A very influential and great philosopher and theologian of Late Antiquity, Saint Augustine of Hippo is the most important of the Latin Church Fathers. His works, especially his Confessions and City of God, helped distinguish the Church in Western Europe from the Church as it developed elsewhere.
Augustine was born to Latin speaking parents of mixed religious beliefs on November 13, AD 354 at Thagaste, in the north African province of Numidia. Augustine's father, Patricius, was a pagan and his mother was a Christian. Their mixed beliefs caused him to question both sides of religion; thus, it made sense that Augustine searched for truth, as well as deciding at a later date to convert to Christianity.
Financed by a family friend at the age of sixteen, Augustine moved to Carthage to study rhetoric. At seventeen he read Cicero's "Hortensius" which further inspired him to know the truth. Soon Augustine joined the Manichees. The Manichees were a religious group that stressed purity of life and the need to place emphasis on the importance of Christ. The Manichees seemed so valuable to Augustine because they promised to provide him with the "truth" he was seeking. With the Manichees, Augustine was able to write his first work which dealt with aesthetics and was entitled, "On the Beautiful and the Fitting."
However, by 384 Augustine was unsatisfied and he broke away from the Manichees to open the New Academy, a school of rhetoric, in which he became the official orator of Milan. Augustine was fully converted to Christianity in 386 and was baptized the next year. In 391 he returned to North Africa to live a somewhat monastic life before being ordained as a priest in order to assist the archbishop of Hippo. Four years later Augustine became the Bishop of Hippo, from which point he devoted all his work to the service of the church.
It was in 397 that Augustine began his autobiographical Confessions. His intention for this work was to give an account of his conversion to Christianity. Augustine also expressed his ultimate desire for truth and happiness therein. He finished his Confessions in 401. Shortly thereafter he began work on another book during that period which was titled City of God. In it, Augustine traced the story of the human race from the time of Adam and Eve in the Tigris-Euphrates river region to his own time.
Augustine remained Bishop of Hippo until his death in 430 AD.
Edited by: Julie D Kyte
Researched by: Jessica F McNeary
Written by: Annalisa C Sporrong
May 8, 1998
Copyright 1996-1999 by David W. Koeller. All rights reserved.