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Saint Augustine
General Information
Saint Augustine, b. Nov. 13, 354, d. Aug. 28, 430, was one of the foremost
philosopher-theologians of early Christianity and, while serving (396-430) as bishop of
Hippo Regius, the leading figure in the church of North Africa. He had a profound
influence on the subsequent development of Western thought and culture and, more than any
other person, shaped the themes and defined the problems that have characterized the
Western tradition of Christian Theology. Among his many writings considered classics, the
two most celebrated are his semi-autobiographical Confessions, which contains elements of
Mysticism, and City of God, a Christian vision of history.

Early Life and Conversion
Augustine was born at Thagaste (modern Souk-Ahras, Algeria), a small town in the Roman
province of Numidia. He received a classical education that both schooled him in Latin
literature and enabled him to escape from his provincial upbringing. Trained at Carthage
in rhetoric (public oratory), which was a requisite for a legal or political career in the
Roman empire, he became a teacher of rhetoric in Carthage, in Rome, and finally in Milan,
a seat of imperial government at the time. At Milan, in 386, Augustine underwent religious
conversion. He retired from his public position, received baptism from Ambrose, the bishop
of Milan, and soon returned to North Africa. In 391, he was ordained to the priesthood in
Hippo Regius (modern Bone, Algeria); five years later he became bishop.

The first part of Augustine's life (to 391) can be seen as a series of attempts to
reconcile his Christian faith with his classical culture. His mother, Saint Monica, had
reared him as a Christian. Although her religion did not hold an important place in his
early life, Christianity never totally lost its grip upon him. As a student in Carthage,
he encountered the classical ideal of philosophy's search for truth and was fired with
enthusiasm for the philosophic life. Unable to give up Christianity altogether, however,
he adopted Manichaeism, a Christian heresy claiming to provide a rational Christianity on
the basis of a purified text of Scripture. Nine years later, his association with the
Manichees ended in disillusionment; and it was in a religiously detached state that
Augustine arrived in Milan. There he discovered, through a chance reading of some books of
Neoplatonism, a form of philosophy that seemed compatible with Christian belief. At the
same time, he found that he was at last able to give up the ambitions for public success
that had previously prevented him from embracing the philosophic life. The result was the
dramatic conversion that led Augustine to devote his life to the pursuit of truth, which
he now identified with Christianity. With a small group of friends, he returned to North
Africa and, in Thagaste, established a religious community dedicated to the intellectual
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