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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.
In Book III, Augustine leaves for Carthage from his hometown of Thagaste and enters a place and a lifestyle in which “all around me hissed a cauldron of illicit loves.” This is a low point in Augustine’s relationship with God–turned almost entirely toward transient diversions, he seems to feel he could get no lower.
It was during this time, when he was around sixteen years old, that he hooked up with a girl and would settle down with her for the next dozen years or so. In that time, having a common-law wife or living together and even having a child together was not considered particularly immoral. The main problem would be that she had come from a lower social class that Augustine which meant that any children they had would take her lower status, not his. This would cause problems for his family who most definitely wanted him to marry a woman with a high social standing. Augustine never reveals her name, most likely to protect her from unwanted attention. As Augustine would later write, she went back to Africa and vowed never to take another man.