Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a priest and philosopher of the Catholic Church, known as the “Doctor of Grace”. He devoted his life to in-depth reflection on theology and politics, which laid the foundations for an important part of medieval and modern philosophy.
Below we will see a biography of Saint Augustine of Hippo, As well as a brief description of his major works.
Biography of Saint Augustine of Hippo: priest, theologian and philosopher
Augustin d’Hippone, originally named Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, was born on November 13, 354 in a Roman province in North Africa, called Tagaste (now Algeria). He was the son of Monica, of Berber origin and a devotee of the Catholic Church; and Patricio, descendant of pagan beliefs. Both a respectable couple from Roman society.
At the age of 11, Augustine was sent to a school south of Tagaste, where he remained until the age of 17, when he began his training in rhetoric. After that, and although he grew up as a Catholic, Augustine left the church to follow Manichaeism, A religion formed by the Persian prophet Mani, who was disappointed years later. Soon after, he formed a family with the woman who had been his companion for 15 years. With her he had his only son, named Adeodat, who would die very young.
In 383 Augustine moved to Rome, where he continued to study rhetoric, philosophy, persuasion and the art of public speaking. He quickly became one of the most representative intellectuals of the Latin world, This also allowed him to carry out political activities.
He then moved to Milan, where he finally broke with Manichaeism and concluded that it was a form of heresy to be combated. In philosophical matters, he was interested in skepticism and neoplatonism.
In the summer of 386, and after having gone through a deep personal crisis, detailed in his famous book Confessions; Augustine of Hippo finally converted to Christianity. He abandoned rhetoric and academia, renounced his marriage commitment and thus devoted himself to the practice of the priesthood.
After that, he returned to North Africa and founded a monastery. In 391 he was ordained a priest in the city of Hippo, Who is now Annaba, Algeria. From there he was known as Augustine of Hippo, and was soon recognized as a great preacher.
Augustine of Hippo died in 430, probably on August 28, at the age of 75; after having been appointed bishop and “patron of the regular clergy”. Although the exact causes of his death are not known, it is known to have been in the context of the invasion of the Roman province of Africa by the vandals of Genseric.
Three main works
Augustine of Hippo was recognized not only in Italy and Africa, but in Spain and the Middle East. His works Confessions, City of God and Reconsiderations are particularly well known, although there are many others. Below we will see a brief description of its main ideas.
this work it consists of 13 books, most of which are autobiographical stories. Saint Augustine decided to name his work Confessions not only because of this, but also because of the religious significance of the act of confession. The work consists of Saint Augustine’s reflections on his own life, taking as a reference the biblical book of Genesis.
He addresses issues such as the contradictions between his past and subsequent positions of authority as bishop. He also talks about the nature of sin and redemption, Which show the influence of the bishop Saint Ambrose in the thought of Augustine, as well as the doctrines of Plato. He also discusses the renunciation of sexuality after priestly ordination, the pursuit of divine wisdom and the mystical experience that happened to him in Milan and which led him to finally decide on Catholic life.
2. City of God
In the context of war and political conflicts between Africa and Italy, as well as in a religious environment constantly confronted with paganism, Saint Augustine spent 15 years working on a new way of understanding human society.
For the philosopher, it was necessary to establish a City of God capable of opposing the City of Man. The latter was doomed to disorder, with which it was important that the sages advocate a city based on divinity.
The work is divided into 22 books, ranging from questioning pagan communities claiming different forms of divine power; to the biblical history of mankind (from Genesis to the Last Judgment). He therefore sought to present a “true history” of the City of God. This is considered to be one of the fundamental works to understand the political order that characterized the Middle Ages.
Reconsiderations have been written in his later years, and offers a retrospective of the career of Saint Augustine. It consists of many of his earlier writings and includes comments on the circumstances in which they were written, as well as rectifications or ratifications of what has been said.
It is a work that deeply expresses the thought and the life of this philosopher. It owes its title precisely to the exercise of self-analysis carried out by Saint Augustine.
Other remarkable works
In addition to the above, other works representative of the thought and life of Saint Augustine are the Christian Doctrine (written between 396 and 397), The Trinity (written between 399 / 400-416 / 421), Literal Commentaries of Genesis (401/414) and sermons, from the same period.
- Augustin d’Hippopotamus (2016). New World Encyclopedia. Accessed October 29, 2018.Available at http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Augustine_of_Hippo
- O’Donnell, J. (2018). St. Augustine. Christian bishop and theologian. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Accessed October 29, 2018.Available at https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Augustine#ref24812