St. Augustine

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St. Augustine
St. Augustine of Hippo is one of the most influential men when it comes to the Christian faith. When walking the Christianity section of a bookstore today, one can find mountains of books either by or about him. After seeing so much on the man it leads one to wonder who exactly was St. Augustine of Hippo and why exactly was he important to the church. St. Augustine is not just studied in religious aspects but in philosophy as well. Augustine was born in 354 in Roman Africa. His father, Patricius, was a pagan, and his mother, Monica, was Christian. Scholars believe that Augustine's ancestors included Berbers, Latins and Phoenicians (Portalle). Augustine's family name, Aurelius, suggests that his father's ancestors were freedmen of the gens Aurelia given full Roman citizenship by the Edict of Caracalla in 212. Augustine's family had been Roman, from a legal standpoint, for at least a century when he was born. It is assumed that his mother, Monica, was of Berber origin, on the basis of her name, but as his family were honestiores, Augustine's first language is likely to have been Latin (Portalle). At the age of eleven, he was sent to school at Madaurus, a small Numidian city about nineteen miles south of Thagaste. There he became familiar with Latin literature, as well as pagan beliefs and practices (Portalle). While at home in 369 and 370, he read Cicero's dialogue Hortensius, which he described as leaving a lasting impression on him and sparking his interest in philosophy (unknown).

At age seventeen, through the generosity of fellow citizen Romanianus, Augustine went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric. Although raised as a Christian, Augustine left the church to follow the Manichaean religion, much to the despair of his mother, Monica (Unknown). As a youth Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle for a time, associating with young men who boasted of their sexual exploits with women and urged the inexperienced boys, like Augustine, to seek out experiences or to make up stories about experiences in order to gain acceptance and avoid ridicule (Portalle). It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, “da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo” or “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet”. At a young age, he began an affair with a young woman in Carthage. She was his lover for over thirteen years and gave birth to his son Adeodatus, who was said to have been extremely intelligent (Unknown).

During the years 373 and 374, Augustine taught grammar at Thagaste. The following year he moved to Carthage to conduct a school of rhetoric, and would remain there for the next nine years. Disturbed by the unruly behavior of the students in Carthage, in 383 he moved to establish a school in Rome, where he believed the best and brightest rhetoricians practiced. However, Augustine was disappointed with the Roman schools, where he was met with apathy. Once the time came for his students to pay their fees they simply fled. Manichaean friends introduced him to the prefect of the City of Rome, Symmachus, who had been asked to provide a professor of rhetoric for the imperial court at Milan. Augustine won the job and headed north to take up his position in late 384 (Unknown). At the age of thirty, he had won the most visible academic position in the Latin world – at a time when such posts gave ready access to political careers. During this period, although Augustine showed some fervor for Manichaeism, he was never an initiate or "elect" but remained an "auditor", the lowest level in the sect's hierarchy.

While he was in Milan, Augustine's life changed. While still at Carthage, he had begun to move away from Manichaeism, in part because of a disappointing meeting with the Manichean Bishop, Faustus of Mileve, a key exponent of Manichaean theology. In Rome, he is reported to have completely turned away from Manichaeanism, and instead embraced the scepticism of the New Academy movement....
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