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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 271: Count Boniface (1)

Extract

ARTICLE 2711

Count Boniface (1)

Contemporaneous to De gestis Pelagii, Augustine wrote Letter 185.2 He wrote it before the letter to Dardanus, written during the summer of 417. Boniface is Augustine’s correspondent in Letter 185. He was a great man of the Roman empire of the early fifth century. A historian has written that in truth Boniface and Aetius were the last Romans of valor, experienced in war, magnanimous, and possessing the Roman military virtues in their entirety.3 Another historian calls him heroic and a man of extraordinary generosity.4 Prosper qualifies him as a captain renowned for his knowledge of military science.5 He was bestowed with the highest honors of the empire. Because of his piety Boniface was highly regarded by the bishops. His grandeur caused respect from others, but he did not persevere to the end; he abandoned God and fell into great evils. From the necessity of maintaining his human fortune he was reduced to wounding both Church and state cruelly. Neither he nor the forces of the Roman Empire could recover from his downfall for a century.

According to a letter attributed to him, Boniface was a barbarian from Thrace.6 The content of this letter is not easy to harmonize with what Procopius writes,7 who makes him a Roman. Neither the letters claimed to be his nor Augustine’s alleged responses to them are trustworthy pieces.8 Boniface was in Marseilles in 413 and merited the praise and blessing of the entire...

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