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Saint Augustine of Hippo: Biography of this Philosopher and Priest

“Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was a priest and philosopher of the Catholic Church, known as the “Doctor of Grace”.

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“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 reflect deeply on theology and politics, which laid the foundations of an important part of medieval and modern philosophy.”

We will see a biography of San Agustín de Hipona, as well as a brief description of his main works.

Biography of Saint Augustine of Hippo: priest, theologian and philosopher

Augustine of Hippo, originally called 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 devoted to the Catholic Church; and Patricio, descendant of pagan beliefs. Both a respectable couple of Roman society.

At age 11, Agustín was sent to a school south of Tagaste, where he remained until he was 17 years old, when he began his training in rhetoric. After this, and despite having been raised as a Catholic, Augustine left the church to follow Manichaeism, religion formed by the Persian prophet Mani, who was disappointed years later. Soon after he formed a family with the woman who was his companion for 15 years. With her he had his only son, named Adeodato, who would die at an early age.

In the year of 383, Agustín moved to Rome, where he continued studying rhetoric, philosophy, persuasion and public speaking skills. Soon he became one of the most representative intellectuals of the Latin world, which also allowed him to carry out political activities.

Later he moved to Milan, where he ended up disengaging himself from Manicheism and concluded that it was a form of heresy to be fought. In philosophical questions 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 work Confessions; Augustine of Hippo is finally converted to Christianity. He abandons rhetoric and academia, renounces his marital commitment, and thus dedicates himself to practicing the priesthood.

After this he returns to North Africa and founds a monastery. In the year 391 he received the priestly ordination in the city of Hippo, which is now Annaba, Algeria. From there he was known as Augustine of Hippo, and soon he was recognized as a great preacher.

Augustine of Hippo died in the year 430, probably on August 28, at the age of 75; after having been appointed bishop and “regular clergyman”. Although the exact causes of his death are not known, it is known that it was in the context of the invasion of the Roman province of Africa by the Vandals of Genseric.

Three main works

Agustín de Hipona was recognized not only in Italy and Africa, but also in Spain and the Middle East. Especially known are his works Confessions, City of God and Reconsiderations, although there are many others. We will see below a brief description of your main ideas.

1. Confessions

This work is composed of 13 books, and most of them are autobiographical stories. St. Augustine decided to name his work Confessions not only because of that, but because of the religious significance of the act of confession. The work is composed of reflections of St. Augustine on his own life, taking as reference the biblical book of genesis.

It addresses issues such as the contradictions between his past and the subsequent positions of authority as a bishop. He also talks about the nature of sin and redemption, which shows the influence of Bishop St. Ambrose in the thought of Augustine, as well as the doctrines of Plato. He also discusses the renunciation of sexuality after priestly ordination, the search for divine wisdom, and the mystical experience that occurred in Milan and that led him to finally decide on Catholic life.

2. City of God

In the context of the war and political conflicts between Africa and Italy, as well as in a religious environment that was constantly confronting 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 condemned to disorder, with which it was important that wise men advocated a city based on divinity.

The work is divided into 22 books, ranging from the questioning of pagan communities claiming different forms of divine power; until the biblical history of humanity (from Genesis to the Last Judgment). So, I wanted to present a “true story” of the City of God.

This is considered one of the fundamental works to understand the political order that characterized the Middle Ages.

3. Reconsiderations

Reconsiderations was written in his last years of life, and offers a retrospective on the career of Saint Augustine. It consists of several of his previous 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 expresses in a profound way the thought and life of this philosopher. It owes its title precisely to the exercise of self-analysis carried out by Saint Augustine.

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