PALAMAS, GREGORIUS (c. 1296-1359), Greek mystic and chief apologist of the Hesychasts (q.v.), belonged to a distinguished Anatolian family, and his father held an important position at Constantinople. Palamas at an early age retired to Mt Athos, where he became acquainted with the mystical theories of the Hesychasts. In 1326 he went to Skete near Beroea, where he spent some years in isolation in a cell specially built for him. His health having broken down, he returned to Mt Athos, but, finding little relief, removed to Thessalonica. About this time Barlaam, the Calabrian monk, began his attacks upon the monks of Athos, and Palamas came forward as their champion. In 1341 and 1351 he took part in the two synods at Constantinople, which definitively secured the victory of the Palamites. During the civil war between John Cantacuzene and the Palaeologi, Palamas was imprisoned. After Cantacuzene's victory in 1347, Palamas was released and appointed archbishop of Thessalonica; being refused admittance by the inhabitants, he retired to the island of Lemnos, but subsequently obtained his see. Palamas endeavoured to justify the mysticism of the Hesychasts on dogmatic grounds. The chief objects of his attack were Barlaam, Gregorius Acindynus and Nicephorus Gregoras.
Palamas was a prolific writer, but only a few of his works have been published, most of which will be found in J. P. Migne, Patrologia graeca (cl., cli.). They consist of polemics against the Latins and their doctrine of the Procession of the Holy Ghost; Hesychastic writings; homilies; a life of St Peter (a monk of Athos) ; a rhetorical essay Prosopopeia (ed. A. Jahn, 1884), containing the accusations brought against the body by the soul, the defence made by the body, and the final pronouncement of the judges in favour of the body, on the ground that its sins are the result of inadequate teaching.
See the historical works of John Cantacuzene and Nicephorus Gregoras, the Vila Palamae by Philotheus, and the encomium by Nilus (both patriarchs of Constantinople) ; also C. Krumbachcr, Ceschich'.e der byzantinischen Lilleratur (1897).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)