Augustīnus in Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Augustīnus Aurelius. One of the most renowned Fathers of the Christian Church, was born at Tagasté, a city of Africa, November 13th, A.D. 354, during the reign of the emperor Constantius II. He has related his own life in the work to which he gave the title of Confessiones, and it is from this source, together with the Retractationes, some of his letters, and the Vita Possidii of the semi-Pelagian Gennadius, that we derive our principal information respecting him. His parents sent him to Carthage to complete his education, but he disappointed their expectations by his neglect of serious study and his devotion to pleasure, for in his sixteenth year he became very fond of women. For fifteen years he was connected with one, by whom he had a son. He left her only when he changed his whole course of life. A book of Cicero's, the Hortensius, which has not come down to our times, led him to the study of philosophy; and when he found that this did not satisfy his feelings, he went over to the sect of the Manichaeans. He was one of their disciples for nine years; but, after having obtained a correct knowledge of their doctrines, he left them, and departed from Africa to Rome, and thence to Milan, where he announced himself as a teacher of rhetoric. St. Ambrose was bishop of this city, and his discourses converted Augustine to the orthodox faith. The reading of St. Paul's epistles wrought an entire change in his life and character. The Catholic Church has a festival (May 3) in commemoration of this event. He retired into solitude, wrote there many books, and prepared himself for baptism, which he received in the thirty-third year of his age, together with his son Adeodatus, from the hands of Ambrose. He returned to Africa, sold his estate, and gave the proceeds to the poor, retaining only enough to support him in a moderate manner. As he was once present in the church at Hippo, the bishop, who was a very old man, signified a desire to consecrate a priest to assist and succeed him. At the desire of the people, Augustine entered upon the holy office, preached with extraordinary success, and, in the year 395, became bishop of Hippo. He entered into a warm controversy with Pelagius concerning the doctrines of freewill, of grace, and of predestination, and wrote a book concerning them. Augustine maintained that men were justified merely through grace, and not through good works. He died August 28th, A.D. 430, while Hippo was besieged by the Vandals. There have been Fathers of the Church more learned-masters of a better language and a purer taste; but none have ever more powerfully touched the human heart and warmed it towards religion. Painters have therefore given him for a symbol a flaming heart. Augustine is one of the most voluminous of the Christian writers. His works, in Migne's Patrologia Latina, fill 16 volumes (xxxii.xlvii.). The first of these contains the works which he wrote before he was a priest, and his Retractationes and Confessiones; the former a critical review of his own writings, and the latter a curious and interesting picture of his life. The remainder of these volumes consist of a treatise On the City of God (De Civitate Dei); commentaries on Scripture; epistles on a great variety of subjects, doctrinal, moral, and personal; sermons and homilies; treatises on various points of discipline; and elaborate arguments against heretics. With the exception of those of Aristotle, no writings contributed more than Angustine's to encourage the spirit of subtle disputation which distinguished the scholastic ages. They exhibit much facility of invention and strength of reasoning, with more argument than eloquence and more wit than learning. Erasmus calls Augustine a writer of obscure subtlety, who requires in the reader acute penetration, close attention, and quick recollection, and by no means repays him for the application of all these requisites. It was St. Augustine who finally established the vocabulary of ecclesiastical Latinity, setting the stamp of his authority upon the new coinages that fill the pages of Tertullian. The best complete edition of his works is still that of the Benedictines, of which the last reprint was in 1836-40. There is an English translation of the whole in 15 vols. (Edinb. 1872-80). See Milman, Latin Christianity, 8 vols. (N. Y. and Lond. 1861-62); id. Hist. of Christianity, 3 vols., new ed. (N. Y. 1871); Cloth, Der heil. Kirchenlehrer Augustin (Aachen, 1840); Bindemann, Der heilige Augustin (Berlin, 1844-69); Dorner, Augustin, sein theologisches System und seine religionsphilos. Anschauung (Berlin, 1873); Poujoulat, Histoire de Saint Augustin, 6th ed. (Tours, 1875); Böhringer, Augustin (Stuttgart, 1877-78); and Reuter, Augustinische Studien (Gotha, 1887). See also Regnier, La Latinité des Sermons de Saint Augustin (Paris, 1887). There is a new critical edition of the works of St. Augustine in the Vienna collection of the Latin Fathers (Corp. Vindobon. vol. xii.), edited by F. Weihrich (Vienna, 1877).

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