Augustine of Hippo or simply St. Augustine was an important 4th century philosopher. He was instrumental in developing Western Christianity through his writings and teachings. He mixed Greek philosophy with Judeo-Christian religious traditions to form Neoplatonism.
He helped develop the descriptions of just war and original sin. He is a saint in several Christian religions from Roman Catholic to Calvinism to Protestant to the Anglican Communion to the Eastern Orthodox Church.
St. Augustine was born in 354 C.E. in the Roman Provence of Numidia which is in present-day Algeria. His mother was Monica. She was a devout Christian and a large influence on him throughout his life.
His father was Patricius who was a pagan that converted to Christianity on his deathbed. St. Augustine is believed to be a Berber and his family’s name suggests that they were freedmen of the Roman Empire. Although St. Augustine was a Berber his family spoke Latin.
As a child St. Augustine attended school at Madarus, a small Numidian town close to his birth place. He studied Latin literature along with pagan beliefs and practices. At age 17 years old he continued his studies in Carthage.
While in Carthage he had an affair with a woman. This affair would last more than 15 years and his mistress gave birth to his son Adeodatus. During this time period St. Augustine decided to follow the doctrine of Manichaean instead of Christianity.
By all accounts St. Augustine was a super student and was eager to learn. He never was able to master the Greek language but was an expert in Latin. While studying in Carthage he read Hortensius by Cicero. He was enthralled by Cicero’s writing of finding the truth.
At age 20 years old he moved back to his birth place and opened a school. He left for Carthage the following year where he opened a school. He taught there for nine years until he moved to Rome in 383 C.E.
The following year he was appointed to a prestigious teaching position in Milan. This teaching position usually led toward some type of political career. But although St. Augustine had spent ten years as a Manichaean he was still at the lowest level of hierarchy and considered an auditor.
Converting to Christianity
While teaching in Milan he was urged to convert to Christianity several times by his mother. His studies also turned him towards Christianity. In 386 C.E. St. Augustine converted from Manichaean to Christianity. He was baptized along with his son by his longtime associate Ambrose in 387 C.E.
St. Augustine’s mother died in the same year. He decided to move back to the family home in Africa. After arriving back in Africa his son would pass away.
St. Augustine abruptly sold everything and gave the money to the poor except the family house. He converted the family house into a monastic foundation for friends and himself.
St. Augustine was ordained a priest in 391 C.E. for the region known as Hippo Regius in Africa. He continued upward in the Church and was made the Bishop of Hippo in 395 C.E.
He worked continuously trying to convert people to Christianity while living in Hippo. He created a stunning cathedral and library during his time as bishop. In 430 C.E. the Vandals laid siege on Hippo.
He died in August 430 C.E. and the Vandals lifted their siege. But they would return shortly after and burn the city with the exception of the cathedral and library. St. Augustine was canonized by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298 C.E.
During his time as a priest St. Augustine’s sermons were legendary. More than 350 of his sermons have been preserved. After he became Bishop of Hippo he wrote one of his most famous pieces of philosophy entitled Confessions in 398 C.E. His book called The City of God was written after the Visigoths invaded Rome between 413 thru 426 C.E. Another important piece of work was On Christian Doctrine which was completed in 426 C.E.
Important facts about St. Augustine
- Augustine was born in 354 C.E. in Numidia which is now Algeria in Africa. His father was a pagan and his mother Monica was a devout Christian.
- He was schooled in Numidia and later in Carthage. He was an avid learner and reader of Latin literature.
- Augustine was originally a member of Manichaean religion.
- He would open schools in Numidia, Carthage, Rome, and he taught in Milan.
- Augustine converted to Christianity at the age of 31 years old.
- His most famous writings are The City of God, Confessions, and The Christian Doctrine.
- Augustine was the Bishop of Hippo Regius in North Africa. He was canonized into saint hood by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298 C.E.
- Augustine is known for developing the theory of original sin and for the just war.
- What was St. Augustine’s first religion?
- What theories was he famous for developing?
Original sin and just war
- In what region of North Africa was St. Augustine a bishop?
- What are his three most famous works of writing?
The City of God, The Christine Doctrine, and Confessions
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