A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology

Smith, William

A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology. William Smith, LLD, ed. 1890

the most illustrious of the Latin fathers, was born on the 13th of November, A. D. 354, at Tagaste, an inland town in Numidia, identified by D'Anville with the modern Tajelt. His father, Patricius, who died about seventeen years after the birth of Augustin, was originally a heathen, but embraced Christianity late in life. Though poor, he belonged to the curiales of Tagaste. (August. Conf. 2.3.) He is described by his son as a benevolent but hottempered man, comparatively careless of the morals of his offspring, but anxious for his improvement in learning, as the means of future success in life. Monnica, [*](* For the orthography of this name, see Bahr, Geschichte der Römischen Literatur, Supplemenit, vol. ii. p. 225. and note p. 228.) the mother of Augustin, was a Christian of a singularly devout and gentle spirit, who exerted herself to the utmost in training up her son in the practice of piety ; but his disposition, complexionally ardent and headstrong, seemed to bid defiance to her efforts. He has given, in his Confessions, a vivid picture of his boyish follies and vices,--his love of play, his hatred of learning, his disobedience to his parents, and his acts of deceit and theft. It would indeed be absurd to infer from this recital that he was a prodigy of youthful wickedness, such faults being unhappily too common at that early age. None, however, but a very shallow moralist will treat these singular disclosures with ridicule, or

deny that they open a very important chapter in the history of human nature. When Augustin was still very young, he fell into a dangerous disorder, which induced him to wish for baptism ; but on his recovery, the rite was delayed. He tells us that he was exceedingly delighted, from his childhood, with the fabulous stories of the Latin poets; but the difficulty of learning Greek inspired him with a great disgust for that language. He was sent, during his boyhood, to be educated at the neighbouring town of Madaura, and afterwards removed to Carthage in order to prosecute the study of rhetoric. Here he fell into vicious practices; and before he was eighteen, his concubine bore him a son, whom he named Adeodatus. He applied, however, with characteristic ardour, to the study of the great masters of rhetoric and philosophy. In particular, he describes in strong terms the beneficial effect produced upon him by reading the Hortensius of Cicero. Soon after this, he embraced the Manichaean heresy,--a wild and visionary system, repugnant alike to sound reason and to Scripture, but not without strong fascinations for an ardent and imaginative mind undisciplined in the lessons of practical religion. To this pernicious doctrine he adhered for nine years, during which he unhappily seduced others into the adoption of the same errors.