Asterius, bp. of Amasea

Asterius (2), bp. of Amasea in Pontus, a contemporary of St. Chrysostom. He himself tells us that his teacher was a certain Scythian (i.e. Goth), who, having been sold in his youth to a citizen of Antioch, a schoolmaster, had made marvellous progress under his owner’s instructions, and won himself a great name among Greeks and Romans (Phot. Bibl. 271, p. 1500). Beyond this not a single incident in his life is recorded. His date, however, is fixed by allusions to contemporary events in his Homilies. He speaks of the apostasy of Julian as having happened within his memory (Aster. Or. 3, p. 56, ed. Combefis); and in his sermon on the Festival of the Calends (Or. 4, p. 76) he mentions the consulate and fall of Eutropius as an event of the preceding year. This sermon therefore must have been delivered on New Year’s Day, 400. Elsewhere he spoke of himself as a man of very advanced age (Phot. Amphil. 125 [312]).

The extant works of Asterius consist almost solely of sermons or homilies. Of these we possess twenty-two perfect; twelve on various subjects included in the edition of Combefis (Paris, 1648); eight on the Psalms, of which one is found among the works of St. Chrysostom, and the remaining seven were published by Cotelier, Mon. Eccl. Graec. ii. (Paris, 1688); and two again on other subjects, which are published among the works of Gregory Nyssen, but must be assigned to Asterius on the authority of Photius. Besides these Photius (Bibl. 271) gives extracts from several others. In addition to these homilies, a Life of his predecessor, St. Basil of Amasea, printed in the Acta Sanctorum, April 26, is ascribed to him. A complete collection of his works will be found in Migne’s Patr. Gk. xl.; a complete list in Fabric. Bibl. Gk. x. 513 seq. ed. Harles. An account of their contents is given by Tillemont, x. 409 seq.

Asterius was a student of Demosthenes (Or. 11, p. 207), and himself no mean orator. His best sermons (for they are somewhat uneven) display no inconsiderable skill in rhetoric, great power of expression, and great earnestness of moral conviction; and some passages are even strikingly eloquent. His orthodoxy was unquestioned. Photius (Amphil. l.c.) contrasts him with his Arian namesake, as stanch in the faith, devoting himself to the care of his flock, and setting an example of a virtuous and godly life. His authority was quoted with great respect in later ages, more especially during the Iconoclastic controversy at the second council of Nicaea, when with a play on his name he was referred to as “a bright star (astrum) illumining the minds of all” (Labbe, Conc. viii. 1385, 1387, ed. Coleti). Bardenhewer (1908) refers to a Syllogehistorica on Asterius by V. de Buck in Acta SS. Oct. (Paris, 1883), xiii. 330-332.


Source: Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature