Basil (from Βασιλεῖος, Basilius), ST., "the Great," one of the most eminent of the Greek fathers, was born about the end of the year 328, probably at Neocaesarea. He began his studies at Caesarea, in Palestine, whence he proceeded to Constantinople to hear the famous Libanius, and thence to Athens, where he contracted an intimate friendship with Gregory Nazianzen. About 355 he returned to his own country, but soon after left his home again and traveled into Libya, visiting the famous monasteries of those countries. Upon his return he was first made reader in the church of Caesarea, and afterward ordained deacon. But about the year 358 he retired into a solitude of Pontus, where he built a monastery near that of his sister Macrina (q.v.), and with his brothers, Peter and Naucratius, and several others, he followed an ascetic life, and, drawing up a rule for his community, became the founder of the monastic life in those regions. In 364 (or 362) he was ordained priest by Eusebius, and in 369 or 370, on the death of Eusebius, was elected bishop of Caesarea, after great opposition, which was finally overcome only by the personal efforts of the aged Gregory of Nazianzus. But the emperor Valens soon began to persecute him because he refused to embrace the doctrine of the Arians, of which he and Gregory of Nazianzus were strenuous opponents. The death of Valens's son gave freedom of action to Basil, who devoted his efforts to bring about a reunion between the Eastern and Western churches, which had been divided upon points of faith, and in regard to Meletius and Paulinus, two bishops of Antioch. The Western churches acknowledged Paulinus for the legal bishop; Meletius was supported by the Eastern churches. But all his efforts were ineffectual, this dispute not being terminated till nine months after his death. Basil was also engaged in some contests relating to the division which the emperor had made of Cappadocia into two provinces. Eustathius, bishop of Sebaste, had been a friend of Basil, and had planted monasticism in Asia, a pursuit in which Basil fully sympathized; but Eustathius openly embraced Arianism, and Basil in 373 broke with him and wrote against him. He also wrote against Apollinaris; in fact, he took a part in most of the controversies of his age. He died Jan. 1, 379, with these words on his lips: "O Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit." Basil was a man of great piety, profound learning, and great eloquence. During the Arian controversy he was an unflinching champion of the orthodox doctrine. At first, through fear of Sabellianism, he preferred the homoiousian formula; but in the strifes which followed, he was brought to clearer apprehension of the question, and acknowledged the Nicene Creed, which he ever afterward steadfastly maintained. For a statement of his view of the Trinity, see Dorner, Doctrine of the Person of Christ, Edinb. ed., Div. I, vol. 2, p. 305 sq. SEE ARIANISM. The Greek Church honors him as one of its most illustrious saints, and celebrates his festival January 1st. The works of Basil were first published, with a preface of Erasmus, at Basle, 1532; a better edition, with Latin translation and notes, was published by the Jesuits Fronton le Duc and Morel (Paris, 1618, 2 vols. fol., and again 1638, 3 vols. fol.). Valuable contributions to a more correct edition were made by the Dominican Combefis, in his work Basilius Magnus, ex integro recensitus (Paris, 1679, 2 vols. 8vo). The most complete edition was prepared by the Benedictine Garnier (Paris, 1721-1730, 3 vols. folio), reprinted in the excellent Paris edition of 1839 (6 vols. royal 8vo). The contents of the Benedictine edition (1721-30, 3 vols.) are as follows: Tom. 1:
(1.) Homiliae in Hexaemeron novem; (2.) Homilies in quosdam Psalmos, viz. 1, 7, 14 (part), 23, 29, 32, 33, 44, 45, 48, 59, 61, 104; (3.) Libri adversus Eunomium 5.
Appendix, complectens Opera quaedam Basilio falso adscripta, quibus Opus Eunomii adjungitur. Tom. ii:
(1.) Homilies de Diversis 24; (2.) Ascetica, viz.
(i.) Praevia Institutio ascetica; (ii.) Sermo asceticus de Renunciatione Saeculi, etc.; (iii.) Sermo de ascetica Disciplina, etc.; (iv.) Prooemium de Judicio Dei; (v.) Sermo de Fide; (vi.) Index Moralium; (vii.) Initium Moralium; (viii. and ix.) Sermo asceticus; (x.) Prooemium in Regulas fusius tractatas; (xi.) Capita Regularum fusius tractatarum; (xii.) Regulae fusius tractatae; (xiii.) Poenae in Monachos delinquentes; (xiv.) Epitimia in Canonicas; (xv.) Capita Constitutionum; (xvi.) Constitutiones Monasticae; (xvii.) Homilia de Spiritu S.; (xviii.) Homilia in aliquot Scrip. Locis, dicta in Lazicis; (xix.) Homilia in Sanctam Christi Generationem; (xx.) Homilia de Poenitentia; (xxi.) Homilia in Calumniatores S. Trinitatis; (xxii.) Sermo de Libero Arbitrio; (xxiii.) Homilia in illud. "Ne dederis somnum oculis tuis," etc.; (xxiv.) Homilia 3 de Jejunio; (xxv.) Sermo asceticus; (xxvi.) Liber 1 de Baptismo: (xxvii.) Liber 2 de Baptismo; (xxviii.) Liturgia S. Basilii Alexandrina; (xxix.) Liturgia S. Basilii Coptica; (xxx.) Tractatus de Consolatione in Adversis; (xxxi.) De Laude solitariae Vitae; (xxxii.) Admonitio ad Filium Spiritualem;
(3.) Homiliae  S. Basilii quas transtulit Ruffinus e Graeco in Latinum; (4.) Notes Frontonis Ducaei; (5.) Note et Animad. F. Morelli. Tom. 3: (1.) Liber de Spiritu Sancto (Erasmus was the first to dispute the authenticity of this book, which is undoubtedly the work of St. Basil. — See Casaubon, Exrercit. 16, cap. 43. — Cave; Dupin);
(2.) S. Basilii Epistolae, distributed chronologically into three classes — Class 1, containing those which were written from 357 to 370, i.e. before his episcopate, to which are added some of doubtful date; Class 2, from 370 to 378; Class 3, Epistles without date, doubtful and spurious. Appendix: Sermones 24 de Moribus, per Symeonen Magistrum et Logothetam, selecti ex omnibus S. Basilii operibus; De Virginitate liber. A. Jahn published, as a supplement to this edition, Animadversiones in Basilii M. Opera Fascic. I (Bern. 1842). The best selection from his works, containing all, indeed, that ordinary theological students need, is that of Leipzic, 1854, forming the second volume of Thilo's Bibliotheca Patrum Graecorum Dogmatica. His writings are divided into, (1.) polemical, (2.) liturgical, (3.) exegetical, (4.) ascetic. Among his polemical books, that on the Holy Spirit, and the five books against the Eunomians, are the most important. His liturgical writings are of great value, and some of his services are still, in abridged forms, in use in the Greek Church. Both by his example and his writings he was the substantial founder of monasticism in the East, so that it is common, though erroneous, to call all Oriental monks Basilians (q.v.). A. Jahn, in the treatise Basilius Plotinizans (1831), tried to show that Basil had largely copied from Plotinus. His Liturgia Alexandrina Graeca is given in Renaudot, Lit. Orient. Collectio, vol. 1. For a list of his genuine writings, as well as of those thought to be spurious, see Cave, Hist. Lit. anno 370; Lardner, Works, 4:278. See also Feiffer, Dissert. de Vita Basilii (Groning. 1828, 8vo); Bohringer, Kirchengeschichte in Biographien, 1:2,153; Dupin, Eccl. Writers, cent. 4; Hermantius, Vie de St. Basile le Grand (Paris, 1574, 2 vols. 4to); Klose, Basilius der Grosse (Strals. 1835, 8vo); Fialon, Etude hist. et liter. 'sur St. Basile (Paris, 1866); Palmer, Origines Liturgicae, 1:46; Villemain, Eloquence au IVme Siecle, p. 114; Landon, Eccl. Dict. 2:62.