Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
Augustine of Hippo, perhaps the greatest theologian in the history of Western Christianity, was born in Thagaste in North Africa, in A.D. 354. The son of a pagan father and Christian mother, he was brought up as a nominal Christian, and at the age of sixteen went to Carthage to finish his education in law. In 375, on reading Cicero's Hortensius, he becamse intensely interested in philosophy. He became a follower of the Manichean sect, some of whose tenets he continued to hold after he founded his own school of rhetoric at Rome, in 383.
Augustine accepted a professorship in Milan, and while there came under the influence of Platonic philosophy in the form of Neo-Platonism. He underwent an intense inner stuggle with his personal faith and morality, the account of which forms part of his Confessions. Under the influence of his mother, Monnica, and the preaching of Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Augustine was led to true faith in Christ and was baptized in 387. He returned to North Africa in 391, and was unexpectedly chosen by the people of Hippo to become a priest. Four years later, he was chosen to be Bishop of Hippo.
Augustine wrote a great many treatises, letters and sermons. They have provided a rich source of new and fresh insights into Christian faith. Stirred by Alaric the Visigoth's sack of Rome in 410, Augustine wrote what is possibly his greatest work, The City of God. In it he writes, "Two cities have been formed by two loves:the earthly by love of self, even to the contempt of God, the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The earthly city glories in itself, the heavenly city glories in the Lord.... In the one, the princes, and the nations it subdues are are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princces and the subjects serve one another in love."
Augustine died on August 28, 430, as the Vandals were besieging his own earthly city of Hippo.
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