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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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Note 54: Letter 151 (1)


NOTE 541

Letter 151 (1)

Augustine does not mention the name of the person of whom he speaks in Letter 151—thus it is necessary to judge his identity by circumstantial evidence. All the circumstances lead to the tribune Marcellinus. This letter concerns the death of two brothers executed at Carthage. The letter supposes the innocence of both as certain. Augustine praises one brother as a man of monastic virtue in his marriage and the civil service. He loved learning and was humble in his knowledge. In his considerable suffering the Church endured more than in his brother’s. He had come to Africa because of the Church. Nothing suits Marcellinus better.

Augustine says the man had died unnecessarily out of gratuitous cruelty. There could well have been secret causes of his death, hinted at but unsuitable to be placed openly in letters. The man behind his death had wished to please certain impious men. To do something agreeable to them was painless to him. We learn from Jerome and Orosius that Count Marinus caused Marcellinus’ death.2 He accused Marcellinus of the revolt of Heraclianus and in effect Marinus pleased the Donatists who perhaps had bribed him. The condemning judge of whom Augustine speaks claimed to obey the court’s express order although the court had assured him of the two brothers’ innocence. The court had not wished to execute them lest the execution harm its reputation. The court disapproved of Marcellinus’ death.


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