One of the great books books of Western thinking. Although his Confessions
is part of the Harvard Classics, The City of God is not. In so many ways this is a far more important work than the Confessions.
For some reason this is not on Project Gutenberg and was assembled from multiple sources with my well worn paperback as a reference. The City of God
is divided into 22 books with multiple chapters per book. Only the books are referenced in the Table of Contents as some of the chapters are quite short (a paragraph) while others are quite long and this produced a very uneven output.
Many of the sources had the direct Bible references in-line with the text and these have been preserved in this version. I wish I had had this version when I first read the book.
For those wishing an introduction to The City of God, I suggest this by James J. O'Donnell.
For more detailed analysis (read study guide) go to Spark Notes.
Augustine wrote the treatise to explain Christianity's relationship with competing religions and philosophies, and to the Roman government with which it was increasingly intertwined. It was written soon after Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410. This event left Romans in a deep state of shock, and many saw it as punishment for abandoning their pagan religion. It was in this atmosphere that Augustine set out to provide a consolation of Christianity, writing that it was the City of God that would ultimately triumph — symbolically, Augustine's eyes were fixed on heaven, a theme repeated in many Late Antiquity Christian art forms.
Despite Christianity's designation as the official religion of the empire, Augustine declared its message to be spiritual rather than political. Christianity, he argued, should be concerned with the mystical, heavenly City of Jerusalem (the New Jerusalem) rather than with Earthly politics. His theology supported and even helped to define the separation of Church and State that characterized Western European politics through the Middle Ages and beyond (unlike the Byzantine East where Earthly politics and spiritual affairs were one and the same institution).
The book presents human history as being a conflict between what Augustine calls the City of God and the City of Man (a conflict that is destined to end in victory for the former). The City of God is marked by people who forgo earthly pleasure and dedicate themselves to the promotion of Christian values. The City of Man, on the other hand, consists of people who have strayed from the City of God. The two cities are not meant to represent any actual places or organizations, though Augustine clearly thought that the Christian Church was at the heart of the City of God.
While the book is framed by discussion of these themes, it is largely made up of various digressions on philosophical subjects and presentations of flaws in pagan religions upon which Augustine wished to comment.
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