became bishop of Alexandria in 328. He seems to have been present at the Council of Nicaea three years earlier as an assistant to his predecessor,  Bishop Alexander.  Athanasius immediately faced two weighty problems—the schism of the rigorist Meletians and the still festering problem of Arius and those who supported his type of theology.  As a fierce defender of the Nicene faith, Athanasius was condemned, exiled, and reinstated five times throughout his life. He unwaveringly opposed all attempts to express the truth of Jesus’s divinity as in any way less than that of his Father.  Thus, while viewed with distrust by many Eastern theologians during his own lifetime, Athanasius became one of the most revered figures in the later Greek and Latin churches.

Some of Athanasius’s  most significant works include On the Incarnation, Defense against the Arians, On the Decrees of the Council of Nicaea, and his Life of Antony.  The latter, written soon after the death of the well-known hermit, was extremely popular and became a model for future hagiographical biographies of Christian “saints.”  Many of his works are difficult to date with precision.  Furthermore, scholars disagree on whether some works come from the pen of Athanasius himself.  The list below is based on the Clavis Patrum Graecorum. The dates and English titles are taken from the sources at the bottom of the page.  In general, the dates of Barnes are followed.  Where Barnes does not give a date for a particular work, Brakke was consulted, then Drobner, then Moreschini, and finally Robertson if no other date was found.  Brakke, “The Authenticity…” (see bibliography below), is the primary source used in identifying the genuine works on asceticism. 


Explanation of Chart:

  date: If a date is questionable it is followed by a question mark. Works of unknown date are given in separate charts at the end.
  English title: When multiple titles exist for a work, variations are also given. (Parentheses) denote an optional addition to the title of a work.
When a work survives in a language other than Greek, the language is given in [brackets and italics]. Other notes are also given in [brackets and italics].
Important events are given in [brackets and italics] for historical reference.
  Latin title: Though Athanasius wrote in Greek, we provide Latin titles because they are used more commonly than Greek titles in English literature.
Possible abbreviations around found in parentheses, all of which were taken from the books above or other works such as Nicaea and Its Legacy.
  CPG: Reference number in Clavis Patrum Graecorum
  shading: Because Athanasius spent so much of his episcopacy in exile, the five exiles have been marked with a shaded background.

Break page here.

Date English title Latin title (Latin abbrev.) CPG
320-24 Encyclical Letter of Alexander concerning the Deposition of Arius [possibly authored by Athanasius] Henos sōmatos, known by this Greek title 2000
326-328 ? Against the Pagans/Gentiles/Nations [see note for other possible dates.] Oratio contra gentes (Gent.) 2090
326-328 ? On the Incarnation (of the Word) [see note for other possible dates.] Oratio de incarnatione Verbi (Inc.) 2091
329-373 Festal Letters [written annually at Easter] Epistula Festales (Ep. fest.) 2102
337-339 ? (First) Letter to Virgins [Coptic] Epistula ad uirgines (Ep. virg. Copt. or Ep. virg. 1) 2147
339 [April 16 beginning of second exile, in the West]    
339-340 Encyclical Letter / Circular Letter Epistula encyclica (Ep. encycl.)
Epistula ad episcopos
337-345? Orations against the Arians Orationes contra Arianos (Ar.) 2093
337-345? Letter to Serapion, on the death of Arius [or later, see 356] Epistula ad Serapionem de morte Arii (Ep. mort. Ar.) 2125
pre 342
Homily on Matthew 11:27
On “All things were delivered…”
(Hom. in Mt. 11:27)
In illud: Omnia mihi tradita sunt
343-344 Letter to the Clergy of Alexandria (and the Parembola) Epistula ad clerum Alexandriae et paremboles (Ep. cler. Alex.) 2111
343-344 Letter to the Mareotis (from Sardica)
Letter to the Clergy of the Mareotis
Epistula ad easdem apud Mareotam ecclesias
Epistula ad clerum Mareotae
346 [October 21 end of second exile]    
350-356 On the Council of Nicaea,
(On the) Defense of the Nicene Definition
Defense of the Nicene Council
De decretis Nicaenae synodi (Decr.) 2120
353-357? Defense before Constantius [probably composed in stages over several years.] Apologia ad Constantium (Apol. Const.) 2129
354 Letter to Ammoun/Amun Epistula ad Amun (Ep. Amun.) 2106
354/359? Defense of Dionysius
On the Opinion of Dionysius
De sententia Dionysii (Dion.) 2121
354-355 Letter to Dracontius Epistula ad Dracontium (Ep. Drac.) 2132
356 [February beginning of third exile, in the Egyptian desert.]    
356 Letter to the Bishops of Egypt and Libya Epistula ad episcopos Aegypti et Libyae (Ep. Aeg. Lib.) 2092
356-62 Life of Anthony Vita Antonii (VA, V. Ant.) 2101
356-360? Letter to Serapion, on the death of Arius [or earlier, see 337] Epistula ad Serapionem de morte Arii (Ep. mort. Ar.) 2125
357 Defense against the Arians  [this work excerpts many documents from 328-347] Apologia contra Arianos (Apologia secunda, Apol. sec.) 2123
357-358 Defense of His Flight Apologia de fuga sua (Fug.) 2122
357-358 History of the Arians Historia Arianorum [ad monachos] (H. Ar.) 2127
358-360 (First) Letter to Monks Epistula ad monachos (Ep. mon.) 2108
359-360 Letters to Serapion on the Holy Spirit Epistulae iv ad Serapionem 2094
359-362 On the Councils/Synods of Ariminum and Seleucia [the bulk composed in 359 with a few later additions. De synodis Arimini in Italia et Seleuciae in Isauria (Syn.) 2128
pre- 360 (Second) Letter to Monks Epistula ad monachos
Historia Arianorum Epistula (H. Ar. ep.)
362 [February 21 end of third exile]    
362 Synodal Letter to the People of Antioch
Tome to the People of Antioch [not written by Athanasius per se, but by a Synod over which he presided]
Tomus ad Antiochenos (Tom.) 2134
362 [October 4 beginning of fourth exile, in the desert]    
363 Letter of Jovian to Athanasius Epistula Iouiani ad Athanasium 2136
363 Letter to Jovian Epistula ad Iouianum 2135
363 Petitions of the Arians to Jovian at Antioch Petitiones Arianorum 2137
363 First Letter to Orsisius/Horsisius Epistula i ad Orsisium (Ep. Ors.) 2103
364 [February 14 end of fourth exile.]    
Second Letter to Orsisius/Horsisius Epistula ii ad Orsisium (Ep. Ors.) (Ep. Serap.) 2104
post 365 Letter to Diodorus [Fragmentary] Epistula ad Diodrum 2164
369 Letter to the Bishops of Africa [authorship has been questioned - cf. Gwynn, p. 15, note 12] Epistula ad Afros (Ep. Afr.) 2133
370-371 Letter to Rufinianus Epistula ad Rufinianum 2107
370 Letter to Epictetus Epistula ad Epictetum 2095
c. 370 Commentary on the Psalms Expositiones in psalmos 2140
c. 370? Narration/Report of Athanasius to Ammon concerning his flight. Narratio Athanasii
Narratio ad Ammonium episcopum de fuga sua (Narr. fug.)
370-371 Letter to Adelphium Epistula ad Adelphium (Ep. Adelph.) 2098
370-371 Letter to Maximinus Epistula ad Maximum (Ep. Max.) 2100
c. 372 Letter to John and Antiochus Epistula ad Iohannem et Antiochum (Ep. Jo. et Ant.) 2130
c. 372 Letter to Palladius Epistula ad Palladium 2131

No date was found for these short works, many of which are fragmentary. Brakke, “The Authenticity…” (see above), is the primary source used in identifying the genuine ascetic works:

Homily on Luke 12:10
On “Whoever speaks a word against the Son…”
(Hom. Luc. 12:10)
In illud: Qui dixerit verbum in filium
Letter to Marcellinus on the Interpretation of the Psalms Epistula ad Marcellinum de interpretatione Psalmorum (Ep. Marcell.) 2097
Letter to Bishop Potamius Epistula ad Potamium episcopum (fragmentum) 2109
Letter to Epiphanius Epistula ad Epiphanium 2110
Historia Acephala [referred to in English by Latin title] Historia acephala 2119
Defense of Dionysius
On the Opinion of Dionysius
De sententia Dionysii (Dion.) 2121
Fragments of his Commentaries Fragmenta in catenis 2141
(Letter to Virgins)
On Virginity [Syriac and Armenian]
Sermo de uirginitate (Virg. or Ep. virg. Syr./Arm.) 2145
(Second) Letter to Virgins [Syriac] Epistula ad uirgines (Ep virg. 2 or Ep virg. Syr.) 2146
Partial Treatise on Virginity [Coptic, Fragmentary] Tractatus acephalus de uirginitate 2149
Excerpt of an unknown writing [Coptic, Fragmentary] Fragmenta apud Sinuthium/Shenuthium (Frag. apud Shen.) 2150a
On Charity and Self-Control [Coptic, Fragmentary] Epistula de caritate et temperantia (Car. et temp.) 2151
On the Moral Life [Coptic, Fragmentary] Fragmenta 2152
Coptic Excerpts Excerpta 2153
Letter to Virgins [Arabic, Fragmentary] Epistula ad uirgines 2154
On Sickness and on Health [Fragmentary] De morbo et ualetudine (Mor. et val.) 2160
Homily on John 12:27 [Fragmentary]
On “Now my soul is troubled…”
Homilia in illud: Nunc anima mea turbata est 2161
Letter of Consolation to Virgins [Fragmentary] Epistula exhortatoria ad uirgines apud Theodoretum (Ep. virg. Theod.) 2162
Letter to Eupsychius [Fragmentary] Epistula ad Eupsychium 2163

The following are judged too short to determine their authenticity in Brakke, “The Authenticity…” (see above):

Fragments [Arabic] Alia Fragmenta 2165
Excerpt of an unknown writing [Coptic, Fragmentary] Fragmenta apud Constantinum Assiutenum (Con. Enc. Ath. 2) 2150c
Teachings and Commandments Concerning Virgins [Coptic, Fragmentary] Praecepta ad uirgines (Praec. virg.) 2148
Excerpt of an unknown writing [Coptic, Fragmentary] Fragmenta apud Moysen (Frag. apud Mos..) 2150b

note – Against the Pagans and On the Incarnation are difficult to date. They contain no references to the Arian controversy, which seems to indicate they were written before the Arian controversy began. But that would mean Athanasius was very young, perhaps even 18, when he wrote them. But if we assume he wrote them when he was older, it is difficult to understand why he does not refer to the Arian controversy, especially since these treatises deal with subjects under discussion in the controversy. Barnes hypothesizes that Athanasius wrote these two books shortly after the Council of Nicea, when it briefly seemed that they controversy was resolved. According to this view, Athanasius used this opportunity to show his theological skill as he anticipated that he would succeed Alexander as bishop of Alexandria. He did not refer to the controversy because Arius was in exile and refuting him would have been superfluous. This chart has followed Barnes’s hypothesis. Others have placed the date before the Council of Nicea (318-324) or during the first exile (335-337).


T.D. Barnes, Athanasius and Constantius: Theology and Politics in the Constantinian Empire (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1993)

D. Brakke, Athanasius and the Politics of Asceticism , (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995).

D. Brakke, “The Authenticity of the Ascetic Athanasius,” Orientalia 63 (1994), pp. 17-56

H.R. Drobner, The Fathers of the Church: A Comprehensive Introduction , S.S. Schatzmann, trans., W. Harmless and H.R. Drobner, revisions (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007).

D.M. Gwynn, The Eusebians: The Polemic of Athanasius of Alexandria and the Construction of the ‘Arian Controversy’ (Oxford University Press, 2007).

Kannengiesser, C. “Athanasius.” In Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. Edited by Everett Ferguson. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1990, p. 110-112.

C. Moreschini and E. Norelli, Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature: A Literary History, trans. M.O’Connell, vol. 2 (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson, 2005).

A. Robertson, Select Writings and Letters of Athanasius, Bishops of Alexandria, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, series 2, vol. 4 (New York: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1892)

Stead, G.C. “Athanasius.” In Encyclopedia of the Early Church . Edited by Angelo Di Berardino. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 93-95.

Created by AJW, revised by JJW

Updated on 9/13/13

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Contents of Athanasius Werke

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