Aurelius Augustinus Biography


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111228243-Augustine.jpg Saint Augustine Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Saint Augustine’s Confessiones (397-400; Confessions, 1620) describe his life to 387, the year he converted to Christianity. Born in a North African province of the Roman Empire, his name in Latin was Aurelius Augustinus. His father, Patricius, a farmer, local official, and a pagan, later converted to Christianity. His mother, Monica, a devout Christian, who was canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, prayed and struggled for her son’s conversion. She raised him as a Christian, but following the church practice of the day he was not baptized until adulthood. Augustine began his education in Tagaste, Numidia (now Souk Akras, Algeria), and when he was eleven or twelve, his parents sent him to school in nearby Madauros (now near Mdaourouch, Algeria).

In Madauros, Augustine studied classical languages and literature, as well as music, mathematics, and natural sciences. He rapidly gained eloquence in his native Latin, as well as Punic, a dialect of the ancient Phoenicians. The Roman poet Vergil made a lasting mark on his thought and expression. His immersion, both inside and outside the classroom, into pagan myth and literature, with all its moral and religious ambiguities, caused him to set aside his Christian upbringing, for a while becoming a pagan. He sought pleasure in lust, mischief, and notoriety for his indiscretions.

When Augustine returned to Tagaste in 370, his father Patricius wanted him to pursue rhetoric—public speaking, the art of writing effective prose, and the study of grammar and logic. His father sent him to the great city of Carthage, near present-day Tunis, Tunisia, to complete his training to become a teacher. A businessman, Romanianus, assisted Patricius in financing Augustine’s...

(The entire section is 717 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Next to Saint Paul, Saint Augustine has probably exerted the greatest influence on Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, through his books, letters, and sermons. Born at Tagaste (now Souk-Ahras, Algeria), in North Africa, in 354, Aurelius Augustinus was brought up as a Christian by his devout mother, Monica, but when he attended school in Carthage, the fascination of rhetoric transformed him into a youthful skeptic. He professed the teachings of Manichaeanism, a philosophy derived from Zoroaster and Buddha by the Persian Mani of the third century. This doctrine stressed the struggle between good and evil, light and darkness.

After completing his education in about 377, Augustine migrated to Rome as a teacher of rhetoric, and in 384 he went to Milan to teach Manichaean philosophy. It was during this period that his earliest treatises resulted from the idea of recording in shorthand the conversations with his mother and his friends and circularizing them. Under the influence of Ambrose, bishop of Milan, he became interested in Platonism and, through it, in the Christian faith he had rejected.

On Easter Day, 387, following a mystical acceptance of faith, he was baptized by Ambrose. Shortly afterward he returned to Tagaste alone, Monica having died at Ostia during the homeward journey. There he lived a rather monastic life and, continuing his theological studies, became a staunch defender of the faith—not only against followers of his earlier beliefs but also against other religious sects, such as the Pelagians, who denied the doctrine...

(The entire section is 640 words.)