St. Athanasios the Great was born in Alexandria, Egypt in a.d. 296 and attended the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea in a.d. 325 as a deacon of Patriarch Alexander of Alexandria. He became famous at this Council for his learning, spiritual insight, and zeal for the Orthodox Christian Faith. This First Ecumenical Council was called to resolve the disputes of the first great heresy in the Church, the Arian Heresy, which claimed that Christ was a creature created by God, not God Himself. The heretic Arian had many followers who took up and defended this heresy.
Heresy is not just a meaningless mistake in dogma, but a direct affront to the correct understanding of how to practice the Christian Faith, and it poisons the mind and heart, leading its followers away from Christ by their pride. Because St. Athanasios defended the correct teaching of the Church, the Arians hated him, and slandered and persecuted him throughout most of his life. He lived in exile for 46 years, hiding from his persecutors in the desert, in a well, in a grave, and in private houses. He, however, ended his life in peace in a.d. 373, restored again to his flock in Alexandria.