Augustine of Hippo is the person in the ancient world about whom we know the most; after sixteen hundred years we still follow the nuances of his developing thought through his voluminous writings. We trace his journey from the provincial North African town of Thagaste, where he was born, through his public career in the great metropolises of Carthage, Rome, and Milan, and then back to North Africa as a Christian ascetic. From his own hand, we know more about his inner life than anyone except possibly the pagan emperor Marcus Aurelius, who wrote two centuries earlier. More striking still, we can read the very words Augustine and his debating adversaries spoke on precise dates as long ago as November 13, 386 or August 28, 392. Thus, as the distinguished Oxford classicist and garden writer Robin Lane Fox observes at the beginning of his fascinating—if shaggy—new life of the saint,...


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