City of God

( 46 )

Overview

No book except the Bible itself had a greater influence on the Middle Ages than City of God. Since medieval Europe was the cradle of today's Western civilization, this work by consequence is vital for an understanding of our world and how it came into being. St. Augustine is often regarded as the most influential Christian thinker after St. Paul, and this book is his masterpiece, a vast synthesis of religious and secular knowledge. It began as a reply to the charge that Christian otherworldliness was causing the ...
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Overview

No book except the Bible itself had a greater influence on the Middle Ages than City of God. Since medieval Europe was the cradle of today's Western civilization, this work by consequence is vital for an understanding of our world and how it came into being. St. Augustine is often regarded as the most influential Christian thinker after St. Paul, and this book is his masterpiece, a vast synthesis of religious and secular knowledge. It began as a reply to the charge that Christian otherworldliness was causing the decline of the Roman Empire. Augustine produced a wealth of evidence to prove that paganism bore within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Then he proceeded to his larger theme, a cosmic interpretation of history in terms of the struggle between good and evil: the City of God in conflict with the Earthly City or the City of the Devil. This, the first serious attempt at a philosophy of history, was to have incalculable influence in forming the Western mind on the relations of church and state, and on the Christian's place in the temporal order. The original City of God contained twenty-two books and fills three regular-sized volumes. This edition has been skillfully abridged for the intelligent general reader by Vernon J. Bourke, author of Augustine's Quest of Wisdom. The heart of this monumental work is now available to a much wider audience.

Saint Augustine examines the failure of Roman religion and the flaws in human civilization, thus creating the first Christrian philosophy of history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The human mind can understand truth only by thinking, as is clear from Augustine."
– Saint Thomas Aquinas
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385029100
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1958
  • Edition description: ABRIDGED
  • Pages: 551
  • Sales rank: 632,819
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Meet the Author

AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO (AD 354– 430) is among the most influential cultural figures of all time. His development of Christian theology during the formative fourth and fifth centuries shaped church teaching for future generations.
            Ascending to influence as a teacher of rhetoric in Hippo, Rome, and Milan, Augustine initially embraced Manichean religion, and later came under the influence of Neoplatonism. In AD 387 however, his life dramatically changed directions with his conversion to Christianity. After conversion, he returned to his native North Africa, where he was ordained a priest and later made a bishop. As leader of the Church in Hippo, he preached widely and wrote voluminous biblical commentaries and apologetic works defending Christian faith against its rivals and detractors, along with more personal and pastoral works, such as Confessions.
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Read an Excerpt

Part One

The Pagan Gods and Earthly Happiness

Book I

Christianity Did Not Cause the Fall of Rome

Preface

M y dear marcellinus:1 This work which I have begun makes good my promise to you. In it I am undertaking noth-ing less than the task of defending the glorious City of God against those who prefer their own gods to its Founder. I shall consider it both in its temporal stage here below (where it journeys as a pilgrim among sinners and lives by faith) and as solidly established in its eternal abode—that blessed goal for which we patiently hope ‘until justice

1 Marcellinus, fervent Christian and, until his death in Septem-ber, 413, close friend of St. Augustine, was appointed by the Emperor Honoring (395–423) as a Commissioner to deal with the dispute between Catholics and Donatists in North Africa. Eager for the conversion of the pagan but well-disposed imperial pro-consul, Volusianus, he sought the help of Augustine and was thus the occasion for the correspondence between the proconsul and the saint which still survives and throws much light on the begin-nings of the City of God. St. Augustine began in 412 ( and finished in 415) the first five Books which, as he tells us in his Retractations (chap. 69), were meant as a refutation of the pagan position that polytheism is necessary for social prosperity and that the prohibi-tion of pagan worship ‘is the source of many calamities.’

be turned into judgment,’2 but which, one day, is to be the reward of excellence in a final victory and a perfect peace. The task, I realize, is a high and hard one, but God will help me.3

I know, of course, what ingenuity and force of arguments are needed to convince proud men of the power of humility. Its loftiness is above the pinnacles of earthly greatness which are shaken by the shifting winds of time—not by reason of hu-man arrogance, but only by the grace of God. For, in Holy Scripture, the King and Founder of the City of which I have undertaken to speak revealed to His people the judgment of divine law: ‘God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.’4 Unfortunately the swollen spirit of human pride claims for itself this high prerogative, which belongs to God alone, and longs and loves to hear repeated in its own praise the line: ‘To be merciful to the conquered and beat the haughty down.’5

Hence, in so far as the general plan of the treatise demands and my ability permits, I must speak also of the earthly city—of that city which lusts to dominate the world and which, though nations bend to its yoke, is itself dominated by its pas-sion for dominion.

Chapter 1

From this earthly city issue the enemies against whom the City of God must be defended. Some of them, it is true, abjure their worldly error and become worthy members in God’s City. But many others, alas, break out in blazing hatred against it and are utterly ungrateful, notwithstanding its Re-deemer’s signal gifts. For, they would no longer have a voice to raise against it, had not its sanctuaries given them asylum as they fled before the invaders’ swords, and made it possible for them to save that life of which they are so proud.

2 Ps. 93.15.

3 Ps. 61.9.

4 James 4.6; 1 Peter 5.5.

5 Virgil, Aeneid 6.853.

Have not even those very Romans whom the barbarians spared for the sake of Christ assailed His Name? To this both the shrines of the martyrs and the basilicas of the Apostles bear witness: amid the city’s devastation, these buildings gave refuge not only to the faithful but even to infidels. Up to the sacred threshold raged the murderous enemy, but the slayers’ fury went no farther. The merciful among the enemy con-ducted to the churches those whom they had spared even outside the holy precincts, to save them from others who lacked such mercy. Even these ruthless men, who in other places cus-tomarily indulged their ferocity against enemies, put a rein to their murderous fury and curbed their mania for taking cap-tives, the moment they reached the holy places. Here, the law of sanctuary forbade what the law of war elsewhere permitted. Thus were saved many of those who now cry down Christian culture and who blame Christ for the calamities that befell the city. Indeed, that very mercy to which they owe their lives and which was exercised in Christ’s Name they ascribe not to our Christ but to their Fate. Yet, if they only had sense, they would see that the hardships and cruelties they suffered from the enemy came from that Divine Providence who makes use of war to reform the corrupt lives of men. They ought to see that it is the way of Providence to test by such afflictions men of virtuous and exemplary life, and to call them, once tried, to a better world, or to keep them for a while on earth for the accomplishment of other purposes. As for the fact that the fierce barbarians, contrary to the usage of war, generally spared their lives for Christ’s sake and, in particular, in places dedicated to Christ’s Name—which by a merciful Providence were spacious enough to afford refuge to large numbers—this they should have credited to Christian culture. They should thank God and, if they would escape the pains of eternal fire, should turn to His Name with all sincerity—as many have, without sincerity, in order to escape the results of the present ruin.

For, many of those whom you see heaping impudent abuse on the servants of Christ would not have escaped the ruin and massacre had they not falsely paraded as servants of Christ. Now, with ungrateful pride, impious madness, and perversity of heart, they work against that Name. They who turned to that Name with a lying tongue, in order to enjoy this tempo-ral light, deserve the penalty of eternal darkness.

Chapter 2

The chronicles are filled with wars waged before Rome was founded, and since it rose and grew to be an empire. Let the pagans read these chronicles, and then adduce one single instance of a city falling into the hands of a foe disposed to spare men seeking refuge in the temples of their gods. Or let them even point to a single barbarian chieftain who captured a town and then ordered his soldiers not to kill those caught in any of the temples. Did not Aeneas see Priam cut down before the altar, ‘polluting with his blood the altar fires of his own consecration’?1 And did not Diomedes and Ulysses ‘cut down the sentries in the towered height; since they grasped the holy image and dared with bloody hands to touch the maiden chaplets of the goddess’?2 Nor did that which follows come true: ‘Since

then the hope of Greece ebbed and slid away.’3 For, after this, they conquered; after this, they wiped out Troy with fire and sword; after this, they cut off Priam’s head before the altar to which he fled. Nor did Troy perish because it lost its Palladium—Minerva. And what had Minerva herself first lost that she should perish? The guardians of her statue? To be sure, once they were slain, Minerva could be taken away. It was not the effigy that guarded the men, but the men who guarded the effigy. For what earthly reason was Minerva worshiped as the protector of the land and people, when she could not even protect the guards of her temple?

1 Aeneid 2.501.

2 Ibid. 2.166ff.

3 Ibid.

Chapter 3

Just think of the kind of gods to whose protection the Ro-mans were content to entrust their city! No more pathetic il-lusion could be imagined. Yet, the pagans are angry with us because we speak so frankly of their divinities. However, they feel no anger against their own writers. They even pay them a fee to teach such nonsense, and think such teachers worthy of public salary and honors. Take Virgil. Children must read this greatest and best of all poets in order to impress their tender minds so deeply that he may never be easily forgotten, much as the well-known words of Horace suggest:

The liquors that new vessel first contains

Behind them leave a taste that long remains.1

Now, in Virgil, Juno is pictured as the foe of the Trojans and as saying, while she goads Aeolus, King of the Winds, against them:

The nation that I hate in peace sails by,

With Troy and Troy’s fallen gods to Italy.2

Did they act wisely in placing Rome’s immunity from defeat in the hands of such vanquished deities? Even assuming that Juno spoke these words in a fit of feminine anger, not knowing what she said, does not Aeneas himself, so often styled ‘the pious,’ relate how

Panthus, a priest of Phoebus and the Tower,

Rushed with his nephew and the conquered gods

And, frantic, sought for shelter at my door.3

Does he not admit that the very gods, whom he declares ‘con-quered’ are entrusted to his protection rather than he to theirs, when he is

1 Horace, Epistles 1.2.69.

2 Virgil, Aeneid 1.67.

3 Ibid. 2.319ff.

given the charge, ‘To thee doth Troy commend her gods, her all’?4 If, then, Virgil describes such gods as van-quished, and, because vanquished, needing a man’s help even to escape, surely it is folly to believe that it was wise to entrust Rome to the safe-keeping of such divinities, and to believe that Rome could never be destroyed unless it lost its gods. In fact, to worship fallen gods as patrons and defenders is more like having poor odds5 than good gods. It is much more sensible to believe, not so much that Rome would have been saved from destruction had not the gods perished, but rather that the gods would have perished long ago had not Rome made every effort to save them.

For, who does not see, if only he stops to consider, how futile it is to presume that Rome could not be conquered when protected by conquered custodians, and that the reason it fell was that it lost its tutelary deities? Surely, the only possible reason why Rome should fall was that it wanted vincible pro-tectors. Hence, when all these things were written and sung about the fallen gods, it was not because the poets took pleas-ure in lying, but because truth compelled intelligent men to avow them. However, this matter will be more fitly and more fully treated in subsequent chapters. Here I shall do my best to wind up in few words what I began to say about men’s ingratitude.

These men, I say, hold Christ responsible for the evils which they deservedly suffer for their wicked lives. They have not the slightest appreciation of the fact, that, when they deserved to be punished, they were spared for Christ’s sake. On the con-trary, with impious perversity and bitterness, they attack His Name with those very tongues which falsely invoked that Name to save them. The very tongues which, like cowards, they held in check in the

4 Ibid. 2.293.

5 . . . tenere non numina bona, sed nomina mala. Nomina mala (if that is the correct reading and not omina mala) should be translated as ‘bad debtors,’ in the sense that the pagan gods do not pay back salvation in return for the worship given them; but for the sake of imitating the paronomasia, numina . . . nomina, ‘gods’ and ‘odds’ have been used. See note in De civitate Dei, ed. Emanuel Hoffman, CSEL XXXX (Vienna 1899) 8.

sacred places when safe, protected and unharmed by the enemy for Christ’s sake, they now use to hurl malicious curses against Him.

Chapters 4–6

References to Virgil, Sallust, and Livy indicate that it was never customary for the temples or statues of the gods, in an-cient Greece and Rome, to be spared in time of war.

Chapter 7

All the destruction, slaughter, plundering, burning, and dis-tress visited upon Rome in its latest calamity were but the normal aftermath of war. It was something entirely new that fierce barbarians, by an unprecedented turn of events, showed such clemency that vast basilicas were designated as places where refugees might assemble with assurance of immunity. There, no one was to be slain or raped; many destined for liberation were to be led there by the compassionate enemy; from there, none was to be dragged away into captivity by a cruel foe. That this was in honor of the Name of Christ and to the credit of Christian civilization is manifest to all. To see this and not acknowledge it with praise is ingratitude. To im-pugn those who give us credit is utterly unreasonable. Let no man with sense ascribe this to the savage ways of the bar-barians. It was God who struck awe into ruthless and blood-thirsty hearts, who curbed and wondrously tamed them. God who long ago spoke these words by the mouth of the Prophet; ‘I will visit their iniquities with a rod: and their sins with stripes. But My mercy I will not take away from them.’1

1 Ps. 88.33,34.

Chapter 8

But, someone will say: ‘How, then, is it that this divine mercy was bestowed on impious and ungrateful man?’ Surely, the answer is that mercy was shown by the One who, day by day, ‘maketh His sun to rise upon the good and bad, and rain-eth upon the just and the unjust.’1 For, although some who reflect on these truths repent and are converted from their wickedness, others, according to the words of the Apostle, de-spise ‘the riches of His goodness and long-suffering, in the hardness of their heart and impenitence’ and treasure up to themselves ‘wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the just judgment of God Who will render to every man ac-cording to his works.’2 Nevertheless, God’s patience is an in-vitation to the wicked to do penance, just as God’s scourge is a school of patience for the good. In like manner, God’s mercy embraces the good with love, just as His severity corrects the wicked with punishment. It has pleased Divine Providence to prepare for the just joys in the world to come in which the unjust will have no part; and for the impious, pains which will not afflict the virtuous. But, as for the paltry goods and evils of this transitory world, these He allotted alike to just and unjust, in order that men might not seek too eagerly after those goods which they see even the wicked to possess, or shrink too readily from those ills which commonly afflict the just.

However, there is a vast difference between the manner in which men use what we call prosperity and adversity. A good man is neither puffed up by fleeting success nor broken by adversity; whereas, a bad man is chastised by failure of this sort because he is corrupted by success. God often shows His intervention more clearly by the way He apportions the sweet and the bitter. For, if He visited every sin here below with manifest penalty, it might be thought that no score remained to be settled at the Last Judgment. On the other hand, if God did not plainly enough punish sin on earth, people might con-

1 Matt. 5.45.

2 Rom. 2.4ff.

clude that there is no such thing as Divine Providence. So, too, in regard to the good things of life. If God did not bestow them with patent liberality on some who ask Him, we could possibly argue that such things did not depend on His power. On the other hand, if He lavished them on all who asked, we might have the impression that God is to be served only for the gifts He bestows. In that case, the service of God would not make us religious, but rather covetous and greedy. In view of all that, when good and bad men suffer alike, they are not, for that reason indistinguishable because what they suffer is similar. The sufferers are different even though the sufferings are the same trials; though what they endure is the same, their virtue and vice are different.

For, in the same fire, gold gleams and straw smokes; under the same flail the stalk is crushed and the grain threshed; the lees are not mistaken for oil because they have issued from the same press. So, too, the tide of trouble will test, purify, and improve the good, but beat, crush, and wash away the wicked. So it is that, under the weight of the same affliction, the wicked deny and blaspheme God, and the good pray to Him and praise Him. The difference is not in what people suf-fer but in the way they suffer. The same shaking that makes fetid water stink makes perfume issue a more pleasant odor.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 7
Foreword 13
I. The Problem of a Universal Society 13
II. The City of God and Universal Society 21
III. Christian Wisdom and a World Society 33
Part 1 The Pagan Gods and Earthly Happiness
Book I. Christianity Did Not Cause the Fall of Rome 39
Book II. Pagan Gods Never Protected Men's Souls 66
Book III. Physical Evils Were Not Prevented by the Gods 78
Book IV. Divine Justice and the Growth of the Roman Empire 84
Book V. Providence and the Greatness of Rome 99
Part 2 The Pagan Gods and Future Happiness
Book VI. Eternal Life and the Inadequacy of Polytheism 119
Book VII. Criticisms of Pagan Natural Theology 135
Book VIII. Classical Philosophy and Refined Paganism 144
Book IX. Pagan Deities, Demons, and Christian Angels 172
Book X. Christian Worship Contrasted with Platonic Theology 186
Part 3 The Origin of the Two Cities
Book XI. Creation and the Two Societies of Angels 205
Book XII. Created Wills and the Distinction of Good and Evil 244
Book XIII. Adam's Sin and Its Consequences 269
Book XIV. Two Loves Originate Two Different Cities 295
Part 4 The Development of the Two Cities
Book XV. The Two Cities in Early Biblical History 323
Book XVI. The City of God from the Flood to King David 363
Book XVII. From the Age of the Prophets to Christ's Birth 378
Book XVIII. The City of Man in Ancient History 391
Part 5 The Ends of the Two Cities
Book XIX. Philosophy and Christianity on Man's End 427
Book XX. Separation of the Two Cities in the Last Judgment 483
Book XXI. End and Punishment of the Earthly City 494
Book XXII. The Eternal Bliss of the City of God 507
Index 546
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Reading Group Guide

1. St. Augustine describes the origin of The City of God as follows: "[in 410] Rome was destroyed as a result of an invasion of the Goths.... The worshipers of many false gods ... began to blaspheme the true God more sharply ... than usual." How does an awareness of the origin of this work as a grand defense of Christianity help us to understand it?

2. What is the meaning of the "two cities, " one of which is "of this world, " and the other of which is "of God"? How does St. Augustine's analysis of these two cities and their histories help organize and structure this work?

3. St. Augustine elaborates the notion of predestination (that all things are preordained by God), an idea taken up much later by Martin Luther and John Calvin. Discuss this crucial idea and its implications.

4. St. Augustine was deeply interested in the workings of the human mind. How do Augustine's ideas about sense perception, will, intellect, and memory resonate with, or differ from, our own? In what ways does The City of God shed light on your own experience of being human?

5. The concept of doubt was crucial for St. Augustine. How is this concept elaborated in The City of God?

6. Thomas Merton, in his Introduction to this volume, describes the work as follows: 'Just as truly as the Confessions are the autobiography of St. Augustine, The City of God is the autobiography of the Church written by the most Catholic of her great saints." How does this perspective help us to understand St. Augustine's writings?

7. St. Augustine is widely regarded as one of the great stylists in the history of Christian literature. What is your senseof St. Augustine's style-his ability to communicate and render intelligible the complex ideas, arguments, and concepts that constitute The City of God?

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 46 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2005

    A thought-provoking book

    I'm a nonbeliever, but I became aware of Augustine and Aquinas when taking Philosophy 100C and Philosophy of Religion at UCLA for my BA in Philosophy. What I enjoy most about Augustine in this work is that he often sounds very rational and open-minded, indeed, almost modern in his frank discussions of human behaviors. For example, he says things about sexuality that you might not expect a Doctor of the Church to say, like sex, being created by God, is not evil but it is lust which is sinful. This work also contains his famous quote about time 'If no one asks me what time is, I know. If someone asks me, I do not.' I suppose that is the mark of a great author, in that they transcend the times they live in and have something to say to all generations. At over 1000 pages, this book definitely requires a time committment on your part, but is certainly worth the investment.

    13 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    You do need this.

    Do not let the atheist and secularist reviewers tell you that you don't need this, or any authoritative teaching. God wants to love us, but does that mean our fate is guaranteed? We can do nothing to win God's love, but we need to do everything to earnestly want God's love. The battle for a compassionate and God-loving heart cannot be won by you alone, but can never be lost by those who never cease to battle. Augustine will teach you this, and so much more. New to this? Despair not: "How late have I loved Thee..." the Saint laments. Savor the place where God has brought you and give thanks for having been preserved to this moment. A great book from a great mind and a great soul. You do need this book.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2011

    Highly Recommended

    Preface and introduction essays are crucial to understanding this brilliant work, an exemplary work from the Church Fathers whose writings helped to unfold the teachings of the Church.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2001

    God is everywhere

    I have a little poem I would like to say about this book: Come sing with sweet rejoicing, come sing with love. We're not afraid of voicing all the things we're dreaming of. Oh, high and low and everywhere we go. We can build a beautiful city, yes we can, yes we can. We can build a beautiful city and call it ours, and call it the city of man. We won't need alabaster. We won't need gold. We've got our special plaster, so take my hand, I'll take you home. Oh, high and low and everywhere we go. We can build a beautiful city and call it ours, and call it the city of man. Such powerful words, but it does tell us we can build the city of God. Read this book. It is really old, written a few later after Jesus' death by St. Augustine. He was very creative for a time of 'oldness' for a writer. I think that this book sends out a good message to everyone, and every Christian person should read it. Buh Bye!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Rennee to jordon

    Hey

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Lucas

    Hurro.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Jordan

    Here. Take one. *Tosses you a bottle of pills and some water.* The procedure will be nothing less than excrutiatingly painful, for anyone who's awake, of course. Take that and it'll knock you out in a few minutes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2014

    Fantastic book

    Excellent...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013

    10.48!?

    Tooo expensive..... btw nice poem :)

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2011

    Terrible scan of no value

    Do not waste your time

    0 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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