Saint Augustine. Biography of Augustine of Hippo

Augustine, philologist

Latin was his mother tongue. He knew it well and dominated it completely. Although he spoke with a strong African accent that made him draw in the “h” (for which they mocked him in Italy), he became a reference in the literary style, and has been studied widely be Latin experts.

Saint Augustine. Forged metal. Ciudad de los Niños (Boys’ Town), Costa Rica. Saint Augustine. Forged metal. Ciudad de los Niños (Boys’ Town), Costa Rica.

In truth, he won over all opposition for the Chair of Imperial Eloquence in Milan. Augustine was the official in charge of composing and reciting the panegyric discourse for Auton and the official eulogy for the Emperor Valentinian II in front of the Imperial Court. It was not for nothing that for twelve years he was a teacher and was wholly dedicated to the study of the Latin language, even conceiving a project for an Encyclopaedia called Disciplianarum Libri which never came to be. It was an attempt to write down everything that a student should know. The approach was as an imitation of a work with the same title by Varro, an author from the 1st Century. Augustine admired Varro as the most cultured person that had ever existed, and in the five centuries that separated them both there had not been a new attempt of this type of Encyclopaedia.

Augustine only came to write a very small part of this work, with a plan for every one of its parts and only finished two: On Grammar and On Music. The first was lost in his final days and the second has been conserved up until present times.

Augustine had a preference for Virgil, Cicero and Varro. Nevertheless his education from the beginning is a Christian one, although later on he will be profoundly attracted by Manichaeism. He read with great interest Cicero´s Hortensius, initiating in this way what he called the search for the truth.He cast aside the Bible because he found contradictions in it. For in truth, whilst his family environment was Christian, he was surrounded by a very pagan social context.


A pagan environment
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