Item description for Augustine: The City of God against the Pagans (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought) by Augustine & R. W. Dyson...
Overview This is the first new rendition for a generation of The City of God, the first major intellectual achievement of Latin Christianity and one of the classic texts of Western Civilisation. Robert Dyson has produced a complete, accurate, authoritative and fluent translation of De Civitate Dei, edited together with full biographical notes, a concise introduction, bibliography and chronology of Augustine's life.
Publishers Description When Augustine wrote his Confessions in the last years of the fourth century, he was just over forty and had abandoned a successful career for a life of prayer and study. He interpreted his past life as a search for God, in which understanding and commitment had been frustrated by wrong education, mistaken ambition, sexual desire and sinful nature. Some readers are inspired by his brilliance and devotion, others think he misread his own past. This book discusses the transformation of Augustine's own life and of the late Roman world, the structure, style and purpose of the Confessions, and the problems of rhetoric and truth posed by Augustine's account of himself. It concludes with a brief overview of the influence of this landmark text in the history of European culture.
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Studio: Cambridge University Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.4" Width: 5.4" Height: 2.2" Weight: 3.1 lbs.
Release Date Nov 13, 1998
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Series Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought
ISBN 0521468434 ISBN13 9780521468435
Availability 0 units.
More About Augustine & R. W. Dyson
Saint Augustine was one of those towering figures who so dominated his age that the age itself bears his name. the Age of Augustine was a time of transition, and Augustine was a genius of such stature that, according to Christopher Dawson, "he was, to a far greater degree than any emperor or general or barbarian war-lord, a maker of history and a builder of the bridge which was to lead him from the old world to the new." He was the ablest religious thinker and controversialist at a period when theological controversy reached a level of intellectual refinement never achieved before or since. He was a tireless preacher and he wrote 118 treatises, including the most famous spiritual autobiography of all time, The Confessions. Of all these works, the one most prized by Augustine was his City of God, a veritable encyclopedia of information on the lives, thoughts and aspirations of ancient and early Christian man.
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Reviews - What do customers think about Augustine: The City of God against the Pagans (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)?
What a slog... Apr 18, 2002
Although this has been published as part of the "Cambridge Texts on Political Thought" series, it is only incidentally a political work. Its proper genre is Christian Apologetics - the reasoned defense of Christian belief.
Augustine's motive for writing it came from the sack of Rome in 410, which many Roman pagans blamed on the Empire's abandonment of its pagan gods for Christianity. Augustine began writing it in 413, continued with it on and off for the next 13 years, before finally completing it in 426. It is by far the longest of Augustine's works.
Although "The City of God" is formally divided into twenty-two "books" (the books of works of this period were quite short - broadly equal to the modern chapter), the book is more a unit of length than of structure. The highest level of structure of the work is more or less as follows:
(1) Against the belief that the pagan gods can give rewards in this life (5 books)
(2) Against the belief that the pagan gods can give rewards in the next life (5 books)
(3) Origins of the City of God and the City of Man (4 books)
(4) Histories of the City of God and the City of Man (4 books)
(5) Comparative futures of the City of God and the City of Man (4 books)
The first section, against the belief that the pagan gods should be worshipped for what they can give in this life, was primarily concerned with Roman history. The pagan argument was that Rome had been prosperous while it had worshipped the pagan gods, but had suffered disaster after abandoning them. Augustine's response is a recital of disasters - civil wars and despotic rule - suffered by Rome prior to turning Christian. Augustine admitted that Christianity had not brought prosperity to Rome, but pointed out that it never promised to - that Christianity's promises of reward were not in this life, but in the infinitely more important life to come.
The second section was aimed not at what might be termed 'popular paganism', but at the philosophical efforts to give paganism intellectual credibility, particularly Neo-Platonism. Following the Roman writer Varro, Augustine considered the paganism of the poets, the paganism of the state, and the paganism of the philosophers. His argument was that the philosophers admit the paganism of the poets to be nonsense, but that the paganism of the state could not be separated from that of the poets and must equally be condemned. Augustine was respectful of the paganism of the philosophers, but argued that the philosophical arguments were better fulfilled in Christianity than in paganism.
The third section was written around an exposition of Genesis. Its purpose was to define the relationship between God and creation, God and man, man and sin, sin and death, and the nature of the life to come. In the prior two sections, Augustine was primarily on the attack, but in this section he was on the defense, explaining Christian belief and defending it against philosophical objections that he thinks either arise from misunderstandings of Christianity or mistakes in Neo-Platonism.
The fourth section was devoted to history - Biblical and Roman. Augustine's account of Biblical history was quite literal - the long lives of the patriarchs, for example, was taken at face value and defended as accurate history. In it, Augustine developed the division of the world into those submitting to the will of God (the City of God) and those defying it (the City of Man). Augustine's history paid particularly close attention of prophesies of the coming of Jesus, through whom the City of God would spread over the entire world.
The fifth section was concerned with prophecies of the future of the world, particularly in the Book of Revelation, and with the nature of the next life for both the damned and the saved. Again, Augustine was quite literal in his readings of these prophecies, although he later wrote that he had probably been too literal in some of his prophetic interpretations.
In the title of my review, I described the book as a slog. It is time to explain why.
The book's first two sections consist of a 400 page attack on the truth of Roman paganism, a conclusion that the modern reader would have conceded before reading page 1. The reader's ability to get through this is not helped by the fact that it is repetitive and that much of it will mean little to readers without a solid background in Roman history. Further distancing this section from the interest of the modern reader is Augustine's frequent invocation of aerial daemons as being behind paganism. At that time, aerial daemons were believed in by pagans and Christians alike, but few (if any) moderns still do. As a result, contemporary readers will likely find Augustine's frequent references to them more hurtful than helpful to the Christian cause.
The book's last three sections, of about 700 pages, are largely concerned with the Bible. The first of these, dealing with Genesis, I found by far the most interesting of the book's five sections, but I also thought that Augustine treated the subject better in his "The Literal Meaning of Genesis". The fourth section, dealing with the rest of the Old Testament, was a by-the-numbers retelling of the original that felt like a deliberate test of the reader's powers of endurance. The last section, dealing primarily with prophecy, I found largely uninteresting because I found it unconvincing, a conviction that Augustine himself, at least to some extent, later shared.
I've given the book four stars less for itself than its author and its historical importance. Of all the works of Augustine I have read, however, this is near the bottom of those that I would recommend based on contemporary interest.
Should be the new standard Feb 21, 2001
It is hard to find recent work on De Civitate Dei in English that does not use this newest edition and translation of probably Augustine's most influential work (if not his most readable). I am convinced that this will be the translation that will be used for the foreseeable future. An excellent rendering of the Latin original, wonderful introduction and copious notes. So clear and precise is the translation, and so helpful is the supporting scholarship, that one could conceivably come to this particular text of Augustine's work having no prior knowledge, and leave it with complete fluency. It is that good. For the full effect, get the 3 vols of the Loeb Classical Latin-English edition (the MacCracken-Greene translation is still very useful, though not in comparison to newer scholarship such as Dyson's) and work though the text yourself. I think that Augustine's Latin and Dyson's English match up well next to each other--this is a volume to own if you are contemplating any serious work with Augustine, or if you are just curious about what all the fuss over Augustine is about. A polemical, brilliant, controversial, and stimulating work, City of God is as good a place as any to introduce yourself to Augustine, and this is an excellent translation to use.