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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 382

Aurelius Augustinius is another name for Augustine of Hippo, later canonized St. Augustine. He wrote his best-known work, The City of God, in the early Fifth Century. It's still one of the most influential works of Christian theology, but it's more than that. It's a history book, a savage polemic, and a treatise of moral philosophy. It's a long, dense book, but it rewards careful reading. You should check it out, and you should read the excellent study guide available on this website.

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The fall of Rome to the Visigoths in the Fifth Century was a catastrophe for Christians. Rome was the seat of the Popes, the epicenter of their faith. Everyone called it The Eternal City, and this reinforced the notion that Christianity, too, was forever. The adoption of the faith into the Roman Empire made it seem invincible into the bargain. So, when the city was abandoned by the Imperium and sacked by Gothic armies, it seemed like Christianity, like Rome, was finished. Recriminations began while the rubble was still smoldering. Tradition-minded Romans blamed Christians, who now counted the Emperor among them, for abandoning ancient gods, bringing their wrath down on the city. Augustine, who was by now Bishop of Hippo, defended Christian doctrine and tried to persuade influential Church and Imperial figures to look elsewhere to explain the fall of Rome by publishing The City of God.

The book re-tells the history of the world as a struggle between good and evil forces, between the forces of light and darkness, between God and the Devil. It portrays Earthly and Heavenly cities, standing in for spiritual and temporal empires, and its central message is, "Don't worry, because the spiritual empire will win in the end." Augustine went to great lengths to shift the blame for Rome's decline away from Christianity. He went so far as to argue that, but for Christianity, the decline would have been swifter, and worse. Christianity, in other words, saved Rome from itself. This, and the idea that Christians should stop worrying about Earthly affairs, which were in the hand of the Devil, and focus only on Heavenly affairs, which were in the hand of God and were supposed to deflect the public's anger over the supposed betrayal of Rome by the baptized Emperor and citizens.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 222

The whole of Christian thought may be seen as variations on the essential positions of two men—Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas. This contention is closely related to another—that the history of philosophy is wisely seen as variations on the work of Plato and Aristotle. It is inevitable that when religious thinkers express the content of their faith, they will use the most appropriate words, concepts, and even systems available in their culture. Consequently, Augustine was a Platonist, Thomas was an Aristotelian. Any attempt to gloss over this fundamental difference between these two leading theologians of Christendom is to pervert both.

In the thirteenth century, Thomas was very influential in establishing Aristotelian empiricism, thereby creating a momentous division between philosophy and theology. Thomas held that there were certain areas unique to each discipline, while other matters could be properly understood from either perspective. The Trinity and Incarnation, for example, could be known only through revelation; the nature of the empirical world was properly the jurisdiction of philosophy and was almost perfectly understood by Aristotle. However, God’s existence, and to a certain extent his nature, could be known either through revelation or by the processes of natural reason, operating on sense perception. Thus, natural theology was strongly defended as a legitimate discipline and a fitting handmaiden...

(The entire section contains 4276 words.)

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