Common section

Arrangement and Contents of the City of God

SEVERAL times in his writings Augustine tells us how the City of God is to be divided, and what is the leading topic of each division. A full consecutive account is to be found in a letter written in the last years of his life, accompanying the gift of a manuscript of the work, to the layman Firmus. This letter was first noted by the Benedictine scholar Dom C. Lambot, of Maredsous Abbey, Belgium, and published by him in Revue Bénédictine, vol. LI, nos. 2–3 (1939). In it Augustine writes as follows:

There are XXII notebooks (quaterniones), too many to combine in a single volume. If you wish to make two volumes (codices) you must so divide them that there are ten in one and twelve in the other. If you want more than two, then you must make five volumes. The first is to contain the five first books (libros), in which I write against those who maintain that the worship of the gods – I would rather say, of the evil spirits (daemones) – leads to happiness in this life. The second is to contain the next five books, written against those who think that suchlike deities are to be worshipped by rites and sacrifices in order to secure happiness in the life to come. The three following volumes should contain four books each. This section I have arranged so that four should describe the origin of that City, four its progress, or rather its development, and the four last the ends (sic) in store for it.

In the City of God itself, the reader will find partial descriptions of the work (Bks II, 2; III, 1; IV, 1–2; VI, preface and ch. 1; XI, 1; XII, 1; XVIII, 1) as also in his Retractations Bk II, 43.

Within each book the topics are often so disparate as to defy broad analysis. In the translation that follows this introduction, the chapter headings (very possibly by Augustine himself) are helpful. Here an attempt has been made to pick out some salient features in each book that a reader might wish to be able to find rapidly for reference.


Part One

BOOK I. The gods did not protect Rome. The Christians suffered with others, but disasters overtake both good and bad, and the loss of worldly goods is not always a disaster. The violation of chastity does not harm the unwilling soul. Suicide is not permissible to avoid this.

BOOK II. The pagan gods had no moral teaching to give. Examples of the obscenity of pagan rites drawn from Augustine’s experience. The gods not only tolerated but even demanded obscenity on the stage. Sallust gave a picture of Rome’s decadence. First appearance of Scripio’s definition of a state. Cicero’s judgement. Further account of obscenities in public worship.

BOOK III. The gods failed to protect Ilium or to save Rome. Rome was morally firm in Numa’s day. The subsequent religious depravity.

BOOK IV. The number and futility of Roman gods. Praise of Varro.

BOOK V. The falsity of astrology. God is neither Fate nor Destiny. Roman virtue is responsible for Roman worldly success. A summary of Roman history: ambition for glory; ambition for dominion. God helps the Christian emperors.

Part Two

BOOK VI. Gods are not worshipped for their gift of eternal life. Varro and ‘mythical’ and ‘civil’ deities. ‘M. Varro, you are the shrewdest of men and without doubt the most erudite’ (Bk VI, 6,). The absurd small gods. They do not even help temporal life.

BOOK VII. The ‘select’ gods. Who are they? How chosen? Is Jupiter supreme? Is a deity the soul of the world?

BOOK VIII. ‘Natural’ theology. A short history of Greek philosophy. The Platonists, ‘raised above the rest by the glorious reputation they so thoroughly deserve’. Platonists are near–Christians. The worship of ‘demons’ rejected (Apuleius – Hermes Trismegistus). The pagan cult of the dead and the Christian cult of martyrs. Pagan sacrifice and the one and only true Christian victim.

BOOK IX. More about demons. Apuleius and the Neoplatonists.

BOOK X. The true worship of God. Porphyry and the false claims of theurgy. The angels. The Christian sacrifice. Platonists refuse to acknowledge Christ, the universal way of salvation.

Part Three

BOOK XI. The Truth of the Scriptures. Creation. Time. Angels, good and apostate. Wickedness is not natural; nothing created is in itself evil. How are we sure of our own existence?

BOOK XII. Evil is non-existent. Evil has no cause – it is the turning of a limited creature from God to itself. Creation took place long ago. The Cyclic idea of history is false. The world is not eternal.

BOOK XIII. The creation of man and its problems. Death and resurrection.

BOOK XIV. The life of the spirit and the life of the flesh. Stoic ‘apathy’ (not human). Only the Creator can undo the results of sin. Two cities.

Part Four

BOOK XV. Early man. Abel, Cain and the patriarchs. Who were the ‘giants’? Beginning of two cities. Noah and the ark.

BOOK XVI. Noah to Judah. How do we explain human monsters? There are no antipodes.

BOOK XVII. A detailed account of the preparation for Christ by prophecies throughout Scripture.

BOOK XVIII. The earthly city and the city of God down to Christ. There are two sorts of men in the Church, the predestined and the others who will be condemned. There are others besides Jews in the City of God. Job is a supreme example.

Part Five

BOOK XIX. What is man’s supreme Good? Peace. Everything is directed towards peace, even war.

BOOK XX. The last judgement. Law and order. Scipio’s republic again.

BOOK XXI. HOW is eternal punishment possible? Pain of soul or body? Does temporal punishment exist after death for some?

BOOK XXII. The creation and resurrection. Miracles still occur in the Christian Church. The Vision of God.


THE bibliography of Augustine is immense and there are at least three periodicals, among them the Revue des études augustiniennes, devoted exclusively to his work. Augustine has never been served or understood by historians better than during the past fifty years. For all save the dedicated specialist the bibliography in Peter Brown’s book (below) will be sufficient for biographical and general material, and for Augustine’s theology and thought the notes in Gilson’s work (below) may be consulted.

BIOGRAPHY. The contemporary Life by Augustine’s disciple Possidius has great value, and is available in English, translated from the edition of H. T. Weisskotten (1919), but for all strictly biographical material the work Augustine of Hippo, by Peter Brown (1967) is in a class by itself, including, as a bonus, chronological tables of Augustine’s works and lists of English translations.

THOUGHT. Here a useful work is that of E. Gilson, Introduction à l‘étude de S. Augustin (3rd edition, 1949), of which a shortened version can be found in Gilson’s History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (1955), which contains biographical notes. For a ‘total’ view of Augustine the classic article by E. Portalié in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique (1903), translated as A Guide to the Thought of St Augustine (1960), still retains its high value. In all the above, and in many other works, the City of God receives some treatment. For Plotinus the best short account is that by A. H. Armstrong in The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy (1967). S. MacKenna’s translation of the Enneads (3rd edition, 1970, with introduction by P. Henry) is a classic.

For Manicheism, the standard work is H. Puech, Le Manichéisme: son fondateur, sa doctrine (1944). There is an excellent short account in the edition of the Confessions by Gibb and Montgomery (2nd edition, 1927). For the Donatists see W. H. C. Frend, The Donatist Church (1952).

Suggested Further Reading

(a short selection from an immense literature)

1. On the General Background

G. Boissier, La fin du paganisme, Paris, 1891

C. N. Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture, Oxford, 1940

S. Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, London, 1899

E. R. Dodds, Pagan and Christian in an Age of Anxiety, Oxford, 1965

P. de Labriolle, La réaction paienne, 10th edition, Paris, 1950

A. Momigliano (ed.), The Conflict between Paganism and Christianity in the Fourth Century, London, 1963

A. D. Nock, Conversion. The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo, Oxford, 1933

2. On Augustine’s Life and Thought

R. Battenhouse (ed.), A Companion to the Study of St. Augustine, New York, 1955 (contains a short essay on the City of God by E. R. Hardy)

G. Bonner, St Augustine of Hippo. Life and Controversies, London, 1963

J. Burnaby, Amor Dei, London, 1938

P. Courcelle, Les Lettres grecques en Occident de Macrobe à Cassiodore, Paris, 1958; Recherches sur les ‘Confessions’ de S. Augustin, Paris, 1950

R. A. Markus, Saeculum: History and Society in the Theology of St Augustine, London, 1970

H. Marrou, Augustin et la fin de la culture antique, Paris, 1938

R. O’Connell, St Augustine’s Confessions, Harvard, 1969

J. J. O’Meara, The Young Augustine, London, 1954, 1980

E. Teselle, Augustine the Theologian, New York, 1970

F. van der Meer, Augustine the Bishop, London and New York, 1961

3. On the City of God

R. H. Barrow, Introduction to St Augustine, The City of God, London, 1950 (selections in Latin and English, with an analysis and a running commentary)

N. H. Baynes, The Political Ideas of St Augustine’s De Civitate Dei, London, 1936

Bibliothèque Augustinienne, vols 33–37, La Cité de Dieu, Paris, 1959–60 (the most useful modern edition)

S. Burleigh, The City of God. A Study of St Augustine’s Philosophy, London, 1950

H. A. Deane, The Political and Social Ideas of St Augustine, London and New York, 1963

J. N. Figgis, The Political Aspects of St Augustine’s City of God, London (reprinted 1963)

J. C. Guy, Unité et structure logique de la ‘Cité de Dieu’ de Saint Augustin, Paris, 1961

H. I. Marrou, Théologie de l’histoire, Paris, 1968

J. J. O’Meara, Charter of Christendom, London, 1967

J. E. C. Welldon, S. Aurelii Augustini… De Civitate Dei…, 2 vols London, 1924 (the only annotated edition in English with full notes and a useful introduction and appendices)

Translator’s Note

THE text I have used is the Teubner text of Bernard Dombart and Alphonse Kalb (fourth edition 1928–9) reprinted, with some correction, in the series Corpus Christianoratn (Turnhout, 1955). In a very few places I have adopted a variant reading; but I have not thought it necessary to mark these places.

Quotations from Scripture are not taken from any standard version. It often happens that St Augustine’s argument depends on an interpretation which differs from that of any of the existing English translations; and for this reason I have used my own versions, thus giving myself freedom to allow St Augustine to make his points, without having recourse to footnotes.

Our author is pleased, on occasion, to air his somewhat scanty knowledge of the Greek language; and where he quotes in that tongue, I have transliterated the words, with the usual indication of long vowels.

It will be observed that Augustine referring to St Paul, generally follows the convention of the Church Fathers in designating him ‘the Apostle’.


Abbreviations Used in References

A. To Books of Scripture

Gen.     Genesis.

Zeph.     Zephaniah

Exod.     Exodus.

Hagg.     Haggai

Lev.     Leviticus

Zech.     Zechariah

Num.     Numbers

Mal.     Malachi

Deut.     Deuteronomy

Esdr.     Esdras

Josh.     Joshua

Tob.     Tobit

Judg.     Judges

Wisd.     Wisdom

Sam.     Samuel

Ecclus.     Ecclesiasticus

Chron.     Chronicles

Bar.     Baruch

Ps.     Psalms

Matt.     Matthew

Prov.     Proverbs

Rom.     Romans

Eccl.     Ecclesiastes

Cor.     Corinthians

S.of S.     The Song of Songs

Gal.     Galatians

Is.     Isaiah

Eph.     Ephesians

Jer.     Jeremiah

Phil.     Philippians

Lam.     Lamentations

Col.     Colossians

Ez.     Ezekiel

Thess.     Thessalonians

Dan.     Daniel

Tim.     Timothy

Hos.     Hosea

Tit.     Titus

Am.     Amos

Hebr.     Hebrews

Obad.     Obadiah

Jas.     James

Jon.     Jonah

Pet.     Peter

Mic.     Micah

Jud.     Jude

Nah.     Nahum

Rev.     Revelation

Hab.     Habakkuk


LXX The Septuagint: the Greek Version of the Old Testament, produced in Alexandria in the second century B.C.

Vulg. The Vulgate: the Latin version of the Bible (editio vulgata), compiled by St Jerome; completed c. 404. St Augustine’s Bible was one of the ‘Old Latin Versions’. The Old Testament in this was a translation of the Septuagint, which often differs widely from the Hebrew text. Some of the notable discrepancies are indicated in the notes to this translation by the addition of (LXX) after the reference.

B. To Secular Authors

As a general rule references are given only by author’s name when only one work of that author is extant, e.g. Plin. = Pliny, Naturalis Historia.

Ambr. – Ambrose of Milan (bishop and theologian, c. A.D. 339–c. 397)

De Virg. – De Virginibus ad Marcellinam Sororem

Ep. – Epistolae

Ammianus Marcellinus (Roman historian, fi. c. A.D. 390)


Apollod – Apollodorus (Greek mythologist, fl. c.140 B.C.)

Bibliotheca (spurious; first or second century A.D.)

Appian (Greek historian, fl. c. A.D. 160)

De Bell. Civ. De Bello Civui

De Bell. Mithr. – De Bello Mithridatico

Apul. – Apuleius (philosophical writer, and novelist, fl. c. A.D. 150)

Apol. – Apologia Pro Se (De Magia)

De Deo Socr. – De Deo Socratis

De Mund. – De Mundo

Met. – Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass)

[Apul] – Pseudo–Apuleius

Asclep. – Asclepius

Arist. – Aristotle (Greek philosopher, 384–322 B.C.)

De An. – De Anima

De Cael. – De Caelo

Eth. Nic.Ethica Nicomachea

Met. – Metaphysica

Arnob. – Arnobius (Christian apologist, fl. c. A.D. 300)

Adv. Gent.Adversus Gentes (or Adversus Nationes)

Arr. – Arrian (Greek historian, c. A.D.95–172)

Anab. – Anabasis (of Alexander the Great)

Aug. – Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354–430)

Adv. Faust. Man. – Adversus Faustum Manichaeum Conf. – Confessiones

De Div. Quaest, ad Simplic. – De Diversis Quaestionibus ad Simplicanum

De Doctr. Christ. – De Doctrina Christiana

De Gen. ad Lit. – De Genesi ad Litteram

De Gen. c. Man. – De Genesi contra Manichaeos

De Haer. – De Haeresibus ad Quodvultdeum

De Nupt. et Conc. – De Nuptiis et Concupiscentia

De Pecc. Mer. et Rem. – De Peccatorum Meritis et Remissione (et de Baptismo Parvulorum)

De Spir. et Lit. – De Spiritu et Littera

De Trin. – De Trinitate

De Ver. Rel. – De Vera Religione

Enarr. in Ps. – Enarrationes in Psalmos

Ep. – Epistolae

Exp. ex Ep. ad Rom. – Expositiones Quarundam Expositionum ex Epistola ad Romanos

Quaest. in Hept. – Quaestiones in Heptateuchum

Retract. – Retracttaiones

Serm. – Sermones

[Aurel. Vict.] – Pseudo-Aurelius Victor

Epit. – Epitome de Caesaribus (wrongly assigned to Aurelius Victor, a fourth-century biographer of the emperors from Augustus to Constantine)

Cic. – Cicero (Roman orator and statesman, 106–43 B.C.)

Acad. Post.Academica Posteriora

Acad. Prior. – Academica Priora

Ad Fam. – Epistulae ad Familiares

De Am.De Amicitia

De Div. – De Divinatione

De Fat. – De Fato

De Fin. – De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum

De Har. Resp. – De Haruspicum Responso

De Leg. – De Legibus

De Nat. Deor.De Natura Deorum

De Off. – De Officiis

De Or. – De Oratore

De Rep. – De Republica

In Cat. – In Catilinam

In Verr. – In Verrem

Philip.Orationes Philippicae

Pro Lig. – Pro Ligarlo

Pro Rabir. – Pro Rabirio

Pro Scaur. – Pro Scauro

Tim. – Timaeus (translated or adapted from Plato)

Tusc. Disp. – Tusculanae Disputationes

Claudian (Roman poet, fl. c. A.D.400)

Cons. Hon. III – De Tertio Consulatu Honorii Panegyricus

Clem. Al. – Clement of Alexandria (theologian, c. A.D.150–c. 215)

Strom. – Stromateis

Curtius Rufus (Latin historian, fl. c. A.D. 59)

De Gest. Alex. – De Gestis Alexandri Magni

Cyprian of Carthage (bishop and theologian, d. A.D.258)

Ep. – Epistolae

Cyr. Al. – Cyril of Alexandria (patriarch and thelogian, d. A.D. 444)

C. Jul. – Contra Julianum

Dem. – Demosthenes (Athenian orator and statesman, 383–322 B.C.)

De Cor. – De Corona

Dio Cass. – Dio Cassius (Greek historian, c. A.D. 150–235)

Historia Romana

Diod. Sic. – Diodorus Siculus (Greek historian, fl. c. 40 B.C.)

Bibliotheca Historica

Diog. Laert. – Diogenes Laertius (Greek biographer and doxographer, c. A.D. 200–250)

De Clarorum Philosophorum Vitis…

Dion. Hal. – Dionysius of Halicaknassus (Greek literary critic and historian, fl. c. 25 B.C.)

Ant. Rom. – Antiguitates Romanae

Epict. – Epictetus (Greek philosopher, c. A.D 60–140)

Ench. – Enchiridion (edited by Arrian)

Eur. – Euripides (Greek tragedian, c. 480–406 B.C.)

Frag. – Fragmenta


Iph. T. – Iphigenia in Tauris

Euseb. – Eusebius of Caesarea (bishop and historian, c. A.D. 260–c. 340)

Dem. Ev. – Demonstrato Evangelica

Praep. Ev. – Praeparatio Evangelica


Chronicon – The Chronicle of Eusebius, continued by Jerome

Eutrop. – Eutropius (Roman historian, fl. c. A.D. 370)

Breviarium ab Urbe Condita

Flor. – Florus (Roman historian, fl. c. A.D. 100)

Epit. – Epitome

Festus (Latin epitomist, second century A.D.)

De Verb. Sign. – De Verborum Significatu (epitome of Verrius Flaccus, grammarian in reign of Augustus)

Gell. – Aulus Gellius (Roman essayist, fl. c. A.D. 160)

Noctes Atticae

Hes. – Hesiod (Greek poet, probably eighth century B.C.)

Theog. – Theogonia

Hier. – Jerome (biblical scholar, c. A.D. 347–420)

Comm. in Dan. – Commentarium in Danierem

Comm. in Ez. – Commentarium in Ezekielem

Ep. – Epistolae

Praef. in Is. – Praefatio in Isaiam

Praef. in Mal. – Praefatio in Malachiam

Quaest. Hebr. in Gen. – Questiones Hebraicae in Genesin

Hom. – Homer (Greek epic poet, probably ninth century B.C.)

Il. – Iliad

Od. – Odyssy

Hor. – Horace (Roman poet, 65–8 B.C.)

Carm. – Carmina (Odes)

Ep. – Epistulae

Epod. – Epodes

Joseph. – Josephus (Jewish historian, A.D. 37–c. 100)

Ant. Jud. – Antiquitates Judaicae

Bell. Jud. – Bella Judaica

Jul. Obs. – Julius Obsequens (Latin epitomist, probably fourth century A.D.)

Prod. – Liber Prodigiorum

Justin (Latin epitomist, first or second century A.D.)

Epitome (of the Historiae Philippicae of Trogus Pompeius, fl. under Augustus)

Justin Martyr (Greek Christian apologist, A.D. 109–165)

Apol. – Apologia contra Gentiles

Dial. – Dialogus cum Tryphone Judaeo

Juv. – Juvenal (Roman satirist, c. A.D. 250 – c. 320)


Lact. – Lactantius (Latin rhetorician and Christian apologist, c. A.D. 250–c. 320)

De Ira Dei

Div. Inst. – Divinae Institutions

Liv. – Livy (Roman historian, 59 B.C.-A.D. 17)

Ab Urbe Condita (references given without title)

Epit. – Epitome (an abridgement of the above)

Perioch. – Periochae (short abstracts of each book) (Of the 142 books of Livy’s History of Rome only thirty-five survive. The Epitome of twelve books has been recovered, and we have the Periochae of all but two of the books.)

Luc. – Lucan (Roman epic poet, A.D. 39–65)

Phars. – Pharsalia

Lucr. – Lucretius (Roman philosophic poet, c. 99–c. 55 B.C.)

De Rerum Natura

Macrob. – Macrobius Theodosius (Roman philosophic writer, fl. c. A.D. 400)


Martianus Capella (Latin allegorist, early fifth century A.D.)

De Nuptiis Mercurii et Philologiae

Minucius Felix (Christian apologist, second or third century A.D.)


Origen (Alexandrian biblical scholar and theologian, c. A.D. 185–c. 254)

C. Cels. – Contra Celsum

In Gen. Hom. – In Genesin Homiliae

De Princ. – De Principiis (Image)

Oros. – Orosius (Latin historian, early fifth century A.D.)


Ovid (Roman elegiac poet, 43 B.C.–A.D.18)

Fast. – Fasti

Met. – Metamorphoses

Paus. – Pausanias (Greek geographer, fl. c. A.D. 150)

Hellados Periêgêsis (Descriptio Graeciae)

Pers. – Persius (Roman satirist, A.D.34–62)


Pind. – Pindar (Greek lyric poet, c. 520–c. 440 B.C.)

Nem. – Nemean Odes

Plat. – Plato (Greek philosopher, c. 427–348 B.C.)

Apol. – Apologia Socratis

Crat. – Cratylus

Legg. – Leges

Phaed. – Phaedo

Phaedr. – Phaedrus

Prot. – Protagoras

Rp. – De Republica

Symp. – Symposium

Tim. – Timaeus

Plaut. – Plautus (Roman comic playwright, c. 254–184 B.C.)

Amph. – Amphitruo

Plin. – Pliny the Elder (Roman natural historian, A.D. 23–79)

Naturalis Historia

Plot. – Plotinus (Neoplatonist philosopher, A.D. 205–270)

Enn. – Enneadcs

Plut. – Plutarch (Greek biographer and essayist, c. A.D. 46–c. 120)

Ages. – Vitae Parallelae, Agesilaus

Alex. – Vitae Parallelae, Alexander

Caes. – Vitae Parallelae, Julius Caesar

C. Gracch. – Vitae Parallelae, Caius Gracchus

Cat. – Vitae Parallelae, Cato

De Fort. Rom. – De Fortuna Romanorum

Num. – Vitae Parallelae, Numa

Quaest. Rom. – Quaestiones Romanae

Pyrrh. – Vitae Parallelae, Pyrrhus

Sull. – Vitae Parallelae, Sulla

Sall. – Sallust (Roman historian, 86–35 B.C.)

Cat. – Catilina (Bellum Catilinae)

Hist. – Historiae Fragmenta

Iug. – Jugurtha (Bellum Iugurthinum)

Sen. – Seneca (Roman essayist c. 4 B.C.-A.D. 65)

Contr. – Controversiae

De Clem. – Dialogas de Clementia

De Ira – Dialogus de Ira

Ep. – Epistulae

Socr. – Socrates (Greek Church historian, c. A.D. 380–450)

Historia Ecclesiastica

Soph. – Sophocles (Greek dramatist, 496–406 B.C.).

Oed. Tyr. – Oedipus Tyrannus

Strab. – Strabo (Greek geographer, c. 64 B.C. – A.D. 10)


Suet. – Suetonius (Roman biographer, c. A.D.70–c. 160)

De Vita Caesarum

Tac. – Tacitus (Roman historian, c. A.D. 55–c. 115)

Hist. – Historiae

Ter. – Terence (Roman comic playwright, c. 195–159 B.C.)

Ad. – Adelphi

Andr. – Andria

Eun. – Eunuchus

Terentian. – Terentianus Mauras (Latin grammarian and metrist, late second century A.D.)

De Metr. – De Litteris Syllabis et Metris Horatii

Tert. – Tertullian (African Church Father, c. A.D. 160–c. 220)

Ad Nat. – Ad Nationes

Ap. – Apologia

De Res. Mort. – De Resurrectione Mortuorum

De Spect. – De Spectaculis

Thdt. – Theodoret (bishop, theologian, and historian, c. A.D. 393–c. 458)

H.E. – Historia Ecclesiastica

Val. Max. – Valerius Maximus (Latin anecdotist, fl. c. A.D. 30)

Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium Libri IX

Varro (Roman polymath, 116–27 B.C.)

De Ling. Lat. – De Lingua Latina

De Re Rust. – De Re Rustica

Velleius Paterculus (Roman historian, fl. c. A.D. 20)

Historiae Romanae

Virg. – Virgil (Roman epic, bucolic and didactic poet, 70–19 B.C.)

Aen. – Aeneid

Eel. – Eclogae

Georg. – Georgica

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