Athanasios I Gamolo (d. 631) [Syr. Orth.]

Long-serving patr. of the Syr. Orth. Church in the late 6th and early 7th cent. His consecration is commonly dated to 594 or 595, but there is confusion in the sources as to the exact date: medieval and modern authors have also suggested 587, 597, and 603 as possibilities. All sources agree that Athanasios died in 631 and one gives 28 July as the precise day (Chronica Minora, vol. 2, ed. E. W. Brooks, p. 144).

Athanasios was ordained patr. against his will. Afterwards, his bishops agreed to allow him to return to his monastery for a year to complete the task which had been assigned him there: tending camels. When the bishops came to collect Athanasios a year later, they found him working in a mud pit, helping to patch up a camel stable. This association with camels earned him the epithet Gamolo ‘Camel Driver.’

Athanasios’s patriarchate spanned a tumultuous period in the history of the Near East: the Byzantine-Persian wars of the early 7th cent. Most of Athanasios’s actions recorded in historical sources relate to his confronting the implications for the church of changing political orders; in the course of his service he dealt either directly or indirectly with both Byzantine and Persian rulers.

Athanasios is credited with reorganizing the structure of the Syr. Orth. Church in the Persian Empire. He appointed bishops there and gave Dayro d-Mor Matay primacy over all other monasteries in the Persian Empire.

In perhaps 629–30, Athanasios, along with twelve bishops, met with the Emperor Heraclius for twelve days in Mabbug and held theological discussions. When they ultimately refused to accept the Council of Chalcedon, Heraclius became enraged and unleashed a persecution on Miaphysites throughout the Empire.

In either 610 or 616, Athanasios and Anastasius, the Miaphysite patr. of Alexandria, ended the Tritheist schism which had divided the two churches since the late 6th-cent. dispute between Damian and Peter of Kallinikos.

The ‘Conflict of Severus’ (PO 4 and PO 49.4), which exists in Coptic fragments as well as in Arabic and Ethiopic, is the only stand-alone work of Athanasios which survives. His other extant works are all to be found embedded in the Chronicle of Michael Rabo. They include: a letter of Athanasios to Quryaqos of Amid (vol. 2, 381–94; vol. 4, 392–9); the synodicon established by Athanasios and Anastasios, patr. of Alexandria, ending the Tritheist schism (vol.  2, 381–93; vol. 4, 392–9); an encyclical of Athanasios to the bps. of the East (vol.  2, 394–9; vol. 4, 400–2); a libellus of Athanasios to Heraclius (vol. 2, 405–8; vol. 4, 404–8); and a letter to the monks of Mor Matay (vol. 2, 414–7; vol.  4, 411–3).

After his death in 631, Athanasios was succeeded as patr. by his synkellos, Yuḥanon of the Sedre.


  • Abbeloos and Lamy, Gregorii Barhebraei chronicon ecclesiasticum, vol. 1, cols. 262–75.
  • Chabot, Chronique de Michel le Syrien, vol. 2/4, 379–81/389–92; 375–7/387–9; 399/402; 401–3/403–4; 411–4/408–10; 419/14.
  • B. Flusin, ‘Église monophysite et église chalcédonienne en Syrie à l’arrivée des Arabes’, in Cristianità d’Occidente e Cristianità d’Oriente (Secoli VI–XI), vol. 1 (2004), 667–705.
  • E. J. Goodspeed and W. E. Crum, The Conflict of Severus, patriarch of Antioch, by Athanasius (PO 4.6; 1909). (Ethiopic and Coptic with ET)
  • A.  Scher, Histoire nestorienne inédite (Chronique de Séert), part 2 (PO 13; 1919), 542–5, 634.
  • Y. N. Youssef, The Arabic Life of Severus of Antioch attributed to Athanasius of Antioch (PO 49.4; 2004) (Arabic with ET).

How to Cite This Entry

Jack B. Tannous , “Athanasios I Gamolo,” in Athanasios I Gamolo, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay,

Footnote Style Citation with Date:

Jack B. Tannous , “Athanasios I Gamolo,” in Athanasios I Gamolo, edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018),

Bibliography Entry Citation:

Tannous, Jack B. “Athanasios I Gamolo.” In Athanasios I Gamolo. Edited by Sebastian P. Brock, Aaron M. Butts, George A. Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay. Digital edition prepared by David Michelson, Ute Possekel, and Daniel L. Schwartz. Gorgias Press, 2011; online ed. Beth Mardutho, 2018.

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