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Confessions – Book VI: Chapters 1 – 8

 

Detail of the Gladiator Mosaic, 4th century CE. Augustine’s friend Alypius became obsessed with gladiatorial shows.

 

Starting from Book VI and onward through Book VIII, Augustine describes his conversion to the Christian faith. It is good to bear in mind that he depicts conversion (or at least his own personal conversion) as a long process and not as a single event.

 

He devotes a large amount of Book VI to the people in his life in Milan: his mother Monica; Ambrose; and two friends from Africa, Alypius and Nebridius.

 

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“Confessions” Book V: Chapters 8 – 13

https://i2.wp.com/www.traditioninaction.org/religious/religiousimages/D007_Bergognone_Ambrose.jpg

Augustine and Monica sit listening to a sermon from Bishop Ambrose in a painting by Ambrogio il Bergognone (1455 – 1535), Turin, Italy

 

Yes, we’re back from a month long hiatus.  We will finish Book V of Augustine’s Confessions.

 

In 383, at the age of 29, Augustine sailed from Carthage with his partner and their son, along with his two close friends Alypius and Nebridius, to Rome for a teaching position where he hoped to engage with better behaved students. By that time, Rome was no longer the center of the western empire; the emperor resided in Milan.

 

The next year, after winning a competition for a post as public teacher of rhetoric, he moved to Milan. It was there that he first encountered the formidable figure of Ambrose the bishop of Milan. He was to have a profound influence on Augustine’s life and thought.

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Plotinus and Neo-Platonism’s Influence on Augustine

Plotinus (205 - 270)

Plotinus (205 – 270)

Before we delve into Confessions, we will start exploring the development of Augustine’s philosophy and theology.

For a while, Augustine had been influenced by Manichaeism, a Persian adaptation of Christianity, which added in Zoroastrianism, speculative philosophy and superstition.  Augustine was a Manichee for nine years.  Then during a trip to Rome in 383, due to his education in the liberal arts, he began to question Manichaeism when he saw that its understanding of the universe owed more to astrology than astronomy.

The next year, he met the formidable figure of Ambrose, bishop of Milan.  His great intellect and fiery sermons left a deep impression on Augustine.  In Ambrose, Augustine found someone who could communicate at his own intellectual level, further confirming his rejection of the Manichees and opening the way for his return to the Christian faith.

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