Contra academicos, 386 (Against the Academics, 1943)
De beata vita, 386 (The Happy Life, 1937)
De ordine, 386 (On Order, 1942)
Soliloquia, 386 (Soliloquies, 1888)
De immortalitate animae, 387 (On the Immortality of the Soul, 1937)
De musica, 389 (On Music, 1947)
De magistro, 389 (On the Teacher, 1924)
De vera religione, 391 (Of True Religion, 1959)
De sermone Domini in monte, 394 (Commentary on the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, 1875)
De doctrina Christiana, books 1-3, 396-397, book 4, 426 (On Christian Doctrine, 1875)
Confessiones, 397-400 (Confessions, 1620)
Annotationes in Job, 400
De Genesi ad litteram, 401-415
De civitate Dei, 413-427 (The City of God, 1610)
De Trinitate, c. 419 (On the Trinity, 1873)
Next to Saint Paul, Saint Augustine has probably exerted the greatest influence on Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant, through his books, letters, and sermons. Born at Tagaste (now Souk-Ahras, Algeria), in North Africa, in 354, Aurelius Augustinus was brought up as a Christian by his devout mother, Monica, but when he attended school in Carthage, the fascination of rhetoric transformed him into a youthful skeptic. He professed the teachings of Manichaeanism, a philosophy derived from Zoroaster and Buddha by the Persian Mani of the third century. This doctrine stressed the struggle between good and evil, light and darkness.
After completing his education in about 377, Augustine migrated to Rome as a teacher of rhetoric, and in 384 he went to Milan to teach Manichaean philosophy. It was during this period that his earliest treatises resulted from the idea of recording in shorthand the conversations with his mother and his friends and circularizing them. Under the influence of Ambrose, bishop of Milan, he became interested in Platonism and, through it, in the Christian faith he had rejected.
On Easter Day, 387, following a mystical acceptance of faith, he was baptized by Ambrose. Shortly afterward he returned to Tagaste alone, Monica having died at Ostia during the homeward journey. There he lived a rather monastic life and, continuing his theological studies, became a staunch defender of the faith–not only against followers of his earlier beliefs but also against other religious sects, such as the Pelagians, who denied the doctrine of Original Sin and the Fall of Man. Saint Augustine held that humans were essentially corrupt and helpless without God’s grace.
In 391, somewhat against his will because of his preference for the retired, contemplative life, he was urged by the congregation of Hippo Regius to be ordained as a priest. Four years later, in 395, he was consecrated bishop, with the understanding that he would occupy the bishopric when the incumbent died. This event occurred in 396, and for the next thirty-four years Saint Augustine was in charge of the see of Hippo. Although he rarely ever left the small coastal city, his influence spread throughout the Christian world through the letters he dispatched to congregations in many lands. About 250 of these, written to admonish, explain, or encourage, still survive. Written in a colloquial style, they are nonetheless powerful and persuasive. In them, as in his dialogues, Saint Augustine stands as the champion of orthodoxy against the Manichaean, Pelagian, and Donatist heresies of his time. Of his formal treatises, perhaps his greatest dogmatic work was the systematic analysis of Christian doctrine he presented under the title On the Trinity. His philosophical Soliloquies were also popular; five hundred years later King Alfred translated a large part of this work for the instruction of his Saxons.
The Confessions of Saint Augustine provide most of the information about his life. In common with many men of the period, he had kept concubines. He expresses regret at his original lapse from Christianity and often bears witness to the influence of his mother on his life and thinking. The work is a classic of Christian mysticism. The most famous of Saint Augustine’s works is The City of God, in twenty-two books. It was begun in 412 in response to the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 and was completed in 427. Christianity, blamed at the time for the fall of Rome, here finds its apologist. Saint Augustine looks at society and outlines the steps by which a new social order could be created by Christianity. An inspiration to many through the centuries, Saint Augustine’s discussion of the city of this world and the city of God is one of the foundations of the Christian faith.
In the last years of his life Saint Augustine changed and reevaluated some of his earlier views. He was killed when the Vandals besieged Hippo in 430.