St. Athanasios was born in Trebizon in Asia Minor in a.d. 920, but was orphaned at an early age. He was adopted by a high-ranking army officer, later a monk, St. Michael Maleinos, who sent him to be educated in Constantinople. When he came of age, he left to become a monk at Mount Kyminas in Bythnia, but then relocated to the wilderness near Mount Athos in a.d. 958.
His patron St. Michael’s nephew, Phocas Nicephorus, became in time the Byzantine Emperor, and helped build the Great Lavra at the tip of Mount Athos which incorporated many of the small sketes which had been there before. St. Athanasios regularized the monastic rule under him and organized the monastic life. Once when he was discouraged because of great famine and the leaving of all of his monks from the foundation, he was tempted to leave himself. The Theotokos herself appeared to him, asking him where he was going, and how could he leave what would prosper, giving blessings to so many monks for ages. A miraculous spring then came up between them. St. Athanasios died later when constructing a wall which collapsed on him and five monks in 1000.