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Posts Tagged ‘Saint Augustine’

Augustine and the First “Modern” Autobiography

St. Augustine of Hippo

St. Augustine of Hippo Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Mihi quaestio factus sum. This is a Latin phrase which means, roughly translated, “I have become a problem to myself.” This was written by Aurelius Augustinus, aka St. Augustine of Hippo. Historians know a lot about Augustine, like when he was born (November 13, 354); when he died (August 28, 430); and just about everything else in-between. The reason we know so much about him is due to his autobiography, The Confessions, written sometime between 397 and 400 AD. While not the first autobiography ever written, it is considered to be the first modern Western autobiography. For 1,600 years, this book has influenced how Christians (and many non-Christians) have penned their life stories.

Hundreds of medieval manuscripts of Augustine’s Confessions survive, the earliest dating from the late sixth century. There are nine surviving manuscripts dating from the ninth and tenth centuries. The first printed edition was made in Strasbourg, France, around 1470, and the book has never gone out of print since then.

Latin Research Topic

Latin Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Roman Catholicism Research Topic

Roman Catholicism Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

The work, originally titled Confessions in Thirteen Books, is more of a spiritual autobiography than a straightforward telling of a life story, although there is plenty of that in the book as well. Born of a Christian mother (Monica) and a Pagan father (Patricius), Augustine was very early on a deep thinker. He was sent away to the University of Carthage at the age of 16. Augustine doesn’t shy away from dishing the dirt on himself during his early life. He became a teacher of rhetoric and moved to Rome with his mistress and his son. His religion at the time was Manichaeism, a combination of elements of Christianity and Zoroastrian themes. It was in Milan that his life began to change when he came under the influence of Ambrose, the city’s bishop. Augustine was baptized, ordained a priest and in 396 was himself made a bishop in Hippo (Annaba, Algeria).

African Literature

African Literature Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Algeria Research Topic

Algeria Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Confessions is both an autobiography and a theological work. It presents a detailed account of his philosophical and religious development and is the most complete record of any single individual from the fourth and fifth centuries. According to Oxford and Cambridge professor Henry Chadwick, Confessions will “always rank among the great masterpieces of Western literature.”

Augustine also found time to write The City of God, one of the most influential religious/philosophical books ever written. This was penned sometime later than 410 AD, after Rome fell to the barbarians. Augustine died in Hippo as the Vandals were besieging the city.

Literature teachers and librarians can help students learn more about Augustine of Hippo and his works by pointing them toward the many resources in eLibrary, such as our list of religious and theological publications.

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