AMBROSE of MILAN
 ca. 339-397
ca. 370: Governor of Aemilia-Liguria
with seat in Milan

 374 Bishop of Milan
 

 Ambrose Baptizes Augustine, Gozzolini, 1575.


Fluent in both Latin and Greek, Ambrose transmits the earlier (Origenist) tradition through biblical and liturgical commentaries that make liberal use of the Song of Songs.


BISHOP of Milan, Ambrose was born at Trier, the son of the Praetorian Prefect of Gaul.  After practicing in the Roman law-courts he was appointed, c. 370, governor of Aemilia-Liguria, with his seat at Milan.  On the death in 374 of Auxentius, the Arian Bishop` of Milan, the Catholic laity demanded that Ambrose should succeed him.  He was then a Christian by belief, but unbaptized, i.e. only a catechumen. With some hesitation he accepted the see, was baptized and ordained, and first devoted himself to the study of theology under the guidance of his former tutor, Simplicianus.

As bishop he was famous as a preacher, and outstanding as a jealous upholder of orthodoxy.  To him was partly due the conversion of St. Augustine (386), who greatly revered him. 

Events brought him into close touch with the rulers of the Western Empire: Gratian, Maximus, Justina (mother of Valentinian II), and Theodosius I. He combated paganism and Arianism, maintained the independence of the Church against the civil power, and championed morality, e.g. in protesting against the execution of Priscillianist heretics under Maximus, and in excommunicating the Emperor Theodosius for a massacre at Thessalonica.

Apart from the De Sacramentis, of which the Ambrosian authorship is now generally recognized, his most notable work is De Officiis Ministrorum. a treatise on Christian ethics, based on Cicero, with special reference to the clergy.  The rest consist largely of the substance of sermons or instruction given to candidates for baptism, on the Faith and Sacraments.

Knowledge of Greek enabled him to introduce much East theology into the West.  He also wrote on ascetical subjects, and did much to encourage monasticism in N. Italy.  His Letters are of great historical value.  He is also the author of several well-known Latin hymns, and modern scholarship (H.  Brewer and A. E. Burn) has occasionally attributed to him the so-called Athanasian Creed.

Based on The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. E. Livingstone.


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