The City of God was written to refute the charge that Christians were to blame for the sack of Rome. In books one through five, Augustine tells the history of Rome from its founding to AD 408 and refutes pagan arguments such as the assumption that Rome had thrived when the Roman gods were still worshipped. He shows that Christians are faithful taxpayers, take care of their families, and are peaceable. In the next five books Augustine points out the inconsistencies in pagan beliefs while demonstrating the truth of Christianity. In the latter twelve books Augustine broadens his argument to a general discussion of good and evil represented by earthly and heavenly cities.
I found Augustine’s work difficult to read because his history was intermixed with theology. While his theology is excellent, it hindered the flow of storytelling, and my comprehension suffered in places, since I was reading the book for the historical content. The translator’s introduction helped my understanding since he provided a biography of Augustine and discussed Augustine’s philosophy and historical interpretation. I enjoyed Augustine’s arguments regarding the sack of Rome and his history of the Punic Wars. While difficult, I do believe that The City of God is a beneficial read since it gives one a perspective of Rome’s sack by the Visigoths within three years of its occurrence. I would return to this work for Augustine’s philosophy but not necessarily because of his history.
– Hannah S. Bowers
Augustine. The City of God. Translated by Marcus Dods. New York: The Modern Library, 1993.