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The Life of Augustine of Hippo

Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)

Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren

The seventeenth century was the century of Saint Augustine. In 1695, Louis Sébastien, Le Nain de Tillemont, finished volume 13 of his Mémoires ecclésiastique, entitled La vie de saint Augustin. The volume consisted of approximately 1200 pages wherein Louis Sébastien gathered from the works of Augustine and elsewhere all extant passages relevant to the biography of Augustine of Hippo. Completed in 1695, the biography was published posthumously in 1700. The work lies in the tradition of Jansenism from Port-Royal and the Leuven. Though an ascetic recluse on the family estate for the last twenty years of his life, he was in touch with important French scholars and the ecclesiastical movements of his time. Louis’ work is the first modern biography of Augustine and the most comprehensive of all Augustinian biographies, even today. Modern authors consult him and frequently adopt his theories without citation. His method exercises influence on contemporary Parisian scholarship on Augustine. This English translation has been divided into three volumes covering three time periods: part 1: birth to episcopal consecration (354–396); part 2: the Donatist controversy (396–411); part 3: the Pelagian controversy (411–430).
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Article 224: Volusianus




The respectful manner in which Augustine speaks of Volusianus implies he is a person of high rank. In effect Baronius and Godefroy both believe he was the maternal uncle of Melania the younger.1 In any event he came from an illustrious family in the empire and was raised to the highest dignities of the realm. In 421 he will act against Pelagians in the office of Roman prefect.2 He was African proconsul at a young age, as we learn from Rutilius.3 Volusianus is apparently accurately described by Augustine.4 The occupations attributed to him give us reason to believe he had some official duty in Carthage at this time even though Apringius was proconsul.

Augustine and Marcellinus praise Volusianus’ mind and eloquence.5 From the difficulties he proposed against the Christian faith, he had apparently not yet embraced it. If he had some initiation into the faith, he had surely not confirmed it. He needed instruction in Church teaching.6 Volusianus was surrounded by a number of obstinate pagans in Carthage who were trying to prevent his conversion to Christianity.7

Augustine calls Volusianus’ mother a holy woman, worthy of honor in Christ.8 She desired her son’s salvation and prayed to God in his behalf.9 Marcellinus often saw Volusianus at the former’s request and conversed with him daily to strengthen him in faith as far as possible.10 Whether his mother involved Augustine in working for his salvation is unknown. Augustine certainly did not...

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