Saint Augustin
Louis Bertrand

Part 2 out of 5

of her musicians. He shed tears at the plays of Menander and Terence;
he lamented upon the misfortunes of separated lovers; he shared their
quarrels, rejoiced and despaired with them. And still he awaited the
epiphany of Love--that Love which the performance of the actors shewed him
to be so touching and fine.

Such then was Augustin, given over to the irresponsibility of his eighteen
years--a heart spoiled by romantic literature, a mind impatient to try
every sort of intellectual adventure in the most corrupting and bewitching
city known to the pagan centuries, set amidst one of the most entrancing
landscapes in the world.



Carthage did not offer only pleasures to Augustin; it was besides an
extraordinary subject to think about for an understanding so alert and
all-embracing as his.

At Carthage he understood the Roman grandeur as he could not at Madaura
and the Numidian towns. Here, as elsewhere, the Romans made a point of
impressing the minds of conquered races by the display of their strength
and magnificence. Above all, they aimed at the immense. The towns built
by them offered the same decorative and monumental character of the
Greek cities of the Hellenistic period, which the Romans had further
exaggerated--a character not without emphasis and over-elaboration, but
which was bound to astonish, and that was the main thing in their view. In
short, their ideal was not perceptibly different from that of our modern
town councillors. To lay out streets which intersected at right angles; to
create towns cut into even blocks like chessboards; to multiply prospects
and huge architectural masses--all the Roman cities of this period revealed
such an aim, with an almost identical plan.

Erected after this type, the new Carthage caused the old to be forgotten.
Everybody agreed that it was second only to Rome. The African writers
squandered the most hyperbolical praises upon it. For them it is "The
splendid, the august, the sublime Carthage." Although there may well be a
certain amount of triviality or of patriotic exaggeration in these praises,
it is certain that the Roman capital of the Province of Africa was no less
considerable than the old metropolis of the Hanno and Barcine factions.
With a population almost as large as that of Rome, it had almost as great
a circumference. It must further be recalled that as it had no ramparts
till the Vandal invasion, the city overflowed into the country. With its
gardens, villas, and burial-places of the dead, it covered nearly the
entire peninsula, to-day depopulated.

Carthage, as well as Rome, had her Capitol and Palatine upon Mount Byrsa,
where rose no doubt a temple consecrated to the Capitolean triune deities,
Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, not far from the great temple of AEsculapius, a
modern transformation of the old Punic Eschmoum. Hard by these sanctuaries,
the Proconsul's palace dominated Carthage from the height of the acclivity
of the Acropolis. The Forum was at the foot of the hill, probably in the
neighbourhood of the ports--a Forum built and arranged in the Roman way,
with its shops of bankers and money-changers placed under the circular
galleries, with the traditional image of Marsyas, and a number of statues
of local celebrities. Apuleius no doubt had his there. Further off was the
Harbour Square, where gathered foreigners recently landed and the idlers of
the city in search of news, and where the booksellers offered the new books
and pamphlets. There was to be seen one of the curiosities of Carthage--a
mosaic representing fabulous monsters, men without heads, and men with only
one leg and one foot--a huge foot under which, lying upon their backs, they
sheltered from the sun, as under a parasol. On account of this feature they
were called the _sciapodes_. Augustin, who like everybody else had paused
before these grotesque figures, recalls them somewhere to his readers....
Beside the sea, in the lower town and upon the two near hills of the
Acropolis, were a number of detached buildings that the old authors have
preserved the names of and briefly described. Thanks to the zeal of
archaeologists, it is now become impossible to tell where they stood.

The pagan sanctuaries were numerous. That of the goddess Coelestis, the
great patroness of Carthage, occupied a space of five thousand feet. It
comprised, besides the actual [Greek: hieron], where stood the image of the
goddess, gardens, sacred groves, and courts surrounded with columns. The
ancient Phoenician Moloch had also his temple under the name of Saturn.
They called him _The Old One_, so Augustin tells us, and his worshippers
were falling away. On the other hand, Carthage had another sanctuary which
was very fashionable, a _Serapeum_ as at Alexandria, where were manifested
the pomps of the Egyptian ritual, celebrated by Apuleius. Neighbouring
the holy places, came the places of amusement: the theatre, the Odeum,
circus, stadium, and amphitheatre--this last, of equal dimensions with
the Colosseum at Rome, its gallery rising upon gallery, and its realistic
sculptures of animals and artisans. Then there were the buildings for the
public service: the immense cisterns of the East and the Malga, the great
aqueduct, which, after being carried along a distance of fifty-five miles,
emptied the water of the Zaghouan into the reservoirs at Carthage. Finally,
there were the Baths, some of which we know--those of Antoninus and of
Maximianus, and those of Gargilius, where one of the most important
Councils known to the history of the African Church assembled. There were
likewise many Christian basilicas at the time of Augustin. The authors
mention seventeen: it is likely there were more. That of Damous-el-Karita,
the only one of which considerable traces have been found, was vast and
richly decorated, and was perhaps the cathedral of Carthage.

What other buildings there were are utterly lost to history. It
may be conjectured, however, that Carthage, as well as Rome, had a
_septizonium_--a decorative building with peristyles one above the other
which surrounded a reservoir. In fact, it is claimed that the one at
Rome was copied from Carthage. Straight streets paved with large flags
intersected around these buildings, forming a network of long avenues, very
bright and ventilated. Some of them were celebrated in the ancient world
either for their beauty or the animation of their trade: the street of the
Jewellers, the street of Health, of Saturn, of Coelestis, too, or of Juno.
The fig and vegetable markets and the public granaries were also some of
the main centres of Carthaginian life.

It is unquestionable that Carthage, with its buildings and statues, its
squares, avenues and public gardens, looked like a large capital, and was
a perfect example of that ideal of rather brutal magnificence and strength
which the Romans obtruded everywhere.

And even while it dazzled the young provincial from Thagaste, the African
Rome shewed him the virtue of order--social and political order. Carthage,
the metropolis of Western Africa, maintained an army of officials who
handled the government in its smallest details. First of all, there
were the representatives of the central power, the imperial rulers--the
Proconsul, a sort of vice-emperor, who was surrounded by a full court, a
civil and military staff, a privy council, an _officium_ which included a
crowd of dignitaries and subaltern clerks. Then there was the Propraetor
of Africa who, being in control of the government of the whole African
province, had an _officium_ still larger perhaps than the Proconsul's.
After them came the city magistrates, who were aided in their functions by
the Council of the Decurions--the Senate of Carthage. These Carthaginian
senators cut a considerable figure: for them their colleagues at Rome
were full of airs and graces, and the Emperors endeavoured to keep them
in a good-humour. All the details of city government came under their
supervision: the slaughter-houses, buildings, the gathering of municipal
taxes, and the police, which comprised even the guardians of the Forum.
Then there were the army and navy. The home port of a grain-carrying fleet
which conveyed the African cereals to Ostia, Carthage could starve Rome
if she liked. The grain and oil of all countries lay in her docks--the
storehouses of the state provisions, which were in charge of a special
prefect who had under his orders a whole corporation of overseers and

Augustin must have heard a good deal of grumbling at Carthage against this
excess of officialism. But, all the same, so well-governed a city was a
very good school for a young man who was to combine later the duties of
bishop, judge, and governor. The blessings of order, of what was called
"the Roman peace" no doubt impressed him the more, as he himself came from
a turbulent district often turned upside down by the quarrels of religious
sects and by the depredations of the nomads--a boundary-land of the Sahara
regions where it was much harder to bring the central government into
play than in Carthage and the coast-towns. To appreciate the beauty of
government, there is nothing like living in a country where all is at the
mercy of force or the first-comer's will. Such of the Barbarians who came
in contact with Roman civilization were overcome with admiration for the
good order that it established. But what astonished them more than anything
else was that the Empire was everywhere.

No man, whatever his race or country, could help feeling proud to belong to
the Roman city. He was at home in all the countries in the world subject
to Rome. Our Europe, split into nationalities, can hardly understand now
this feeling of pride, so different from our narrow patriotisms. The way to
feel something of it is to go to the colonies: out there the least of us
may believe himself a sovereign, simply from the fact that he is a subject
of the governing country. This feeling was very strong in the old world.
Carthage, where the striking effect of the Empire appeared in all its
brilliancy, would increase it in Augustin. He had only to look around him
to value the extent of the privilege conferred by Rome on her citizens. Men
coming from all countries, without exception of race, were, so to speak,
made partners of the Empire and collaborated in the grandeur of the Roman
scheme. If the Proconsul who then occupied the Byrsa palace, the celebrated
Symmachus, belonged to an old Italian family, he whom he represented,
the Emperor Valentinian, was the son of a Pannonian soldier. The Count
Theodosius, the general who suppressed the insurrection of Firmus in
Mauretania, was a Spaniard, and the army he led into Africa was made up,
for the most part, of Gauls. Later on, under Arcadius, another Gaul,
Rufinus, shall be master of the whole of the East.

An active mind like Augustin's could not remain indifferent before this
spectacle of the world thrown open by Rome to all men of talent. He had the
soul of a poet, quick to enthusiasm; the sight of the Eagles planted on
the Acropolis at Carthage moved him in a way he never forgot. He acquired
the habit of seeing big, and began to cast off race prejudices and all the
petty narrowness of a local spirit. When he became a Christian he did not
close himself up, like the Donatists, within the African Church. His dream
was that Christ's Empire upon earth should equal the Empire of the Caesars.

Still, it is desirable not to fall into error upon this Roman unity.
Behind the imposing front it shewed from one end to the other of the
Mediterranean, the variety of peoples, with their manners, traditions,
special religions, was always there, and in Africa more than elsewhere.
The population of Carthage was astonishingly mixed. The hybrid character
of this country without unity was illustrated by the streaks found in the
Carthaginian crowds. All the specimens of African races elbowed one another
in the streets, from the nigger, brought from his native Soudan by the
slave-merchant, to the Romanized Numidian. The inflow, continually renewed,
of traffickers and cosmopolitan adventurers increased this confusion.
And so Carthage was a Babel of races, of costumes, of beliefs and ideas.
Augustin, who was at heart a mystic, but also a dialectician extremely fond
of showy discussions, found in Carthage a lively summary of the religions
and philosophies of his day. During these years of study and reflection he
captured booty of knowledge and observation which he would know how to make
use of in the future.

In the Carthage sanctuaries and schools, in the squares and the streets,
he could see pass the disciples of all the systems, the props of all the
superstitions, the devotees of all the religions. He heard the shrill
clamour of disputes, the tumult of fights and riots. When a man was at the
end of his arguments, he knocked down his opponent. The authorities had a
good deal of trouble to keep order. Augustin, who was an intrepid logician,
must have longed to take his share in these rows. But one cannot exactly
improvise a faith between to-day and to-morrow. While he awaited the
enlightenment of the truth, he studied the Carthaginian Babel.

First of all, there was the official religion, the most obvious and perhaps
the most brilliant, that of the Divinity of the Emperors, which was still
kept up even under the Christian Caesars. Each year, at the end of October,
the elected delegates of the entire province, having at their head the
_Sacerdos province_, the provincial priest, arrived at Carthage. Their
leader, clad in a robe broidered with palms, gold crown on head, made his
solemn entry into the city. It was a perfect invasion, each member dragging
in his wake a mob of clients and servants. The Africans, with their
taste for pomp and colour, seized the chance to give themselves over to a
display of ruinous sumptuosities: rich dresses, expensive horses splendidly
caparisoned, processions, sacrifices, public banquets, games at the circus
and amphitheatre. These strangers so overcrowded the city that the imperial
Government had to forbid them, under severe penalties, to stay longer
than five days. A very prudent measure! At these times, collisions were
inevitable between pagans and Christians. It was desirable to scatter such
crowds as soon as possible, for riots were always smouldering in their

No less thronged were the festivals of the Virgin of Heaven. A survival
of the national religion, these feasts were dear to the hearts of the
Carthaginians. Augustin went to them with his fellow-students. "We trooped
there from every quarter," he says. There was a great gathering of people
in the interior court which led up to the temple. The statue, taken from
its sanctuary, was placed before the peristyle upon a kind of repository.
Wantons, arrayed with barbarous lavishness, danced around the holy
image; actors performed and sang hymns. "Our eager eyes," Augustin adds
maliciously, "rested in turn on the goddess, and on the girls, her
adorers." The Great Mother of the Gods, the Goddess of Mount Berecyntus,
was worshipped with similar license. Every year the people of Carthage went
to wash her solemnly in the sea. Her statue, carried in a splendid litter,
robed with precious stuffs, curled and farded, passed through the streets
of the city, with its guard of mummers and Corybants. These last, "with
hair greasy from pomade, pale faces, and a loose and effeminate walk, held
out bowls for alms to the onlookers."

The devotion to Isis was yet another excuse for processions: the _Serapeum_
was a rival attraction to the temple of the Heavenly Maiden. If we may
trust Tertullian, the Africans swore only by Serapis. Possibly Mithras
had also worshippers in Carthage. Anyhow, the occult religions were fully
represented there. Miracle-working was becoming more and more the basis
even of paganism. Never had the soothsayers been more flourishing.
Everybody, in secret, pried into the entrails of the sacrificial victims,
or used magic spells. As to the wizards and astrologists, they did business
openly. Augustin himself consulted them, like all the Carthaginians. The
public credulity had no limits.

On the opposite side from the pagan worship, the sects which had sprung
from Christianity sprouted. True, Africa has given birth to but a small
number of heresies: the Africans had not the subtle mind of the Orientals
and they were not given to theorizing. But a good many of the Eastern
heresies had got into Carthage. Augustin must have still met Arians there,
although at this period Arianism was dying out in Africa. What is certain
is that orthodox Catholicism was in a very critical state. The Donatists
captured its congregations and churches; they were unquestionably in the
majority. They raised altar against altar. If Genethlius was the Catholic
bishop, the Donatist bishop was Parmenianus. And they claimed to be more
Catholic than their opponents. They boasted that they were the Church, the
single, the unique Church, the Church of Christ. But these schismatics
themselves were already splitting up into many sects. At the time Augustin
was studying at Carthage, Rogatus, Bishop of Tenes, had just broken
publicly with Parmenian's party. Another Donatist, Tyconius, published
books wherein he traversed many principles dear to his fellow-religionists.
Doubt darkened consciences. Amid these controversies, where was the truth?
Among whom did the Apostolic tradition dwell?

To put the finishing touch on this anarchy, a sect which likewise derived
from Christianity--Manicheeism--began to have numerous adepts in Africa.
Watched with suspicion by the Government, it concealed part of its
doctrine, the most scandalous and subversive. But the very mystery which
enveloped it, helped it to get adherents.

Among all these apostles preaching their gospel, these devotees beating
the drum before their god, these theologians reciprocally insulting and
excommunicating one another, Augustin brought the superficial scepticism of
his eighteenth year. He wanted no more of the religion in which his mother
had brought him up. He was a good talker, a clever dialectician; he was in
a hurry to emancipate himself, to win freedom for his way of thinking as
for his way of life; and he meant to enjoy his youth. With such gifts, and
with such dispositions, he could only choose among all these doctrines that
which would help most the qualities of his mind, at once flattering his
intellectual pretensions, and leaving his pleasure-loving instincts a loose



However strong were the attractions of the great city, Augustin well knew
that he had not been sent there to amuse himself, or to trifle as an
amateur with philosophy. He was poor, and he had to secure his future--make
his fortune. His family counted on him. Neither was he ignorant of the
difficult position of his parents and by what sacrifices they had supplied
him with the means to finish his studies. Necessarily he was obliged to be
a student who worked.

With his extraordinary facility, he stood out at once among his
fellow-students. In the rhetoric school, where he attended lectures,
he was, he tells us, not only at the top, but he was the leader of his
companions. He led in everything. At that time, rhetoric was extremely
far-reaching: it had come to take in all the divisions of education,
including science and philosophy. Augustin claims to have learned all that
the masters of his time had to teach: rhetoric, dialectic, geometry, music,
mathematics. Having gone through the whole scholastic system, he thought of
studying law, and aided by his gift of words, to become a barrister. For a
gifted young man it was the shortest and surest road to money and honours.

Unhappily for him, hardly was he settled down at Carthage than his father
died. This made his future again problematical. How was he to keep up his
studies without the sums coming from his father? The affairs of Patricius
must have been left in the most parlous condition. But Monnica, clinging to
her ambitious plans for her son, knew how to triumph over all difficulties,
and she continued to send Augustin money. Romanianus, the Maecenas of
Thagaste, who was doubtless applied to by her, came once more to the rescue
of the hard-up student. The young man, set at ease about his expenses,
resumed light-heartedly his studious and dissipated life.

As a matter of fact, this family bereavement does not seem to have caused
him much grief. In the _Confessions_ he mentions the death of his father in
a few words, and, so to speak, in parenthesis, as an event long foreseen
without much importance. And yet he owed him a great deal. Patricius was
hard pressed, and he took immense trouble to provide the means for his
son's education. But with the fine egotism of youth, Augustin perhaps
thought it enough to have profited by his father's sacrifices, and
dispensed himself from gratitude. In any case, his affection for his father
must have been rather lukewarm; the natural differences between them ran
too deep. In these years, Monnica filled all the heart of Augustin.

But the influence of Monnica herself was very slight upon this grown-up
youth, eighteen years old. He had forgotten her lessons, and it did not
trouble him much if his conduct added to the worries of the widow, who was
now struggling with her husband's creditors. At heart he was a good son and
he deeply loved his mother, but inevitably the pressure of the life around
him swept him along.

He has pictured his companions for us, after his conversion, as terrible
blackguards. No doubt he is too severe. Those young men were neither better
nor worse than elsewhere. They were rowdy, as they were in the other cities
of the Empire, and as one always is at that age. Imperial regulations
enjoined the police to have an eye on the students, to note their conduct
and what company they kept. They were not to become members of prohibited
societies, not to go too often to the theatre, nor to waste their time in
raking and feastings. If their conduct became too outrageous, they were to
be beaten with rods and sent back to their parents. At Carthage there was
a hard-living set of men who called themselves "The Wreckers." Their great
pleasure was to go and make a row at a professor's lecture; they would
burst noisily into the classroom and smash up anything they could lay hold
of. They amused themselves also by "ragging" the freshmen, jeering at their
simplicity, and playing them a thousand tricks. Things haven't much changed
since then. The fellow-students of Augustin were so like students of
to-day that the most modern terms suggest themselves to describe their

Augustin, who was on the whole well conducted, and, as behoved a future
professor, had a respect for discipline, disapproved of "The Wreckers" and
their violence. This did not prevent him from enjoying himself in their
society. He was overcome with shame because he could not keep pace with
them--we must believe it at least, since he tells us so himself. With a
certain lack of assurance, blended however with much juvenile vanity, he
joined the band. He listened to that counsel of vulgar wisdom which is
disastrous to souls like his: "Do as others do." He accordingly did do
as the others; he knew all their debauchery, or he imagined he did, for
however low he went, he was never able to do anything mean. He was then so
far from the faith that he arranged love-trysts in the churches. "I was not
afraid to think of my lust, and plan a scheme for securing the deadly fruit
of sin, even within the walls of Thy church during the celebration of Thy
mysteries." We might be reading the confession of a sensualist of to-day.
One grows astonished at these morals, at once so old and so modern. What,
already! These young Christian basilicas, but newly sprung out of the
earth, where the men were strictly separated from the women--were they
already become places of assignation, where love-letters were slipped into
hands, and procuresses sold their furtive services!...

At length the great happiness for which Augustin had so long been sighing
was granted him: he loved and he was loved.

He loved as he indeed was able to love, with all the impetuosity of his
nature and all the fire of his temperament, with all his heart and all his
senses. "I plunged headlong into love, whose fetters I longed to wear." But
as he went at once to extremes, as he meant to give himself altogether,
and expected all in return, he grew irritated at not receiving this same
kind of love. It was never enough love for him. Yet he was loved, and the
very certainty of this love, always too poor to his mind, exasperated the
violence and pertinacity of his desire. "Because I was loved, I proudly
riveted round myself the chain of woe, to be soon scourged with the red-hot
iron rods of jealousy, torn by suspicions, fears, anger, and quarrels."
This was passion with chorus and orchestra, a little theatrical, with its
violences, its alternations between fury and ecstasy, such as an African,
steeped in romantic literature, would conceive it. Deceived, he flung
himself in desperate pursuit of the ever-flitting love. He had certainly
more than one passion. Each one left him more hungry than the last.

He was sensual, and he felt each time how brief is pleasure, in what a
limited circle all enjoyment turns. He was tender, eager to give himself;
and he saw plainly that one never gives oneself quite altogether, that even
in the maddest hours of surrender one always reserves oneself in secret,
keeping for oneself something of oneself; and he felt that most of the time
his tenderness got no answer. When the joyous heart brings the offering of
its love, the heart of her he loves is absent. And when it is there, on the
edge of the lips, decked and smiling to meet the loved one, it is the other
who is absent. Almost never do they join together, and they never join
together altogether. And so this Love, which claims to be constant and even
eternal, ought to be, if it would prolong itself, a continual act of faith,
and hope, and charity. To believe in it in spite of its darkening and
falling away; to hope its return, often against all evidence; to pardon its
injustices and sometimes its foul actions--how many are capable of such
abnegation? Augustin went through all that. He was in despair about it.
And then, the nostalgia of predestined souls took hold of him. He had an
indistinct feeling that these human loves were unworthy of him, and that
if he must have a master, he was born to serve another Master. He had a
desire to shake off the platitude of here below, the melancholy fen where
stagnated what he calls "the marsh of the flesh"; to escape, in a word,
from the wretched huts wherein for a little he had sheltered his heart; to
burn all behind him, and so prevent the weakness of a return; and to go and
pitch his tent further, higher, he knew not where--upon some unapproachable
mountain where the air is icy, but before the eyes, the vasty stretches of
light and space....

These first loves of Augustin were really too fierce to last. They
burned up themselves. Augustin did not keep them up long. There was in
him, besides, an instinct which counteracted his exuberant, amorous
sentimentality--the sense of beauty. That in itself was enough to make him
pause on the downhill of riot. The anarchy and commotion of passion was
repellent to a mind devoted to clearness and order. But there was still
another thing--the son of the Thagaste freeholder had any amount of common
sense. That at least was left to him of the paternal heritage. A youth of
what we call the lower middle class, strictly brought up in the hard and
frugal discipline of the provinces, he felt the effects of his training.
The bohemianism in which his friends revelled could not hold him
indefinitely. Besides this, the career he desired, that of a barrister
or professor, had a preliminary obligation to maintain a certain outward
decorum. He himself tells us so; in the midst of his most disreputable
performances he aspired to be known for his fashion and wit--_elegans atque
urbanus_. Politeness of speech and manners, the courteous mutual deference
of the best society--such, was the ideal of this budding professor of

Anxiety about his future, joined to his rapid disenchantments, ere long
sobered the student: he just took his fling and then settled down. Love
turned for him into sensual habit. His head became clear for study and
meditation. The apprentice to rhetoric liked his business. Up to his
last breath, despite his efforts to change, he continued, like all his
contemporaries, to love rhetoric. He handled words like a worker in verbals
who is aware of their price and knows all their resources. Even after his
conversion, if he condemns profane literature as a poisoner of souls, he
absolves the beauty of language. "I accuse not words," he says. "Words
are choice and precious vessels. I accuse the wine of error that drunken
doctors pour out for us into these fair goblets." At the Rhetoric School he
took extreme pleasure in declaiming. He was applauded; the professor gave
him as an example to the others. These scholastic triumphs foretold others
more celebrated and reverberating. And so, in his heart, literary vanity
and ambition disputed the ever-lively illusions of love. And then, above
all! he had to live; Monnica's remittances were necessarily small; the
generosity of Romanianus had its limit. So he beat about to enlarge his
small student's purse. He wrote verses for poetic competitions. Perhaps
already he was able to act as tutor to certain of his fellow-students, less

If the need of loving tormented his sentimental heart, he tried to assuage
it in friendship. He loved friendship as he loved love. He was a passionate
and faithful friend up to his death. At this time of his life, he was
riveting friendships which were never to be broken. He had beside him his
fellow-countryman, Alypius, the future Bishop of Thagaste, who had followed
him to Carthage and would, later on, follow him to Milan; Nebridius, a not
less dear companion, fated to die early; Honoratus, whom he drew into his
errors and later did his best to enlighten; and, finally, that mysterious
young man, whose name he does not tell us, and whose loss he mourned as
never any one has mourned the death of a friend.

They lived in daily and hourly intimacy, in continual fervour and
enthusiasm. They were great theatre-goers, where Augustin was able to
satisfy his desire for tender emotions and romantic adventures. They had
musical parties; they tried over again the popular airs heard at the
Odeum or some other of the innumerable theatres at Carthage. All the
Carthaginians, even the populace, were mad about music. The Bishop of
Hippo, in his sermons, recalls a mason upon his scaffolding, or a shoemaker
in his stall, singing away the tunes of well-known musicians. Then our
students strolled on the quays or in the Harbour Square, contemplating
the many-coloured sea, this splendour of waters at the setting sun, which
Augustin will extol one day with an inspiration unknown to the ancient
poets. Above all, they fell into discussions, commented what they had
lately read, or built up astonishing plans for the future. So flowed by a
happy and charming life, abruptly interpolated with superb anticipations.
With what a full heart the Christian penitent calls it back for us!--"What
delighted me in the intercourse of my friends, was the talk, the laughter,
the good turns we did each other, the common study of the masters of
eloquence, the comradeship, now grave now gay, the differences that left
no sting, as of a man differing with himself, the spice of disagreement
which seasoned the monotony of consent. Each by turns would instruct or
listen; impatiently we missed the absent friend, and savoured the joy of
his return. We loved each other with all our hearts, and such tokens of
friendship springing from the heart and displayed by a word, a glance, an
expression, by a thousand pretty complaisances, supply the heat which welds
souls together, and of many make one."

It is easily understood that such ties as these had given Augustin a
permanent disgust for his rowdy comrades of a former time: he went no more
with "The Wreckers." The small circle he took pleasure in was quiet and
cheerful. Its merriment was controlled by the African gravity. He and his
friends come before my eyes, a little like those students of theology, or
those cultivated young Arabs, who discuss poetry, lolling indolently upon
the cushions of a divan, while they roll between their fingers the amber
beads of their rosary, or walking slowly under the arcades of a mosque,
draped in their white-silk simars, with a serious and meditative air,
gestures elegant and measured, courteous and harmonious speech, and
something discreet, polite, and already clerical in their tone and manners.

In fact, the life which Augustin was at that time relishing was the pagan
life on its best and gentlest side. The subtle network of habits and daily
occupations enveloped him little by little. There was some risk of his
growing torpid in this soft kind of life, when suddenly a rude shock roused
him.... It was a chance, but in his eyes a providential chance, which put
the _Hortensius_ of Cicero between his hands. Augustin was about nineteen,
still a student; according to the order which prevailed in the schools,
the time had come for him to read and explain this philosophical dialogue.
He had no curiosity about the book. He took it from his sense of duty as
a student, because it figured on the schedule. He unrolled the book, and
began it, doubtless with calm indifference. All of a sudden, a great
unexpected light shone between the lines. His heart throbbed. His whole
soul sprang towards these phrases, so dazzling and revealing. He awoke
from his long drowsiness. Before him shone a marvellous vision.... As this
dialogue is lost, we can hardly to-day account for such enthusiasm, and
we hold that the Roman orator was a very middling philosopher. We know,
however, through Augustin himself, that the book contained an eloquent
praise of wisdom. And then, words are naught without the soul of the
reader; all this, falling into Augustin's soul, rendered a prolonged and
magnificent sound. It is evident, too, that just at the moment when he
unrolled the book he was in a condition to receive this uplifting summons.
In such minutes, when the heart, ignorant of itself, swells like the sea
before a storm, when all the inner riches of the being overflow, the
slightest glimmer is enough to reveal all these imprisoned forces, and the
least shock to set them free.

He has at least preserved for us, in pious and faithful gratitude, some
phrases of this dialogue which moved him so deeply. Especially does he
admire this passage, wherein the author, after a long discussion, ends in
these terms: "If, as pretend the philosophers of old time, who are also
the greatest and most illustrious, we have a soul immortal and divine, it
behoves us to think, that the more it has persevered in its way, that is to
say, in reason, love, and the pursuit of truth, and the less it has been
intermingled and stained in human error and passion, the easier will it be
for it to raise itself and soar again to the skies."

Such phrases, read in a certain state of mind, might well overwhelm this
young man, who was ere long to yearn for the cloister and was destined to
be the founder of African monasticism. To give his whole life to the study
of wisdom, to compel himself towards the contemplation of God, to live
here below an almost divine life--this ideal, impossible to pagan wisdom,
Augustin was called to realize in the name of Christ. That had dawned on
him, all at once, while he was reading the _Hortensius_. And this ideal
appeared to him so beautiful, so well worth the sacrifice of all he had
hitherto loved, that nothing else counted for him any more. He despised
rhetoric, the vain studies it compelled him to pursue, the honour and glory
it promised him. What was all that to the prize of wisdom? For wisdom he
felt himself ready to give up the world.... But these heroic outbursts
do not, as a rule, keep up very long in natures so changeable and
impressionable as Augustin's. Yet they are not entirely thrown away.
Thus, in early youth, come dim revelations of the future. There comes a
presentiment of the port to which one will some day be sailing; a glimpse
of the task to fulfil, the work to build up; and all this rises before the
eyes in an entrancement of the whole being. Though the bright image be
eclipsed, perhaps for years, the remembrance of it persists amid the worst
degradations or the worst mediocrities. He who one single time has seen it
pass, can never afterwards live quite like other people.

This fever calmed, Augustin set himself to reflect. The ancient
philosophers promised him wisdom. But Christ also promised it! Was it not
possible to reconcile them? And was not the Gospel ideal essentially more
human than that of the pagan philosophers? Suppose he tried to submit to
that, to bring the faith of his childhood into line with his ambitions as a
young man of intellect? To be good after the manner of his mother, of his
grandparents, of the good Thagaste servants, of all the humble Christian
souls whose virtues he had been taught to respect, and at the same time to
rival a Plato by the strength of thought--what a dream! Was it possible?...
He tells us himself that the illusion was brief, and that he grew cool
about the _Hortensius_ because he did not find the name of Christ in it. He
deceives himself, probably. At this time he was not so Christian. He yields
to the temptation of a fine phrase: when he wrote his _Confessions_ he had
not yet entirely lost this habit.

But what remains true is, that feeling the inadequateness of pagan
philosophy, he returned for a moment towards Christianity. The Ciceronian
dialogue, by disappointing his thirst for the truth, gave him the idea of
knocking at the door of the Church and trying to find out if on that side
there might not be a practicable road for him. This is why the reading
of _Hortensius_ is in Augustin's eyes one of the great dates of his life.
Although he fell back in his errors, he takes credit for his effort.
He recognizes in it the first sign, and, as it were, a promise of his
conversion. "Thenceforth, my God, began my upward way, and my return
towards Thee."

He began then to study the Holy Scriptures with a more or less serious
intention to instruct himself in them. But to go to the Bible by way of
Cicero was to take the worst road. Augustin got lost there. This direct
popular style, which only cares about saying things, and not about how they
are said, could only repel the pupil of Carthage rhetoricians, the imitator
of the harmonious Ciceronian sentences. Not only had he much too spoiled
a taste in literature, but there was also too much literature in this
pose of a young man who starts off one fine morning to conquer wisdom. He
was punished for his lack of sincerity, and especially of humility. He
understood nothing of the Scripture, and "I found it," he says, "a thing
not known to the proud, nor yet laid open to children, but poor in
appearance, lofty in operation, and veiled in mysteries. At that time, I
was not the man to bow my head so as to pass in at its door."...

He grew tired very quickly. He turned his back on the Bible, as he
had thrown aside _Hortensius_, and he went to find pasture elsewhere.
Nevertheless, his mind had been set in motion. Nevermore was he to know
repose, till he had found truth. He demanded this truth from all the sects
and all the churches. So it was, that in despair he flung himself into

Some have professed amazement that this honest and practical mind should
have stuck fast in a doctrine so tortuous, so equivocal, contaminated by
fancies so grossly absurd. But perhaps it is forgotten that there was
everything in Manicheeism. The leaders of the sect did not deliver the bulk
of the doctrine all at once to their catechumens; the entire initiation was
a matter of several degrees. Now Augustin never went higher than a simple
_auditor_ in the Manichean Church. What attracted specially fine minds to
the Manichees, was that they began by declaring themselves rationalists.
To reconcile faith with natural science and philosophy has been the fad
of heresiarchs and free-thinkers in all ages. The Manicheans bragged that
they had succeeded. They went everywhere, crying out: "Truth, Truth!" That
suited Augustin very well: it was just what he was looking for. He hastened
to the preachings of these humbugs, impatient to receive at last this
"truth," so noisily announced. From what they said, it was contained in
several large books written by their prophet under the guidance of the Holy
Ghost. There was quite a library of them. By way of bamboozling the crowd,
they produced some of them which looked very important, ponderous as
Tables of the Law, richly bound in vellum, and embellished with striking
illuminations. How was it possible to doubt that the entire revelation was
contained in such beautiful books? One felt at once full of respect for a
religion which was able to produce in its favour the testimony of such a
mass of writings.

However, the priests did not open them. To allay the impatience of their
hearers, they amused them by criticizing the books and dogmas of the
Catholics. This preliminary criticism was the first lesson of their
instruction. They pointed out any number of incoherences, absurdities,
and interpolations in the Bible: according to them, a great part of the
Scriptures had been foisted on the world by the Jews. But they triumphed
especially in detecting the contradictions of the Gospel narratives. They
sapped them with syllogisms. It is easy to understand that these exercises
in logic should have at once attracted the youthful Augustin. With his
extraordinary dialectical subtilty, he soon became very good at it
himself--much better even than his masters. He made speeches in their
assemblies, fenced against a text, peremptorily refuted it, and reduced his
adversaries to silence. He was applauded, covered with praise. A religion
which brought him such successes must be the true one.

After he became a bishop, he tried to explain to himself how it was that
he fell into Manicheeism, and could find only two reasons. "The first,"
he says, "was a friendship which took hold of me under I know not what
appearance of kindness, and was like a cord about my neck.... The second
was those unhappy victories that I almost always won in our disputes."

But there is still another which he mentions elsewhere, and it had
perhaps the most weight. This was the loose moral code which Manicheeism
authorized. This doctrine taught that we are not responsible for the evil
we do. Our sins and vices are the work of the evil Principle--the God of
Darkness, enemy of the God of Light. Now at the moment when Augustin was
received as _auditor_ by the Manichees, he had a special need of excusing
his conduct by a moral system so convenient and indulgent. He had just
formed his connection with her who was to become the mother of his child.



Augustin was nearly twenty. He had finished his studies in rhetoric within
the required time. According to the notions of that age, a young man
ought to have concluded his course by his twentieth year. If not, he was
considered past mending and sent back there and then to his family.

It may appear surprising that a gifted student like Augustin did not finish
his rhetoric course sooner. But after his terms at Madaura, he had lost
nearly a year at Thagaste. Besides, the life of Carthage had so many charms
for him that doubtless he was in no hurry to leave. However that may be,
the moment was now come for him to make up his mind about his career.
The wishes of his parents, the advice of his masters, as well as his own
ambitions and qualities, urged him, as we know, to become a barrister. But
now, suddenly, all his projects for the future changed. Not only did he
give up the law, but at the very moment when all appeared to smile on him,
at the opening of his youth, he left Carthage to go and bury himself as a
teacher of grammar in the little free-town his birthplace.

As he has neglected to give any explanation of this sudden determination,
we are reduced to conjectures. It is likely that his mother was bothered
about household expenses and could no longer afford to keep him at
Carthage. Besides, she had other children, a son and daughter, to start in
life. Augustin was on the point of being, if not poor, at least very hard
up. He must do something to earn his living, and as quickly as possible.
In these conditions, the quickest way out of the difficulty was to sell
to others what he had bought from his masters. To live, he would open a
word-shop, as he calls it disdainfully. But as he had only just ceased to
be a student, he could not dream of becoming a professor in a great city
such as Carthage, and setting himself up in rivalry to so many celebrated
masters. The best thing he could do, if he did not want to vegetate, was to
fall back on some more modest post. Now his protector, Romanianus, wanted
him to go to Thagaste. This rich man had a son almost grown up, whom it was
necessary to put as soon as possible in the hands of a tutor. Augustin,
so often helped by the father, was naturally thought of to look after the
youth. Furthermore, Romanianus, who appreciated Augustin's talent, must
have been anxious to attract him to Thagaste and keep him there. With an
eye to the interests of his free-town, he desired to have such a shining
light in the place. So he asked this young man, whom he patronized, to
return to his native district and open a grammar school. He promised
him pupils, and, above all, the support of his influence, which was
considerable, Monnica, as we may conjecture, added her entreaties to those
of the great head of the Thagaste municipality. Augustin yielded.

Did it grieve him very much to make up his mind to this exile? It must have
been extremely hard for a young man of twenty to give up Carthage and its
pleasures. Moreover, it is pretty nearly certain that at this time he had
already started that connection which was to last so long. To leave a
mistress whom he loved, and that in all the freshness of a passion just
beginning--one wonders how he was able to make up his mind to it. And yet
he did leave, and spent nearly a year at Thagaste.

One peculiar mark of the youth, and even of the whole life of Augustin, is
the ease with which he unlearns and breaks off his habits--the sentimental
as well as the intellectual. He used up a good many doctrines before
resting in the Catholic truth; and even afterwards, in the course of a
long life, he contradicted and corrected himself more than once in his
controversies and theological writings. His _Retractations_ prove this. One
might say that the accustomed weighs on him as a hindrance to his liberty;
that the look of the places where he lives becomes hateful to him as a
threat of servitude. He feels dimly that his true country is elsewhere, and
that if he must settle anywhere it is in the house of his Heavenly Father.
_Inquietum est cor nostrum, donec requiescat in te...._ "Restless are our
hearts, O my God, until they rest in Thee." Long before St. Francis of
Assisi, he practised the mystic rule: "As a stranger and a pilgrim." It is
true that in his twentieth year he was very far from being a mystic. But he
already felt that restlessness which made him cross the sea and roam Italy
from Rome to Milan. He is an impulsive. He cannot resist the mirages of his
heart or his imagination. He is always ready to leave. The road and its
chances tempt him. He is eager for the unknown. He lets himself be carried
in delight by the blowing wind. God calls him; he obeys without knowing
where he goes. This unsettled young man, halting between contrary passions,
who feels at home nowhere, has already the soul of an apostle.

This changeableness of mood was probably the true cause of his departure
for Thagaste. But other more apparent reasons, reasons more patent to a
juvenile consciousness, guided him also. No doubt he was not sorry to
reappear in his little town, although he was so young, with the importance
and authority of a master. His former companions were going to become his
pupils. And then the Manichees had fanaticized him. Carried away by the
neophyte's bubbling zeal, elevated by his triumphs at the public meetings
in Carthage, he meant to shine before his fellow-countrymen, and perhaps
convert them. He departed with his mind made up to proselytize. Let us
believe also, that in spite of his dissolute life, and the new passion that
filled his heart, he did not come back to Thagaste without an affectionate
thought at the back of his head for his mother.

The reception that Monnica had in reserve for him was going to surprise him
considerably. Since her widowhood, the wife of Patricius had singularly
advanced in the way of Christian perfection. The early Church not only
offered widows the moral help of its sacraments and consolations, it also
granted a special dignity with certain privileges to those who made a vow
to refrain from sex-intercourse. They had in the basilicas, even as the
consecrated virgins, a place of honour, divided from that of the other
matrons by a balustrade. They wore a special dress. They were obliged to
a conduct which would shew them worthy of all the outer marks of respect
which surrounded them. The austerity of Monnica had increased with the zeal
of her faith. She set an example to the Church people at Thagaste. Docile
to the teachings of her priests, eager to serve her brethren, multiplying
alms as much as she could with her straitened means, she was unfailing at
the services of the Church. Twice daily, morning and evening, she might be
seen, exact to the hour of prayer and sermon. She did not go there, her son
assures us, to mingle in cabals and the gossip of pious females, but to
hear God's word in homily, and that God might hear her in prayer.

The widow compelled all who were about her to the same severe rule which
she herself observed. In this rigid atmosphere of his home, the student
from Carthage, with his free, fashionable airs, must have caused a painful
astonishment. Monnica felt at once that she and her son understood each
other no longer. She began by remonstrating with him. Augustin rebelled.
Things got worse when, with his presumption of the young professor
new-enamelled by the schools, the harsh and aggressive assurance of the
heresiarch, he boasted as loud as he could of being a Manichee. Monnica,
deeply wounded in her piety and motherly tenderness, ordered him to give up
his errors. He refused, and only replied by sarcasms to the poor woman's
complaints. Then she must have believed that the separation was final, that
Augustin had committed an irreparable crime. Being an African Christian,
absolute in her faith and passionate for its defence, she regarded her
son as a public danger. She was filled with horror at his treason. It is
possible, too, that guided by the second-sight of her affection, she saw
clearer into Augustin's heart than he did himself. She was plunged in
sorrow that he mistook himself to this extent, and refused the Grace which
desired to win him to the Catholic unity. And as he was not content with
losing himself, but also drew others into peril--disputing, speech-making
before his friends, abusing his power of language to throw trouble into
consciences--Monnica finally made up her mind. She forbade her son to eat
at her table, or to sleep under her roof. She drove him from the house.

This must have been a big scandal in Thagaste. It does not appear, however,
that Augustin cared much. In all the conceit of his false knowledge, he had
that kind of inhumanity which drives the intellectual to make litter of the
sweetest and deepest feelings as a sacrifice to his abstract idol. Not only
did he not mind very much if his apostasy made his mother weep, but he did
not trouble, either, to reconcile the chimeras of his brain with the living
reality of his soul and the things of life. Whatever he found inconvenient,
he tranquilly denied, content if he had talked well and entangled his
adversary in the net of his syllogisms.

Put in interdict by Monnica, he simply went and quartered himself on
Romanianus. The sumptuous hospitality he received there very soon consoled
him for his exile from his home. And if his self-esteem had been affronted,
the pride of living familiarly with so important a personage was, for a
vain young man, a very full compensation.

In fact, this Romanianus roused the admiration of the whole country by his
luxury and lavish expenditure. He was bound to ruin himself in the long
run, or, at any rate, to raise up envious people bent upon his ruin. Being
at the head of the Decurions, he was the protector, not only of Thagaste,
but of the neighbouring towns. He was the great patron, the influential
man, who had nearly the whole country for his dependents. The town council,
through gratitude and flattery, had had his name engraved upon tables of
brass, and had put up statues to him. It had even conferred powers on him
wider than municipal powers. The truth is that Romanianus did not dole
out his benefactions to his fellow-citizens. He gave them bear-fights and
other spectacles till then unknown at Thagaste. He did not grudge public
banquets, and every day a free meal was to be got at his house. The guests
were served plentifully. After having eaten his dinner, they dipped in
the purse of the host. Romanianus knew the art of doing an obliging thing
discreetly, and even how to anticipate requests which might be painful. So
he was proclaimed unanimously, "the most humane, the most liberal, the most
polite and happiest of men."

Generous to his dependents, he did not forget himself. He built a villa
which, by the space it occupied, was a real palace, with _thermae_ walled
in precious marbles. He passed his time in the baths, or gaming, or
hunting--in short, he led the life of a great landed proprietor of those

No doubt these villas had neither the beauty nor the art-value of the great
Italian villas, which were a kind of museums in a pretty, or grand, natural
frame; but they did not lack charm. Some of them, like that of Romanianus,
were built and decorated at lavish expense. Immensely large, they took
in sometimes an entire village; and sometimes, also, the villa, properly
speaking, the part of the building where the master dwelt, was fortified,
closed in by walls and towers like a feudal castle. Upon the outer gates
and the entrance door might be read in big letters: "The Property of
So-and-so." Often, the inscription was repeated upon the walls of an
enclosure or of a farm, which really belonged to a dependent of the great
man. Under the shelter of the lord's name, these small-holders defended
themselves better against fiscal tyranny, or were included in the
immunities of their patrons. So was formed, under the cover of patronage,
a sort of African feudalism. Augustin's father, who owned vineyards, was
certainly a vassal of Romanianus.

As the African villa was a centre of agricultural activity, it maintained
on the estate a whole population of slaves, workmen, and small-holders.
The chief herdsman's house neighboured that of the forester. Through
deer-parks, enclosed by latticed fences, wandered gazelles. Oil factories,
vats and cellars for wine, ran on from the bath-buildings and the offices.
Then there was the main building with its immense doorway, its belvedere of
many stories, as in the Roman villas, its interior galleries, and wings to
the right and left of the _atrium_. In front lay the terraces, the gardens
with straight walks formed by closely-clipped hedges of box which led to
pools and jets of water, to arbours covered with ivy, to nymph-fountains
ornamented with columns and statues. In these gardens was a particular
place called the "philosopher's corner." The mistress of the house used to
go there to read or dream. Her chair, or folding-seat, was placed under the
shade of a palm tree. Her "philosopher" followed her, holding her parasol
and leading her little favourite dog.

It is easy to realize that Augustin managed to stand his mother's severity
without overmuch distress in one of these fine country houses. To be
comfortable there, he had only to follow his natural inclination, which
was, he tells us, epicureanism. It is most certain that at this period
the only thing he cared about and sought after was pleasure. Staying
with Romanianus, he took his share in all the pleasant things of life,
_suavitates illius vitae_--shared the amusements of his host, and only
bothered about his pupils when he had nothing better to do. He must have
been as little of a grammarian as possible--he hadn't the time. With
the tyrannical friendship of rich people, who are hard put to it to
find occupation, Romanianus doubtless monopolized him from morning till
night. They hunted together, or dined, or read poetry, or discussed in
the evergreen alleys of the garden or "the philosopher's corner." And
naturally, the recent convert to Manicheeism did his best to indoctrinate
and convert his patron--so far at least as a careless man like Romanianus
could be converted. Augustin accuses himself of having "flung" Romanianus
into his own errors. Augustin probably was not so guilty. His wealthy
friend does not seem to have had any very firm convictions. In all
likelihood, he was a pagan, a sceptical or hesitating pagan, such
as existed in numbers at that time. Led by Augustin, he drew near to
Manicheeism. Then, when Augustin gave up Manicheeism for Platonic
philosophy, we see Romanianus take the airs of a philosopher. Later, when
Augustin came back to Catholicism, he drew Romanianus in his wake towards
that religion. This man of fashion was one of those frivolous people who
never go deep into things, for whom ideas are only a pastime, and who
consider philosophers or men of letters as amusers. But it is certain
that he liked to listen to Augustin, and let himself be influenced. If he
trifled with Manicheeism, the reason was that Augustin dazzled him with his
arguments and fine phrases. This orator of twenty had already extraordinary

So Augustin led a delightful life with Romanianus. Everything pleased
him--his talking triumphs, the admiration of his hearers, the flattery
and luxury which surrounded him. Meanwhile, Monnica was plunged in grief
at his conduct, and implored God to draw him from his errors. She began
to be sorry that she had sent him away, and with the clear-sightedness of
the Christian, she perceived that Romanianus' house was not good for the
prodigal. It would be better to have him back. Near her he would run less
risk of being corrupted. Through intense praying, came to her a dream
which quickened her determination. "She dreamed that she was weeping and
lamenting, with her feet planted on a wooden rule, when she saw coming
towards her a radiant youth who smiled upon her cheerfully. He asked the
reason of her sorrow and her daily tears ... and when she told him she was
bewailing my perdition, he bade her be of good comfort, look and see, for
where she was, there was I also. She looked, and saw me standing by her
side on the same rule."

Filled with joy by this promise from on high, Monnica asked her son to
come home. He did come back, but with the quibbles of the Sophist, the
rhetorician cavilled against his mother. He tried to upset her happiness.
He said to her:

"Since, according to your dream, we are to be both standing on the same
rule, that means that you are going to be a Manichean."

"No," answered Monnica. "_He_ did not say, where he is you will be, but
where you are he will be."

Augustin confesses that this strong good sense made a certain impression
on him. Nevertheless he did not change. For still nine years he remained a

As a last resource, Monnica begged a bishop she knew, a man deeply read in
the Scriptures, to speak with her son and refute his errors. But so great
was the reputation of Augustin as an orator and dialectician that the holy
man dared not try a fall with such a vigorous jouster. He answered the
mother very wisely, that a mind so subtle and acute could not long continue
in such gross sophisms. And he offered his own example, for he, too, had
been a Manichee. But Monnica pressed him with entreaties and tears. At last
the bishop, annoyed by her persistence, but at the same time moved by her
tears, answered with a roughness mingled with kindness and compassion:

"Go, go! Leave me alone. Live on as you are living. It cannot be that the
son of such tears should be lost."

_Filius istarum lacrymarum_: the son of such tears!... Was it indeed the
country bishop, or rather the rhetorician Augustin who, in a burst of
gratitude, hit upon this sublime sentence? Certain it is that later on
Augustin saw in his mother's tears as it were a first baptism whence he
came forth regenerate. After having borne him according to the flesh,
Monnica, by her tears and moans, gave him birth into the spiritual life.
Monnica wept because of Augustin. Monnica wept for Augustin. This is rather
astonishing in the case of so severe a mother--this African a trifle
rough. The expressions--tears and moans and weeping--occur so often in
her son's writings, that we are at first tempted to take them for pious
metaphors--figures of a sacred rhetoric. We suspect that Monnica's tears
must come from the Bible, an imitation of King David's penitential tears.
But it would be quite an error to believe that. Monnica wept real tears.
In her whole-hearted prayers she bedewed the pavement of the basilica; she
moistened the balustrade against which she leant her forehead. This austere
woman, this widow whose face nobody saw any more, whose body was shapeless
by reason of the mass of stuffs, grey and black, which wrapped her from
head to foot--this rigid Christian concealed a heart full of love. Love
such as this was then a perfectly new thing.

That an African woman should carry her piety to the point of fanaticism;
that she should work to conquer her son to her faith; that, if he strayed
from it, she should hate him and drive him out with curses--this has been
seen in Africa at all times. But that a mother should mourn at the thought
that her child is lost for another life; that she grows terror-stricken and
despairing when she thinks that she may possess a happiness in which he
will have no part, and walk in the gardens of Heaven while her child will
not be there--no, this had never been seen before. "Where I am you will
be," near me, against my heart, our two hearts meeting in the one same
love--in this union of souls, continued beyond the grave, lies all the
Christian sweetness and hope.

Augustin was no longer, or not yet, a Christian. But in his tears he is
the true son of his mother. This gift of tears that Saint Lewis of France
begged God with so much earnestness and contrition to grant him, Monnica's
son had to the full. "For him to weep was a pleasure." [1] He inebriated
himself with his tears. Now, just while he was at Thagaste, he lost a
friend whom he loved intensely. This death set free the fountain of tears.
They are not yet the holy tears which he will shed later before God, but
only poor human tears, more pathetic perhaps to our own weakness.

[Footnote 1: Sainte-Beuve.]

Who was this friend? He tells us in very vague terms. We only know that
they had grown up as boys together and had gone to the same schools; that
they had just passed a year together, probably at Carthage; that this young
man, persuaded by him, was become a Manichee; and that, in a word, they
loved passionately. Augustin, while speaking of him, recalls in a deeper
sense what Horace said of his friend Virgil: _dimidium animae_--"O thou half
of my soul!"

Well, this young man fell gravely sick of a fever. As all hope was at an
end, they baptized him, according to the custom. He grew better, was almost
cured, "As soon as I was able to talk to him," says Augustin--"and that was
as soon as he could bear it, for I never left his side, and we were bound
up in one another--I ventured a jest, thinking that he would jest too,
about the baptism which he had received, when he could neither think nor
feel. But by this time he had been told of his baptism. He shrank from
me as from an enemy, and with a wonderful new-found courage, warned me
never to speak so to him again, if I wished to remain his friend. I was
so astounded and confused that I said no more, resolving to wait till
he should regain his strength, _when I would tell him frankly what I

So, at this serious moment, he whom they called "the Carthaginian disputer"
was sorry not to be able to measure himself in a bout of dialectics with
his half-dead friend. The intellectual poison had so perverted his mind,
that it almost destroyed in him the feelings of common decency. But if his
head, as he acknowledges, was very much spoiled, his heart remained intact.
His friend died a few days after, and Augustin was not there. He was
stunned by it.

His grief wrought itself up to wildness and despair. "This sorrow fell like
darkness on my heart, and wherever I looked I saw nothing but death. My
country became a torture, my father's house a misery. All the pleasures
that I had shared with him, turned into hideous anguish now that he was
gone. My eyes sought for him everywhere, and found him not. I hated the
familiar scenes because he was not there, and they could no more cry to
me, 'Lo! he will come.' as they used when he was absent but alive...."
Then Augustin began to weep louder, he prolonged his weeping, finding
consolation only in tears. Monnica's tenderness was restrained; in him it
was given full vent and exaggerated. At that time, the Christian moderation
was unknown to him, as well as the measure which the good taste of the
ancients prompted. He has often been compared to the most touching
geniuses, to Virgil, to Racine, who had also the gift of tears. But
Augustin's tenderness is more abandoned, and, so to speak, more romantic.
It even works up, sometimes, into an unhealthy excitement.

To be full of feeling, as Augustin was then, is not only to feel with
excessive sensitiveness the least wounds, the slightest touches of love or
hate, nor is it only to give oneself with transport; but it is especially
to take delight in the gift of oneself, to feel at the moment of full
abandonment that one is communicating with something infinitely sweet,
which already has ceased to be the creature loved. It is love for love, it
is to weep for the pleasure of tears, it is to mix with tenderness a kind
of egoism avid of experiences. Having lost his friend, Augustin loathes all
the world. He repeats: "Tears were my only comfort. I was wretched, and
my wretchedness was dear to me." And accordingly, he did not want to be
consoled. But as, little by little, the terrors of that parting subsided,
he perceived himself that he played with grief and made a joy of his
tears. "My tears," he says, "were dearer to me than my friend had been."
By degrees the friend is almost forgotten. Though Augustin may hate life
because his friend has gone, he confesses naively that he would not have
sacrificed his existence for the sake of the dead. He surmises that what
is told of Orestes and Pylades contending to die for each other is but a
fable. Ultimately, he comes to write: "Perhaps I feared to die, _lest the
other half of him whom I had loved so dearly, should perish_." He himself,
in his _Retractations_, condemns this phrase as pure rhetoric. It remains
true that what was perhaps the deepest sorrow of his life--this sorrow so
sincere and painful which had "rent and bloodied his soul"--ended with a
striking phrase.

It should be added, that in a stormy nature like his, grief, like love,
wears itself out quickly. It burns up passion and sentiment as it does
ideas. When at length he regained his calm, everything appeared drab.
Thagaste became intolerable. With his impulsive temperament, his changeable
humour, he all at once hit upon a plan: To go back to Carthage and open a
rhetoric school. Perhaps, too, the woman he loved and had abandoned there
was pressing him to return. Perhaps she told him that she was about to
become a mother. Always ready to go away, Augustin scarcely hesitated.
It is more than likely that he did not consult Monnica. He only told
Romanianus, who, as he had all kinds of reasons for wanting to keep
Augustin at Thagaste, at first strongly objected. But the young man pointed
to his future, his ambition to win fame. Was he going to bury all that in a
little town?

Romanianus yielded, and with a generosity that is no longer seen, he paid
the expenses this time too.



Augustin was going to live nine years at Carthage--nine years that he
squandered in obscure tasks, in disputes sterile or unfortunate for himself
and others--briefly, in an utter forgetfulness of his true vocation. "And
during this time Thou wert silent, O my God!" he cries, in recalling only
the faults of his early youth. Now, the silence of God lay heavy. And yet
even in those years his tormented soul had not ceased to appeal. "Where
wert Thou then, O my God, while I looked for Thee? Thou wert before me. But
I had drawn away from myself and I could not find myself. How much less,
then, could I find Thee."

This was certainly the most uneasy, and, at moments, the most painful time
of his life. Hardly was he got back to Carthage than he had to struggle
against ever-increasing money difficulties. Not only had he to get his
own living, but the living of others--possibly his mother's and that of
his brother and sister--at all events, he had to support his mistress and
the child. It is possible that the infant was born before its father left
Thagaste; if not, the birth must have occurred shortly after.

The child was called Adeodatus. There is a kind of irony in this name,
which was then usual, of Adeodatus--"Gift of God." This son of his sin, as
Augustin calls him, this son whom he did not want, and the news of whose
birth must have been a painful shock--this poor child was a gift of Heaven
which the father could have well done without. And then, when he saw him,
he was filled with joy, and he cherished him as a real gift from God.

He accepted his fatherhood courageously, and, as it happens in such
cases, he was drawn closer to his mistress, their association taking on
something of conjugal dignity. Did the mother of Adeodatus justify such
attachment--an attachment which was to last more than ten years? The
mystery in which Augustin intended that the woman he had loved the most
should remain enveloped for all time, is nearly impenetrable to us. No
doubt she was of a very humble, not to say low class, since Monnica judged
it impossible to bring about a marriage between the ill-assorted pair.
There must have been an extreme inequality between the birth and education
of the lovers. This did not prevent Augustin from loving his mistress
passionately, for her beauty perhaps, or perhaps for her goodness of heart,
or both. Nevertheless, it is surprising, that in view of his changing
humour, and his prompt and impressionable soul, he remained faithful to
her so long. What was to prevent his taking his son and going off? Ancient
custom authorized such an act. But Augustin was tender-hearted. He was
afraid to cause pain; he dreaded for others the wounds that caused him so
much suffering himself. So he stayed on from kindness, from pity, habit
too, and also because, in spite of everything, he loved the mother of his
child. Up to the time of his conversion, they lived like husband and wife.

So now, to keep his family, he really turns "a dealer in words." In spite
of his youth (he was barely twenty) the terms he had kept at Thagaste as
a teacher of grammar allowed him to take his place among the rhetoricians
at Carthage. Thanks to Romanianus, he got pupils at once. His protector at
Thagaste sent his son, that young Licentius whose education Augustin had
already begun, with one of his brothers, doubtless younger. It seems likely
that the two youths lived in Augustin's house. A small fact which their
master has preserved, looks like a proof of this. A spoon having been lost
in the house, Augustin, to find out where it was, told Licentius to go
and consult a wizard, one Albicerius, who had, just then, a great name in
Carthage. This message is scarcely to be explained unless we suppose the
lad was lodging in his professor's house. Another of the pupils is known to
us. This is Eulogius, who was later on a rhetorician at Carthage, and of
whom Augustin relates an extraordinary dream. Finally, there was Alypius,
a little younger than himself, his friend--"the brother of his heart," as
he calls him. Alypius had been attending his lessons at Thagaste. When the
schoolmaster abruptly threw up his employment, the father of the pupil
was angry, and in sending his son to Carthage, he forbade him to go near
Augustin's class. But it was difficult to keep such eager friends apart.
Little by little, Alypius overcame his father's objections, and became a
pupil of his friend.

Augustin's knowledge, when he began to lecture, could not have been very
deep, for he had only lately quitted the student's bench himself. His
duties forced him to learn what he did not know. In teaching he taught
himself. It was at this time that he did most of the reading which
afterwards added substance to his polemics and treatises. He tells us
himself that he read in those days all that he could lay hands on. He is
very proud of having read by himself and understood without any assistance
from a master, the _Ten Categories_ of Aristotle, which was considered one
of the most abstruse works of the Stagirite. In an age when instruction was
principally by word of mouth, and books comparatively rare, it is obvious
that Augustin was not what we call an "all-devouring reader." We do not
know if Carthage had many libraries, or what the libraries were worth. It
is no less true that the author of _The City of God_ is the last of the
Latin writers who had a really all-round knowledge. It is he who is the
link between modern times and pagan antiquity. The Middle Age hardly knew
classical literature, save by the allusions and quotations of Augustin.

So in spite of family and professional cares, he did not lose his
intellectual proclivities. The conquest of truth remained always his great
ambition. He still hoped to find it in Manicheeism, but he began to think
that it was a long time coming. The leaders of the sect could not have
trusted him thoroughly. They feared his acute and subtle mind, so quick
to detect the flaw in a thesis or argument. That is why they postponed
his initiation into their secret doctrines. Augustin remained a simple
_auditor_ in their Church. By way of appeasing the enormous activity of
his intelligence, they turned him on to controversy, and the critical
discussion of the Scriptures. Giving themselves out for Christians, they
adopted a part of them, and flung aside as interpolated or forged all that
was not in tune with their theology. Augustin, as we know, triumphed in
disputes of this kind, and was vain because he excelled in them.

And when he grew tired of this negative criticism and asked his evangelists
to give him more substantial food, they put him on some exoteric doctrine
calculated to appeal to a young imagination by its poetic or philosophical
colouring. The catechumen was not satisfied, but he put up with it for
lack of anything better. Very prettily he compares these enemies of the
Scriptures to the snarers of birds, who defile or fill with earth all the
water-places where the birds use to drink, save one mere; and about this
they set their snares. The birds all fly there, not because the water
is better, but because there is no other water, and they know not where
else to go and drink. So Augustin, not knowing where to quench his thirst
for truth, was fain to make the best of the confused pantheism of the

What remains noteworthy is, that however unstable his own convictions were,
he yet converted everybody about him. It was through him that his friends
became Manichees: Alypius one of the first; then Nebridius, the son of a
great landowner near Carthage; Honoratius, Marcianus; perhaps, too, the
youngest of his pupils, Licentius and his brother--all victims of his
persuasive tongue, which he exerted later on to draw them back from their
errors. So great was his charm--so deep, especially, was public credulity!

This fourth century was no longer a century of strong Christian faith. On
the other hand, the last agony of paganism was marked by a new attack of
the lowest credulity and superstition. As the Church energetically combated
both one and the other, it is not surprising that it was chiefly the
pagans who were contaminated. The old religion was to end by foundering in
magic. The greatest minds of the period, the neo-Platonists, the Emperor
Julian himself, were miracle-workers, or at any rate, adepts in the occult
sciences. Augustin, who was then separated from Christianity, followed the
general impulse, together with the young men he knew. Just now we saw him
sending to consult the soothsayer, Albicerius, about the loss of a spoon.
And this man of intellect believed also in astrologers and nigromancers.

Strips of lead have been found at Carthage upon which are written magic
spells against horses entered for races in the circus. Just like the
Carthaginian jockeys, Augustin had recourse to these hidden and fraudulent
practices, to make sure of success. On the eve of a verse competition in
the theatre, he fell in with a wizard who offered, if they could agree
about the price, to sacrifice a certain number of animals to buy the
victory. Upon this, Augustin, very much annoyed, declared that if the prize
were a crown of immortal gold, not a fly should be sacrificed to help him
win it. Really, magic was repellent to the honesty of his mind, as well
as to his nerves, by reason of the suspicious and brutal part of its
operations. As a rule, it was involved with haruspicy, and had a side of
sacred anatomy and the kitchen which revolted the sensitive--dissection
of flesh, inspection of entrails, not to mention the slaughtering and
strangling of victims. Fanatics, such as Julian, gave themselves up with
delight to these disgusting manipulations. What we know of Augustin's soul
makes it quite clear why he recoiled with horror.

Astrology, on the contrary, attracted him by its apparent science. Its
adepts called themselves "mathematicians," and thus seemed to borrow from
the exact sciences something of their solidity. Augustin often discussed
astrology with a Carthage physician, Vindicianus, a man of great sense
and wide learning, who even reached Proconsular honours. In vain did he
point out to the young rhetorician that the pretended prophecies of the
mathematicians were the effect of chance; in vain did Nebridius, less
credulous than his friend, join his arguments to those of the crafty
physician; Augustin clung obstinately to his chimera. His dialectical mind
discovered ingenious justifications for what the astrologers claimed.

Thus, dazzled by all the intellectual phantasms, he strayed from one
science to another, repeating meanwhile in his heart the motto of his
Manichean masters: "The Truth, the Truth!". But whatever might be the
attractions of the speculative life, he had first to face the needs of
actual life. The sight of his child called him back to a sense of his
position. To get money, and for that purpose to push himself forward, put
himself in evidence, increase his reputation--Augustin worked at that as
hard as he could. It led him to enter for the prize of dramatic poetry.
He was declared the winner. His old friend, the physician Vindicianus, who
was then Proconsul, placed the crown, as he says, upon his "disordered
head." The future Father of the Church writing for the theatre--and what a
theatre it was then!--is not the least extraordinary thing in this life so
disturbed and, at first sight, so contradictory.

It was also from literary ambition that about the same time he wrote a book
on aesthetics called _Upon the Beautiful and the Fit_, which he dedicated to
a famous colleague, the Syrian Hierius, "orator to the City of Rome," one
of the professors of the official education appointed either by the Roman
municipality or the Imperial treasury. This Levantine rhetorician had an
immense success in the capital of the Empire. His renown had got beyond
academical and fashionable circles and crossed the sea. Augustin admired
him on trust, like everybody else. It is clear that, at this time he could
not imagine a more glorious fortune for himself than to become, like
Hierius, orator to the City of Rome. Later in life, the Bishop of Hippo,
while condemning the vanity of his youthful ambitions, must have made some
extremely ironical reflections as to their modesty. How mistaken he was
about himself! An Augustin had dreamed of equalling one day this obscure
pedagogue, of whom nobody, save for him, would ever have spoken again. Men
of instinct, like Augustin, continually go wrong in this way about their
object and the means to employ. But their mistakes are only in appearance.
A will stronger than their own leads them, by mysterious ways, whither they
ought to go.

This first book of Augustin's is lost, and we are unable to say whether
there be any reason to regret it. He himself recalls it to us in a very
indifferent tone and rather vague terms. It would seem, however, that his
aesthetic had a basis of Manichean metaphysics. But what is significant for
us, in this youthful essay, is that the first time Augustin wrote as an
author it was to define and to praise Beauty. He did not yet know, at least
not directly from the text, the dialogues of Plato, and he is already
inclined to Platonism. He was this by nature. His Christianity will be a
religion all of light and beauty. For him, the supreme Beauty is identical
with the supreme Love. "Do we love anything," he used to say to his
friends, "except what is beautiful?" _Num amamus aliquid, nisi pulchrum?_
Again, at the end of his life, when he strives in _The City of God_ to
make clear for us the dogma of the resurrection of the body, he thinks our
bodies shall rise free from all earthly flaws, in all the splendour of the
perfect human type. Nothing of the body will be lost. It will keep all its
limbs and all its organs _because they are beautiful_. One recognizes in
this passage, not only the Platonist, but the traveller and art-lover, who
had gazed upon some of the finest specimens of ancient statuary.

This first book had hardly any success. Augustin does not even say whether
the celebrated Hierius paid him a compliment about it, and he has an air
of giving us to understand that he had no other admirer but himself. New
disappointments, more serious mortifications, changed little by little his
state of mind and his plans for the future. He was obliged to acknowledge
that after years of effort he was scarcely more advanced than at the start.
There was no chance to delude himself with vain pretences: it was quite
plain to everybody that the rhetorician Augustin was not a success. Now,
why was this? Was it that he lacked the gift of teaching? Perhaps he had
not the knack of keeping order, which is the most indispensable of all
for a schoolmaster. What suited him best no doubt was a small and select
audience which he charmed rather than ruled. Large and noisy classes he
could not manage. At Carthage, these rhetoric classes were particularly
difficult to keep in order, because the students were more rowdy than
elsewhere. At any moment "The Wreckers" might burst in and make a row.
Augustin, who had not joined in these "rags" when he was a student, saw
himself obliged to endure them as a professor. He had nothing worse to
complain of than his fellow-professors, in whose classes the same kind of
disturbance took place. That was the custom and, in a manner of speaking,
the rule in the Carthage schools. For all that, a little more authoritative
bearing would not have harmed him in the eyes of these disorderly boys. But
he had still graver defects for a professor who wants to get on: he was not
a schemer, and he could not make the most of himself.

It is quite possible that he did not possess the qualities which just then
pleased the pagan public in a rhetorician. The importance that the ancients
attached to physical advantages in an orator is well known. Now, according
to an old tradition, Augustin was a little man and not strong: till the end
of his life he complained of his health. He had a weak voice, a delicate
chest, and was often hoarse. Surely this injured him before audiences used
to all the outward emphasis and all the studied graces of Roman eloquence.
Finally, his written and spoken language had none of those brilliant and
ingenious curiosities of phrase which pleased in literary and fashionable
circles. This inexhaustibly prolific writer is not in the least a stylist.
In this respect he is inferior to Apuleius, or Tertullian, though he leaves
them far behind in the qualities of sincere and deep sentiment, poetic
flow, colour, the vividness of metaphor, and, besides, the emotion, the
suavity of the tone. With all that, no matter how hard he tried, he could
never grasp what the rhetoricians of his time understood by style. This is
why his writings, as well as his addresses, were not very much liked.

Nevertheless, good judges recognized his value, and guessed the powers,
lying still unformed within him, which he was misusing ere they were
mature. He was received at the house of the Proconsul Vindicianus, who
liked to talk with him, and treated him with quite fatherly kindness.
Augustin knew people in the best society. He did all his life. His charm
and captivating manners made him welcome in the most exclusive circles.
But just because he was valued by fashionable society, it came home to him
more painfully that he had not the position he deserved with the public
at large. Little by little his humour grew bitter. In this angry state of
mind he was no longer able to consider things with the same confidence and
serenity. His mental disquietudes took hold of him again.

His ideas were affected, first of all. He began to have doubts, more
and more definite, about Manicheeism. He began by suspecting the rather
theatrical austerity which the initiated of the sect made such a great
parade of. Among other turpitudes, he saw one day in one of the busiest
parts of Carthage "three of the Elect whinny after some women or other who
were passing, and begin making such obscene signs that they surpassed the
coarsest people for impudence and shamelessness." He was scandalized at
that; but, after all, it was a small thing. He himself was not so very
virtuous then. Generally your intellectual worries very little about
squaring his conduct with his principles, and does not bother about the
practical part. No; what was much worse in his eyes is that the Manichean
physical science, a congeries of fables more or less symbolical, suddenly
struck him as ruinous. He had just been studying astronomy, and he found
that the cosmology of the Manichees--of these men who called themselves
materialists--did not agree with scientific facts. Therefore Manicheeism
must be wrong universally, since it ran counter to reason confirmed by

Augustin spoke about his doubts, not only to his friends, but to the
priests of his sect. These got out of the difficulty by evasions and the
most dazzling promises. A Manichee bishop, a certain Faustus, was coming
to Carthage. He was a man of immense learning. Most certainly he would
refute every objection without the least trouble. He would confirm the
young _auditors_ in their faith.... So Augustin and his friends waited for
Faustus as for a Messiah. Their disappointment was immense. The supposed
doctor turned out to be an ignorant man, who possessed no tincture of
science or philosophy, and whose intellectual baggage consisted of nothing
but a little grammar. A delightful talker and a wit, the most he could do
was to discourse pleasantly on literature.

This disappointment, joined to the set-backs in his profession, brought
about a crisis of soul and conscience in Augustin. So this Truth which he
had sighed after so long, which had been so much promised to him, was only
a decoy! One must be content not to know!... Then what was left to do since
truth was unapproachable? Possibly fortune and honours would console him
for it. But he was far enough from them too. He felt that he was on the
wrong road, that he was getting into a rut at Carthage, as he had got into
a rut at Thagaste. He must succeed, whatever the cost!... And then he gave
way to one of those moments of weariness, when a man has no further hope of
saving himself save by some desperate step. He was sick of where he was and
of those about him. His friends, whom he knew too well, had nothing more
to teach him, and could not help him in the only search which passionately
interested him. And his entanglement became irksome. Here was nine years
that this sharing of bed and board had lasted. His son was at that
unattractive age which rather bores a young father than it revives an
affection already old. No doubt he did not want to abandon him. He did not
intend to break altogether with his mistress. But he felt the need of a
change of air, to take himself off somewhere else, where he could breathe
more freely and get fresh courage for his task.

Then it dawned on him to try his fortune at Rome. It was there that
literary reputations were made. He would find there, no doubt, better
judges than at Carthage. He would very likely end by getting a post in the
public instruction, with a steady salary--this would relieve him of present
worries, at all events. Probably he had already this plan in his head when
he sent his treatise _On the Beautiful_ to Hierius, orator to the City of
Rome; he thought that by this politeness he might depend, later, on the
backing of the well-known rhetorician. Lastly, his friends, Honoratius,
Marcianus, and the others, earnestly persuaded him to go and find a stage
worthy of him at Rome. Alypius, who was at this time finishing his law
studies there, and must have felt their separation, pressed him to come to
Rome and promised him success.

Once more, Augustin was ready to go away. He was not long in making up his
mind. He was going to leave all belonging to him, his mistress, his child,
till the time when his new position would enable him to send for them. He
himself tells us that the chief motive which led him to decide on this
journey was that the Roman students were said to be better disciplined
and less noisy than the students at Carthage. Evidently, that is a reason
which would weigh with a professor who objected to act the policeman in his
class. But besides the reasons we have given, there were others which must
have influenced his decision. Theodosius had lately ordered very heavy
penalties against the Manichees. Not only did he condemn them to death, but
he had instituted a perfect Inquisition, with the special duty of spying
upon and prosecuting these heretics. Did it occur to Augustin that he might
hide better in Rome, where he was unknown, than in a city where he was a
marked man on account of his proselytizing zeal? In any case, his departure
gave rise to calumnies which his adversaries, the Donatists, did not
fail many years later to bring up again and make worse. They accused him
of having run away from prosecution; he fled the country, so they said,
on account of a judgment which was out against him, pronounced by the
Proconsul Messianus. Augustin had no trouble in refuting these false
insinuations. But all these facts seem to prove that the most ordinary
prudence warned him to cross the sea as soon as possible.

Accordingly, he prepared to set sail. Let us hope that in spite of his
lofty indifference to material things, he made some provision for the
existence of the woman and child he left behind. As for her, she appeared
to agree without over-many violent scenes to this parting, which, he said,
was temporary. It was not the same with his mother. The very idea of Rome,
which seemed to her another Babylon, terrified this austere African woman.
What spiritual dangers lay in wait for her son there! She wanted to keep
him near her, both to bring him to the faith and also to love him--this
Augustin who had been her only human love. And then he was doubtless the
chief support of the widow. Without him, what was going to become of her?

The fugitive was forced to put a trick on Monnica so as to carry out his
plan. She would not leave him a moment, folded him in her arms, implored
him with tears not to go. The night he was to sail she followed him down to
the dock, although Augustin, to allay her suspicions, had told her a lie.
He pretended that he was only going down to the ship with a friend to see
him off. But Monnica, only half believing, followed. Night fell. Meanwhile,
the ship, anchored in a little bay to the north of the city, did not move.
The sailors were waiting till a wind rose to slip their moorings. The
weather was moist and oppressive, as it usually is in the Mediterranean in
August and September. There was not a breath of air. The hours passed on.
Monnica, overcome by heat and fatigue, could hardly stand. Then Augustin
cunningly persuaded her to go and pass the night in a chapel hard by, since
it was plain that the ship would not weigh anchor till dawn. After many
remonstrances, she at length agreed to rest in this chapel--a _memoria_
consecrated to St. Cyprian, the great martyr and patron of Carthage.

Like most of the African sanctuaries of those days, and the _marabouts_
of to-day, this one must have been either surrounded, or approached, by a
court with a portico in arcades, where it was possible to sleep. Monnica
sat down on the ground under her heap of veils among other poor people and
travellers, who were come like her to try to find a little cool air on this
stifling night near the relics of the blessed Cyprian. She prayed for her
child, offering to God "the blood of her heart," begging God not to let
him go, "for she loved to keep me with her" says Augustin, "as mothers are
wont, yes, far more than most mothers." And like a true daughter of Eve,
"weeping and crying, she sought again with groans the son she had brought
forth with groans." She prayed for a long time; then, worn out with sorrow,
she slept. The porter of the chapel, without knowing it, watched that
night not only the mother of the rhetorician Augustin, but the ancestor
of an innumerable line of souls; this humble woman, who slept there on
the ground, on the flags of the courtyard, carried in her heart all the
yearning of all the mothers of the future.

While she slept, Augustin went stealthily on board. The silence and the
tempered splendour of the night weighed him down. Sometimes the cry of the
sailors on watch took a strange note in the lustrous vaporous spaces. The
Gulf of Carthage gleamed far off under the scintillation of the stars,
under the palpitating of a milky way all white like the flowers of the
garden of Heaven. But Augustin's heart was heavy, heavier than the air
weighted by the heat and sea-damp--heavy from the lie and the cruelty he
had just committed. He saw already the awakening and sorrow of his mother.
His conscience was troubled, overcome by remorse and forebodings....
Meanwhile, his friends tried to cheer him, and urged him to have courage
and hope. Marcianus, while embracing him, reminded him of the verses of

"This day which brings to thee another life
Demands that thou another man shalt be."

Augustin smiled sadly. At last the ship began to move. The wind had risen,
the wind of the grand voyage which was bearing him to the unknown....
Suddenly, at the keen freshness of the open sea, he thrilled. His strength
and confidence rushed back. To go away! What enchantment for all those who
cannot fasten themselves to a corner of the earth, who know by instinct
that they belong _elsewhere_, who always pass "as strangers and as
pilgrims," and who go away with relief, as if they cast a burthen behind
them. Augustin was of those people--of those who, among the fairest
attractions of the Road, never cease to think of the Return. But he knew
not where God was leading him. Marcianus was right: a new life was really
beginning for him; only it was not the life that either of them hoped for.

He who departed as a rhetorician, to sell words, was to come back as an
apostle, to conquer souls.



Et ecce ibi es in corde eorum, in corde confitentium tibi, et
projicientium se in te, et plorantium in sinu tuo, post vias suas

"And behold! Thou art there in their hearts, in the hearts of
that confess to Thee, and cast themselves upon Thee, and sob upon Thy
breast, after their weary ways."

_Confessions_, V, 2.



Augustin fell ill just after he got to Rome. It would seem that he arrived
there towards the end of August or beginning of September, before the
students reassembled, just at the time of heat and fevers, when all Romans
who could leave the city fled to the summer resorts on the coast.

Like all the great cosmopolitan centres at that time, Rome was unhealthy.
The diseases of the whole earth, brought by the continual inflow of
foreigners, flourished there. Accordingly, the inhabitants had a panic fear
of infection, like our own contemporaries. People withdrew prudently from
those suffering from infectious disorders, who were left to their unhappy
fate. If, from a sense of shame, they sent a slave to the patient's
bedside, he was ordered to the sweating-rooms, and there disinfected from
head to foot, before he could enter the house again.

Augustin must have had at least the good luck to be well looked after,
since he recovered. He had gone to the dwelling of one of his Manichee
brethren, an _auditor_ like himself, and an excellent kind of man, whom he
stayed with all the time he was in Rome. Still, he had such a bad attack of
fever that he very nearly died. "I was perishing," he says; "and I was all
but lost." He is frightened at the idea of having seen death so near, at a
moment when he was so far from God--so far, in fact, that it never occurred
to him to ask for baptism, as he had done, in like case, when he was
little. What a desperate blow would that have been for Monnica! He still
shudders when he recalls the danger: "Had my mother's heart been smitten
with that wound, it never could have been healed. _For I cannot express
her tender love towards me_, or with how far greater anguish she travailed
of me now in the spirit, than when she bore me in the flesh." But Monnica
prayed. Augustin was saved. He ascribes his recovery to the fervent prayers
of his mother, who, in begging of God the welfare of his soul, obtained,
without knowing it, the welfare of his body.

As soon as he was convalescent, he had to set to work to get pupils. He was
obliged to ask the favours of many an important personage, to knock at many
an inhospitable door. This unfortunate beginning, the almost mortal illness
which he was only just recovering from, this forced drudgery--all that did
not make him very fond of Rome. It seems quite plain that he never liked
it, and till the end of his life he kept a grudge against it for the sorry
reception it gave him. In the whole body of his writings it is impossible
to find a word of praise for the beauty of the Eternal City, while, on
the contrary, one can make out through his invectives against the vices
of Carthage, his secret partiality for the African Rome. The old rivalry
between the two cities was not yet dead after so many centuries. In
his heart, Augustin, like a good Carthaginian--and because he was a
Carthaginian--did not like Rome.

The most annoying things joined together as if on purpose to disgust him
with it. The bad season of the year was nigh when he began to reside there.
Autumn rains had started, and the mornings and evenings were cold. What
with his delicate chest, and his African constitution sensitive to cold,
he must have suffered from this damp cold climate. Rome seemed to him a
northern city. With his eyes still full of the warm light of his country,
and the joyous whiteness of the Carthage streets, he wandered as one exiled
between the gloomy Roman palaces, saddened by the grey walls and muddy
pavements. Comparisons, involuntary and continual, between Carthage and
Rome, made him unjust to Rome. In his eyes it had a hard, self-conscious,
declamatory look, and gazing at the barren Roman _campagna_, he remembered
the laughing Carthage suburbs, with gardens, villas, vineyards, olivets,
circled everywhere by the brilliance of the sea and the lagoons.

And then, besides, Rome could not be a very delightful place to live in for
a poor rhetoric master come there to better his fortune. Other strangers
before him had complained of it. Always to be going up and down the flights
of steps and the ascents, often very steep, of the city of the Seven Hills;
to be rushing between the Aventine and Sallust's garden, and thence to
the Esquiline and Janiculum! To bruise the feet on the pointed cobbles of
sloping alley-ways! These walks were exhausting, and there seemed to be no
end to this city. Carthage was also large--as large almost as Rome. But
there Augustin was not seeking employment. When he went for a walk there,
he strolled. Here, the bustle of the crowds, and the number of equipages,
disturbed and exasperated the southerner with his lounging habits. Any
moment there was a risk of being run over by cars tearing at full gallop
through the narrow streets: men of fashion just then had a craze for
driving fast. Or again, the passenger was obliged to step aside so
that some lady might go by in her litter, escorted by her household,
from the handicraft slaves and the kitchen staff, to the eunuchs and
house-servants--all this army manoeuvring under the orders of a leader who
held a rod in his hand, the sign of his office. When the street became
clear once more, and at last the palace of the influential personage
to whom a visit had to be paid was reached, there was no admittance
without greasing the knocker. In order to be presented to the master,
it was necessary to buy the good graces of the slave who took the name
(_nomenclator_), and who not only introduced the suppliant, but might, with
a word, recommend or injure. Even after all these precautions, one was not
yet sure of the goodwill of the patron. Some of these great lords, who were
not always themselves sprung from old Roman families, prided themselves
upon their uncompromising nationalism, and made a point of treating
foreigners with considerable haughtiness. The Africans were regarded
unfavourably in Rome, especially in Catholic circles. Augustin must have
had an unpleasant experience of this.

Through the long streets, brilliantly lighted at evening (it would seem
that the artificial lighting of Rome almost equalled the daylight), he
would return tired out to the dwelling of his host, the Manichee. This
dwelling, according to an old tradition, was in the Velabrum district, in
a street which is still to-day called _Via Greca_, and skirts the very old
church of Santa Maria-in-Cosmedina--a poor quarter where swarmed a filthy
mass of Orientals, and where the immigrants from the Levantine countries,
Greeks, Syrians, Armenians, Egyptians, lodged. The warehouses on the Tiber
were not very far off, and no doubt there were numbers of labourers,
porters, and watermen living in this neighbourhood. What a place for
him who had been at Thagaste the guest of the magnificent Romanianus,
and intimate with the Proconsul at Carthage! When he had climbed up the
six flights of stairs to his lodging, and crouched shivering over the
ill-burning movable hearth, in the parsimonious light of a small bronze or
earthenware lamp, while the raw damp sweated through the walls, he felt
more and more his poverty and loneliness. He hated Rome and the stupid
ambition which had brought him there. And yet Rome should have made a vivid
appeal to this cultured man, this aesthete so alive to beauty. Although the
transfer of the Court to Milan had drawn away some of its liveliness and
glitter, it was still all illuminated by its grand memories, and never had
it been more beautiful. It seems impossible that Augustin should not have
been struck by it, despite his African prejudices. However well built the
new Carthage might be, it could not pretend to compare with a city more
than a thousand years old, which at all periods of its history had
maintained the princely taste for building, and which a long line of
emperors had never ceased to embellish.

When Augustin landed at Ostia, he saw rise before him, closing the
perspective of the _Via Appia_, the Septizonium of Septimus Severus--an
imitation, doubtless, on a far larger scale, of the one at Carthage. This
huge construction, water-works probably of enormous size, with its ordered
columns placed line above line, was, so to speak, the portico whence opened
the most wonderful and colossal architectural mass known to the ancient
world. Modern Rome has nothing at all to shew which comes anywhere near it.
Dominating the Roman Forum, and the Fora of various Emperors--labyrinths of
temples, basilicas, porticoes, and libraries--the Capitol and the Palatine
rose up like two stone mountains, fashioned and sculptured, under the heap
of their palaces and sanctuaries. All these blocks rooted in the soil,
suspended, and towering up from the flanks of the hills, these interminable
regiments of columns and pilasters, this profusion of precious marbles,
metals, mosaics, statues, obelisks--in all that there was something
enormous, a lack of restraint which disturbed the taste and floored the
imagination. But it was, above all, the excessive use of gold and gilding
that astonished the visitor. Originally indigent, Rome became noted for
its greed of gold. When the gold of conquered nations began to come into
its hands, it spread it all over with the rather indiscreet display of
the upstart. When Nero built the Golden House he realized its dream. The
Capitol had golden doors. Statues, bronzes, the roofs of temples, were all
gilded. All this gold, spread over the brilliant surfaces and angles of
the architecture, dazzled and tired the eyes: _Acies stupet igne metalli_,
said Claudian. For the poets who have celebrated it, Rome is the city of
gold--_aurata Roma_.

A Greek, such as Lucian, had perhaps a right to be shocked by this
architectural debauch, this beauty too crushing and too rich. A Carthage
rhetorician, like Augustin, could feel at the sight of it nothing but the
same irritated admiration and secret jealousy as the Emperor Constans felt
when he visited his capital for the first time.

Even as the Byzantine Caesar, and all the provincials, Augustin, no doubt,
examined the curiosities and celebrated works which were pointed out to
strangers: the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus; the baths of Caracalla and
Diocletian; the Pantheon; the temple of Roma and of Venus; the Place of
Concord; the theatre of Pompey; the Odeum, and the Stadium. Though he might
be stupefied by all this, he would remember, too, all that the Republic
had taken from the provinces to construct these wonders, and would say to
himself: "'Tis we who have paid for them." In truth, all the world had
been ransacked to make Rome beautiful. For some time a muffled hostility
had been brewing in provincial hearts against the tyranny of the central
power, especially since it had shewn itself incapable of maintaining peace,
and the Barbarians were threatening the frontiers. Worn out by so many
insurrections, wars, massacres, and pillages, the provinces had come to ask
if the great complicated machine of the Empire was worth all the blood and
money that it cost.

For Augustin, moreover, the crisis was drawing near which was to end in his
return to the Catholic faith. He had been a Christian, and as such brought
up in principles of humility. With these sentiments, he would perhaps
decide that the pride and vanity of the creature at Rome claimed far too
much attention, and was even sacrilegious. It was not only the emperors who
disputed the privileges of immortality with the gods, but anybody who took
it into his head, provided that he was rich or had any kind of notoriety.
Amid the harsh and blinding gilt of palaces and temples, how many statues,
how many inscriptions endeavoured to keep an obscure memory green, or the
features of some unknown man! Of course, at Carthage too, where they copied
Rome, as in all the big cities, there were statues and inscriptions in
abundance upon the Forum, the squares, and in the public baths. But what
had not shocked Augustin in his native land, did shock him in a strange
city. His home-sick eyes opened to faults which till then had been veiled
by usage. In any case, this craze for statues and inscriptions prevailed at
Rome more than anywhere else. The number of statues on the Forum became so
inconvenient, that on many occasions certain ones were marked for felling,
and the more insignificant shifted. The men of stone drove out the living
men, and forced the gods into their temples. And the inscriptions on the
walls bewildered the mind with such a noise of human praise, that ambition
could dream of nothing beyond. It was all a kind of idolatry which revolted
the strict Christians; and in Augustin, even at this time, it must have
offended the candour of a soul which detested exaggeration and bombast.

The vices of the Roman people, with whom he was obliged to live cheek by
jowl, galled him still more painfully. And to begin with, the natives hated
strangers. At the theatres they used to shout: "Down with the foreign
residents!" Acute attacks of xenophobia often caused riots in the city.
Some years before Augustin arrived, a panic about the food supply led to
the expulsion, as useless mouths, of all foreigners domiciled in Rome,
even the professors. Famine was an endemic disease there. And then, these
lazy people were always hungry. The gluttony and drunkenness of the Romans
roused the wonder and also the disgust of the sober races of the Empire--of
the Greeks as well as the Africans. They ate everywhere--in the streets, at
the theatre, at the circus, around the temples. The sight was so ignoble,
and the public intemperance so scandalous, that the Prefect, Ampelius, was
obliged to issue an order prohibiting people who had any self-respect from
eating in the street, the keepers of wine-shops from opening their places
before ten o'clock in the morning, and the hawkers from selling cooked meat
in the streets earlier than a certain hour of the day. But he might as well
have saved himself the trouble. Religion itself encouraged this greediness.
The pagan sacrifices were scarcely more than pretexts for stuffing. Under
Julian, who carried the great public sacrifices of oxen to an abusive
extent, the soldiers got drunk and gorged themselves with meat in the
temples, and came out staggering. Then they would seize hold of any
passers-by, whom they forced to carry them shoulder-high to their barracks.

All this must be kept in mind so as to understand the strictness and
unyielding attitude of the Christian reaction. This Roman people, like the
pagans in general, was frightfully material and sensual. The difficulty of
shaking himself free from matter and the senses is going to be the great
obstacle which delays Augustin's conversion; and if it was so with him, a
fastidious and intellectual man, what about the crowd? Those people thought
of nothing but eating and drinking and lewdness. When they left the tavern
or their squalid rooms, they had only the obscenities of mimes, or the
tumbles of the drivers in the circus, or the butcheries in the amphitheatre
to elevate them. They passed the night there under the awnings provided by
the municipality. Their passion for horse-races and actors and actresses,
curbed though it was by the Christian emperors, continued even after
the sack of Rome by the Barbarians. At the time of the famine, when the
strangers were expelled, they excepted from this wholesale banishment three
thousand female dancers with the members of their choirs, and their leaders
of orchestra.

The aristocracy did not manifest tastes much superior. Save a few
cultivated minds, sincerely fond of literature, the greatest number only
saw in the literary pose an easy way of being fashionable. These became
infatuated about an unknown author, or an ancient author whose books were
not to be had. They had these books sought for and beautifully copied.
They, "who hated study like poison," spoke only of their favourite author:
the others did not exist for them. As a matter of fact, music had ousted
literature: "the libraries were closed like sepulchres." But fashionable
people were interested in an hydraulic organ, and they ordered from the
lute-makers "lyres the size of chariots." Of course, this musical craze was
sheer affectation. Actually, they were only interested in sports: to race,
to arrange races, to breed horses, to train athletes and gladiators. As a
pastime, they collected Oriental stuffs. Silk was then fashionable, and so
were precious stones, enamels, heavy goldsmiths' work. Rows of rings were
worn on each finger. People took the air in silk robes, held together by
brooches carved in the figures of animals, a parasol in one hand, and a fan
with gold fringes in the other. The costumes and fashions of Constantinople
encroached upon the old Rome and the rest of the Western world.

Immense fortunes, which had gathered in the hands of certain people, either
through inheritance or swindling, enabled them to keep up a senseless
expenditure. Like the American millionaires of to-day, who have their
houses and properties in both hemispheres, these great Roman lords
possessed them in every country in the Empire. Symmachus, who was Prefect
of the City when Augustin was in Rome, had considerable estates not only in
Italy and in Sicily, but even in Mauretania. And yet, in spite of all their
wealth and all the privileges they enjoyed, these rich people were neither
happy nor at ease. At the least suspicion of a despotic power, their lives
and property were threatened. Accusations of magic, of disrespect to
the Caesar, of plots against the Emperor--any pretext was good to plunder
them. During the preceding reign, that of the pitiless Valentinian, the
Roman nobility had been literally decimated by the executioner. A certain
vice-Prefect, Maximinus, had gained a sinister reputation for cleverness in
the art of manufacturing suspects. By his orders, a basket at the end of a
string was hung out from one of the windows of the Praetorium, into which
denunciations might be cast. The basket was in use day and night.

It is clear that at the time that Augustin settled in Rome this abominable
system was a little moderated. But accusation by detectives was always in
the air. And living in this atmosphere of mistrust, hypocrisy, bribery, and
cruelty--small wonder if the Carthaginian fell into bitter reflections upon
Roman corruption. However impressive from the front, the Empire was not
nice to look at close at hand.

But Augustin was, above all, home-sick. When he strolled tinder the shady
trees of the Janiculum or Sallust's gardens, he already said to himself
what he would repeat later to his listeners at Hippo: "Take an African, put
him in a place cool and green, and he won't stay there. He will feel he
must go away and come back to his blazing desert." As for himself, he had
something better to regret than a blazing desert. In front of the City of
Gold, stretched out at his feet, and the horizon of the Sabine Hills, he
remembered the feminine softness of the twilights upon the Lake of Tunis,
the enchantment of moonlit nights upon the Gulf of Carthage, and that
astonishing landscape to be discovered from the height of the terrace of
Byrsa, which all the grandeur of the Roman _campagna_ could not make him



'The new professor had managed to secure a certain number of pupils whom
he gathered together in his rooms. He could make enough to live at Rome
by himself, if he could not support there the woman and child he had left
behind at Carthage. In this matter of finding work, his host and his
Manichee friends had done him some very good turns. Although forced to
conceal their beliefs since the edict of Theodosius, there were a good many
Manichees in the city. They formed an occult Church, strongly organized,
and its adepts had relations with all classes of Roman society. Possibly
Augustin presented himself as one driven out of Africa by the persecution.
Some compensation would be owing to this young man who had suffered for the
good cause.

It was his friend Alypius, "the brother of his heart," who, having preceded
him to Rome to study law at his parents' wishes, now was the most useful in
helping Augustin to make himself known and find pupils. Himself a Manichee,
converted by Augustin, and a member of one of the leading families in
Thagaste, he had not long to wait for an important appointment in the
Imperial administration. He was assessor to the Treasurer-General, or
"Count of the Italian Bounty Office," and decided fiscal questions. Thanks
to his influence, as well as to his acquaintances among the Manichees, he
was a valuable friend for the new arrival, a friend who could aid him, not
only with his purse, but with advice. Without much capacity for theorizing,
this Alypius was a practical spirit, a straight and essentially honest
soul, whose influence was excellent for his impetuous friend. Of very
chaste habits, he urged Augustin to restraint. And even in abstract
studies, the religious controversies which Augustin dragged him into, his
strong good sense moderated the imaginative dashes, the overmuch subtilty
which sometimes led the other beyond healthy reason.

Unhappily they were both very busy--the judge and the rhetorician--and
although their friendship became still greater during this stay in Rome,
they were not able to see each other as much as they desired. Their
pleasures, too, were perhaps not the same. Augustin did not in the least
care about being chaste, and Alypius had a passion for the amphitheatre--a
passion which his friend disapproved of. Some time earlier, at Carthage,
Augustin had filled him with disgust of the circus. But hardly was Alypius
arrived in Rome, than he became mad about the gladiatorial shows. Some
fellow-students took him to the amphitheatre, almost by force. Thereupon,
he said that he would stay, since they had dragged him there; but he bet
that he would keep his eyes shut all through the fight, and that nothing
could make him open them. He sat down on the benches with those who had
brought him, his eyelids pressed down, refusing to look. Suddenly there was
a roar of shouting, the shout of the crowd hailing the fall of the first
wounded. His lids parted of themselves; he saw the flow of blood. "At the
sight of the blood" says Augustin, "he drank in ruthlessness; no longer
did he turn away, but fixed his gaze, and he became mad--and he knew no
more.... He was fascinated by the criminal atrocity of this battle, and
drunk with the pleasure of blood."

These breathless phrases of the _Confessions_ seem to throb still with the
wild frenzy of the crowd. They convey to us directly the kind of Sadic
excitement which people went to find about the arena. Really, a wholesome
sight for future Christians, for all the souls that the brutality of
pagan customs revolted! The very year that Augustin was at Rome, certain
prisoners of war, Sarmatian soldiers, condemned to kill each other in the
amphitheatre, chose suicide rather than this shameful death. There was in
this something to make him reflect--him and his friends. The fundamental
injustices whereon the ancient world rested--the crushing of the slave
and the conquered, the contempt for human life--these things they touched
with the finger when they looked on at the butcheries in the amphitheatre.
All those whose hearts sickened with disgust and horror before these
slaughter-house scenes, all those who longed for a little more mildness, a
little more justice, were all recruits marked out for the peaceful army of
the Christ.

For Alypius, especially, it was not a bad thing to have known this
blood-drunkenness at first hand: he shall be only the more ashamed when
he falls at the feet of the merciful God. Equally useful was it for him
to have personal experience of the harshness of men's justice; and in the
fulfilment of his duties as a judge to observe its errors and flaws. While
he was a student at Carthage he just escaped being condemned to death upon
a false accusation of theft--the theft of a piece of lead! Already they
were dragging him, if not to the place of capital punishment, at least to
prison, when a chance meeting with a friend of his who was a senator saved
him from the threatening mob. At Rome, while Assessor to the Count of the
Italian Bounty Office, he had to resist an attempt to bribe him, and by
doing so risked losing his appointment, and, no doubt, something worse
too. Official venality and dishonesty were evils so deeply rooted, that
he himself nearly succumbed. He wanted some books copied, and he had the
temptation to get this done at the charge of the Treasury. This peculation
had, in his eyes, a good enough excuse, and it was certain to go
undetected. Nevertheless, when he thought it over he changed his mind, and
virtuously refrained from giving himself a library at the expense of the

Augustin, who relates these anecdotes, draws the same moral from them as
we do, to wit--that for a man who was going to be a bishop and, as such,
administrator and judge, this time spent in the Government service was a
good preparatory school. Most of the other great leaders of this generation
of Christians had also been officials; before ordination, they had been
mixed up in business and politics, and had lived freely the life of their
century. So it was with St. Ambrose, with St. Paulinus of Nola, with
Augustin himself, and Evodius and Alypius, his friends.

And yet, however absorbed in their work the two Africans might be, it
is pretty near certain that intellectual questions took the lead of
all others. This is manifest in Augustin's case at least. He must have
astonished the good Alypius when he got to Rome by acknowledging that he
hardly believed in Manicheeism any longer. And he set forth his doubts
about their masters' cosmogony and physical science, his suspicions
touching the hidden immorality of the sect. As for himself, the
controversies, which were the Manichees' strong point, did not dazzle him
any longer. At Carthage, but lately, he had heard a Catholic, a certain
Helpidius, oppose to them arguments from Scripture, which they were unable
to refute. To make matters worse, the Manichee Bishop of Rome made a bad
impression on him from the very outset. This man, he tells us, was of rough
appearance, without culture or polite manners. Doubtless this unmannerly
peasant, in his reception of the young professor, had not shewn himself
sufficiently alive to his merits, and the professor felt aggrieved.

From then, his keen dialectic and his satirical spirit (Augustin had
formidable powers of ridicule all through his life) were exercised upon
the backs of his fellow-religionists. Provisionally, he had admitted
as indisputable the basic principles of Manicheeism: first of all, the
primordial antagonism of the two substances, the God of Light and the God
of Darkness; then, this other dogma, that particles of that Divine Light,
which had been carried away in a temporary victory of the army of Darkness,
were immersed in certain plants and liquors. Hence, the distinction they
made between clean and unclean food. All those foods were pure which
contained some part of the Divine Light; impure, those which did not. The
purity of food became evident by certain qualities of taste, smell, and
appearance. But now Augustin found a good deal of arbitrariness in these
distinctions, and a good deal of simplicity in the belief that the Divine
Light dwelt in a vegetable. "Are they not ashamed," he said, "to search God
with their palates or with their nose? And if His presence is revealed by
a special brilliancy, by the goodness of the taste or the smell, why allow
that dish and condemn this, which is of equal savour, light, and perfume?

"Yea, why do they look upon the golden melon as come out of God's
treasure-house, and yet will have none of the golden fat of the ham or the
yellow of an egg? Why does the whiteness of lettuce proclaim to them the
Divinity, and the whiteness of cream nothing at all? And why this horror
of meat? For, look you, roast sucking-pig offers us a brilliant colour, an
agreeable smell, and an appetizing taste--sure signs, according to them, of
the Divine Presence."... Once started on this topic, Augustin's vivacity
has no limits. He even drops into jokes which would offend modern
shamefacedness by their Aristophanic breadth.

These arguments, to say the truth, did not shake the foundations of the
doctrine, and if a doctrine must be judged according to its works, the
Manichees might entrench themselves behind their rigid moral rules, and
their conduct. Contrary to the more accommodating Catholicism, they paraded
a puritan intolerance. But Augustin had found out at Carthage that this
austerity was for the most part hypocrisy. At Rome he was thoroughly

The Elect of the religion made a great impression by their fasts and their
abstinence from meat. Now it became clear that these devout personages,
under pious pretexts, literally destroyed themselves by over-eating and
indigestion. They held, in fact, that the chief work of piety consisted in
setting free particles of the Divine Light, imprisoned in matter by the
wiles of the God of Darkness. They being the Pure, they purified matter by
absorbing it into their bodies. The faithful brought them stores of fruit
and vegetables, served them with real feasts, so that by eating these
things they might liberate a little of the Divine Substance. Of course,
they abstained from all flesh, flesh being the dwelling-place of the Dark
God, and also from fermented wine, which they called "the devil's gall."
But how they made up for it over the rest! Augustin makes great fun of
these people who would think it a sin if they took as a full meal a small
bit of bacon and cabbage, with two or three mouthfuls of undiluted wine,


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