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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 58: Dog of the Alps

Extract

NOTE 581

Dog of the Alps

Jerome writes Pelagius was in Palestine toward 416. This statement probably indicates Pelagius was in Palestine also in 415. Jerome is silent and even at times makes mistakes. Unlike his previous letters which contain gold and wealth (auriferas), he sends letters here full of calumnies. Jerome distinguishes two persons: Ipseque mutus latrat per Alpinum canem grandem et corpulentum, et qui calcibus magis possit sauire quam dentibus: habet enim progeniem scoticae gentis de Britannorum vicinia.2 These words could refer to Pelagius as he was from Great Britain. On the other hand, by these words Jerome apparently wished to indicate Scotland. Why was Pelagius considered a dog? The words Hic tacet and so forth may be addressed to John of Jerusalem who had given Jerome every reason not to spare him his wrath. John of Jerusalem may have been continually sending presents which is the most natural sense of mittit epistulas auriferas.

Garnier believes that the dog of the Alps is Pelagius and the one who barks is Rufinus whom Jerome regards as Pelagius’ teacher.3 However Rufinus died in 410. Jerome would not say six years later hic tacet and mittit epistolas and ipse mutus latrat and the rest—these words indicate a living person. The mute may be John of Jerusalem and Pelagius his dog or the mute may be Pelagius and the dog one of his disciples.

Several capable scholars believe the dog is Caelestius because...

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