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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 266: Orosius (2)

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ARTICLE 266

Orosius (2)

417 A.D.

According to the chronicle of Marcellinus, Orosius wrote his history of the entire world in 416.1 He may have begun the work in 416, but he certainly finished it later in 417. Apparently Orosius wrote the work while in Africa: he addressed it to Augustine at the beginning and the end.2 The work is extant and is divided into seven books.

Orosius undertook this work at Augustine’s insistence.3 In not considering the future and forgetting the past, pagans continually sought to use the sack of Rome and other misfortunes which had happened to the empire to their advantage, and would then claim the Christian religion was the cause of these evils. According to them, these events occurred because idols were no longer adored. Augustine exhorted Orosius to gather from various works of many authors the terrible events which had previously occurred, such as wars, epidemics, famines, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, extraordinary rock-slides, well known crimes, and other tragic events. Augustine directed Orosius to follow the course of human history to see whether more of these sorts of misfortunes had occurred since the advent of Christ than previously. Augustine could not dedicate himself to this research because of his other occupations, principally De ciuitate dei XI. Thus he urged Orosius through Julius, a deacon at Carthage where he may have been at that time, to dedicate himself to this work.

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