Peter Brown’s Augustine of Hippo: A Biography (Review)

Peter Brown's "Augustine of Hippo: A Biography" was recommended to me by my same friend whom also recommended to me the Penguin Classics translation of Augustine's "City of God" translated by Henry Bettenson that was an amazing five star read. I have now finished reading Brown's biography and here's some thoughts on it.

My edition comes with an epilogue, which discusses newly discovered letters by Augustine. It's really amazing how much Augustine wrote. I really don't know how it was scientifically feasible for him to write as much as he did. So that wasn't as interesting to me, just because I haven't engaged with Augustine's letters as of yet. I've read many of his treatises, but mostly the longer ones like On The Trinity, Enchiridion, etc. And also his Confessions, and most recently, The City of God - my personal favorite of what I've read. So it didn't bother me that the biography had very little theology (compared to biographies of other theologians), which Brown admits in the epilogue. The epilogue was helpful because it addressed some of the things I didn't like about this wonderful book. For instance, its a critical biography written by a modern scholar, so he is not bothered by Pelagianism like Augustine was (or how I am), for modern reasons. However, Brown admits that he was influenced by some other works he had read at the time that he no longer agrees with. Augsutine is protrayed negatively as an influential ancient, trenched in politics of his era with moments far beyond his time, and possibly the greatest genius of his era but still of his era. So my criticism of the work is based in a difference of worldview between Brown and I.

The wonderful part of the biography is that it is truly a study of the era of augustine, a time so far gone that it is just like today, and Brown's genius is evident after reading a few pages. It's an excellently written biography that every sentence provides details about the time of augustine and northern africa in the Roman empira that makes my mind spin with ideas. There are many footnotes that show the vast research he had put into this work, and I recommend it all who love biography and can read books critcally.

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