He was born in 329 in Arianzus, a village of the second district of Cappadocia, not far from Nazianzus. His father, who later became [[Bishop]] of Nazianzus, was named [[Gregory Nazianzen the Elder|Gregory]] (commemorated [[January 1|Jan. 1]]), and his mother was named Nonna ([[August 5|Aug. 5]]); both are among the saints, and so are his brother Caesarius ([[March 9|Mar. 9]]) and his sister [[Gorgonia]] ([[February 23|Feb. 23]]).
At first he studied in Caesarea of Palestine, then in Alexandria, and finally in Athens. As he was sailing from Alexandria to Athens, a violent sea storm put in peril not only his life but also his salvation, since he had not yet been [[baptism|baptized]]. With tears and fervour he besought God to spare him, vowing to dedicate his whole self to Him, and the tempest gave way to calm. At Athens Saint Gregory was later joined by St. [[Basil the Great]], whom he already knew; but now their acquaintanceship grew into a lifelong brotherly love. Another fellow student of theirs in Athens was the young Prince Julian, who later as Emperor was called the [[Apostate]] because he denied Christ and did all in his power to restore paganism. Even in Athens, before Julian had thrown off the mask of piety; St. Gregory saw what an unsettled mind he had, and said, "What an evil the Roman State is nourishing" (Orat. V, 24, PG 35:693).