Themes

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 261

The City of God Against the Pagans by Augustine of Hippo, also known as Aurelius Augustinus, was a thesis on why the pagan gods of ancient Rome were not effective in guiding people and granting them divine protection. The work was a response to pagans within the Roman Empire who...

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The City of God Against the Pagans by Augustine of Hippo, also known as Aurelius Augustinus, was a thesis on why the pagan gods of ancient Rome were not effective in guiding people and granting them divine protection. The work was a response to pagans within the Roman Empire who accused Christianity of weakening the once-mighty empire and insisted that the new Christian rulers of Rome had a mistake in converting the empire to Christianity. The rhetorical duel between the pagans and Augustine stemmed from the citizens' reaction to the sacking of Rome by the Germanic tribes.

In The City of God, Augustine argues that the famous Greek philosopher Plato had revolutionized the ancient Greeks' belief systems and way of thinking because the pagan deities of ancient Greece were anachronistic and illogical. In the same vein, Augustine's argument makes sense when criticizing the pagan beliefs of ancient Rome and illustrating why Christian theology and values are the logical replacements for pagan worship.

Augustine believed that Rome, in the era of the Holy Roman Empire, could be a beacon across the empire and beyond. He was essentially trying to argue that Christianity gave the Roman Empire a stronger reason to rule. Before, during the pagan eras, the Roman Empire focused on acquiring more territory, wealth, and power.

Augustine argued that, under the umbrella of Christianity, the Roman Empire becomes a figurative, and perhaps literal, satellite of God's kingdom (hence the title). Rome, thus, becomes a place of salvation and virtues. This is why the Vatican was established within the city of Rome.

Christian Themes

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 276

Saint Augustine’s two cities are ultimately mystical in nature, each containing a visible component among the living generation struggling in this world for either material or spiritual goods. Those striving for the city of God live in, but are not of, the city of man, seeking rather to transcend the material order by living in obedience to God’s commands.

In Augustine’s view, the Church, though amid the city of man, serves as the visible sign of God’s love among the living and as a means of grace to strengthen its members’ life of charity and virtue. It teaches obedience to the moral law and offers sacraments of life-giving grace as it seeks to advance the city of God, calling all people to obedience and away from sin. It cooperates with the city of man to advance peace through justice in human affairs. It urges the punishment of evil, even to the point of just war, in order to preserve and protect the innocent and establish a just and fruitful peace. It serves as a sign of God’s mercy, offering sinners a haven from a world too often mired in violence and selfish disregard of the common good.

Augustine’s ultimate message is that Christ died for the redemption of this sad and sinful world, and his resurrection points to the final judgment, in which God will separate the two cities. Those proud citizens of the city of man will suffer eternal separation from God, in the second death of hell, while the sojourners who loved and obeyed God on pilgrimage in the city of man will be rewarded with eternal bliss.

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