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Augustine of Hippo: A Biography

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  1,824 ratings  ·  137 reviews
This classic biography was first published thirty years ago and has since established itself as the standard account of Saint Augustine's life and teaching.
Paperback, Forty-Fifth Anniversary Edition, 548 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by University of California Press (first published 1967)
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Aug 22, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read the old version, which was fine. Augustine spanned the gap between the classic world and the emerging world of the middle ages. He started life as a Manichee and flirted with neo-platonism before settling down to life as the bishop of Hippo in Roman Africa. His was a very "Roman African" kind of career (a phrase which meant nothing to me before this book). Roman African Christianity was a "purer" form that was less influenced by decadent Roman/Italian ways. In fact, the main schism of Aug ...more
Jacob Aitken
A very difficult read, but easily the standard secondary source on Augustine. The broad contours of Augustine's life are well-known, but Brown places them within a theological framework. He takes intellectual themes from controversies in Augustine's life (thus the Latin-ish chapter titles) and retells the story around these themes. It makes for somewhat difficult reading at times, but it is very illuminating.

I cannot imagine a better work that more neatly captures Augustine's *sitz im leben* tha
Ted Rohe
May 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Interested in Church History
Shelves: churchhistory
I think this is a great Biography of Augustine, but I wish there was some more focus and clarification on Augustine's theology. I think I will have to explore some more books on that specifically. However, Brown does focus on aspects of Augustine's Theology and it is interesting to see it in contrast to many views of Augustine today. Overall very good and I learned a lot.
There are some problematic aspects to Brown’s biography of Augustine of Hippo, most of which, if not before, becomes apparent in the Epilogue included in the revised edition: “We should remember that in the 1960s some of the best work on the thought of Augustine stressed those moments where he appeared to have changed his mind on important matters. These studies examined the manner in which Augustine's progressive absorption of the Christian Scriptures, his pastoral experience and his wrestling ...more
Czarny Pies
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who have read the Confessions and Excerptes from the City of Go.
Shelves: european-history
Peter Brown's Augustine of Hippo is a brilliant tour-de-force that will delight any reader familiar with the history of theological thought or the late Roman empire. It recounts the life and intellectual struggles of a fascinating person, elucidates the writings of an important philosopher and gives a brilliant portrait of African society in the fifth century.
The first thing to understand is that Brown has written a true biography; not a speculation of the life of man known through his actions a
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant! I had this on my shelf for a year before I got to it – the size and subject matter just seemed a bit daunting – but it turned out to be engrossing and readable. Brown is a wonderful writer (though his style includes more use of commas than I am accustomed to), and he does a beautiful job balancing the personal details of Augustine's life with the history of the period. I would assume that most readers going in to this would have a basic familiarity with traditional Roman religion, the ...more
Petruccio Hambasket IV
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you're a student of history, and have been forced to read any previous Peter Brown, you will know that his usual writing style amounts to stuffing an overwhelming chunk of ideas into a very small amount of pages. What would take one historian 50 pages to explain, Brown can perfectly synthesis in 5. His use of language is intensely precise and rigorously academic (a quality that in practice should make his writing seem stuffy if not for the sheer breadth of his ideas).

Augustine of Hippo: A Bi
Peter Jones
Nov 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(I read the old edition.) Titanic is the word that came to mind as I read. Augustine, his theology, his philosophy, his pastoral ministry, his interaction with the state, his defenses of orthodoxy come alive in this wonderful biography by Peter Brown. Brown emphasizes Augustine's intellectual labors and how his thought matured over the years. I was especially convicted by his love for his flock and his compassion towards them. Brown's discussion of the Donatist controversy and the Pelagian contr ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredibly detailed biography of Augustine. Peter Brown uses Augustine’s writings and other sources of the period to create a biography which must be considered the authoritative work on Augustine. It is a difficult read at times and I read this over a period of time, taking it slowly. However, it was certainly worthy the effort.
Matt Pitts
May 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed immersing myself in the life and world of Augustine through Brown's landmark biography. There is a reason why it has remained the standard life of Augustine for over 45 years.

The epilogue, which was not a part of the original biography, includes two chapters reflection on the advances in Augustine scholarship since Brown first wrote. The first focuses on the significance of the discovery of two groups of manuscripts - one of sermons and another of letters - that have occurr
Father Nick
I was somewhat skeptical that this book would be worthwhile, having been through the confessions a number of times and having Augustine's life story pretty much together in my own head. I thought an Augustine biography would be redundant, having already read the one written by the saint himself. For some reason, the stupidity of this attitude did not make itself aware immediately; fortunately, it only took the first few pages of Brown's book to disabuse me of my philistinism.
Brown's research is
The best thing about Peter Brown is that he's an historian writing a biography. Sounds obvious, right? But he's not a psychologizing, or moralizing, or theologizing. He's historicizing.

This biography from the late '60s (his new edition left the original pretty much intact, and just added a preface and epilogue with information about recent discoveries of sermon texts and letter transcriptions, with the attendant implications in thought), was among the first to situate such a major figure from a
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The past is a foreign country. When we read history, we shouldn't seek to necessarily read moral tales and place ourselves at the helm. Instead, we must seek to have humility and strive to understand the characters in their place and time.

I had to constantly remind myself of this when reading Peter Brown's magisterial biography of Augustine of Hippo, or known affectionately by most as St. Augustine. Brown's prose and integration of source material in this biography is remarkable. At times, even
Nov 07, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent picture of the man and what shaped him. Brown is an adept biographer; his treatment of St. Augustine reads almost like a novel. I would be a lot more enthusiastic about biographies if they were this well-presented. This served as a great tool to prompt interest in Augustine's works, namely, his confessions and City of God. ...more
Janet Craigmiles
This is probably one of the best biography's I have ever read. It creates a realistic portrait of one of the most important figures in Christian history. I highly recommend!!
Jay Franklin
Sep 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: catholic, biography
“Augustine of Hippo” was first published in 1967 and then recently revised in 2000, with a new epilogue that dealt with a whole new breed of archeological evidence that emerged between the two dates. Augustine lived from 354-430 AD. While this may seem distant from the modern consciousness, Brown has a special gift for immersing us in Augustine’s writing style (which is timeless) and relating it to the history and culture of the period. Another wonderful technique of Brown’s biography is to let ...more
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the definitive bio of Augustine. (What Bainton once was for Luther). The 2nd edition is a whole new work.

I met Peter Brown in Princeton, where he taught, a few times, and he just oozed brilliance. I have nothing new to add except an anecdote that tells it all. The story goes that Brown was so focused and mature that he came to the idea of writing this definitive critical bio of Augustine while in his early teens. He focused all of his energy on it, methodically begining to maste the sec
Kathryn Mattern
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never finished reading this book, and it's not my favorite by Brown, however, I learned a lot about Augustine and filled in my mental picture of the milieu of early Christianity which interested me so obsessively when I was in my thirties. If you want to read a history of Augustine that is nearly as readable as a novel but infinitely more informative, this is the book for you!
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theology
The go to book for a broad overview of Augustine's life and theology. Brown really gives his reader a sympathetic look at the ancient world. I first read this book in an Augustine seminar, with primary sources alongside the complementary sections, and it was a great way to learn Augustine.
vittore paleni
May 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A rich, subtle, and delightful read.
Brent McCulley
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Magisterial. An excellent biography of the life of Augustine.
Apr 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
insightful background to Augustine's work
Z. J. Pandolfino
Writing biographies of ancient people is a difficult art. Many popular biographies of figures like Cleopatra, Cicero, Augustus, and other Greco-Roman movers and shakers quickly devolve into fantastic conjecture that borders on sheer fiction, especially when historical evidence is sparse for certain periods of people’s lives. For that reason, as a classicist, I tend to stay away from biographies. Great Men history is a relic of a more oppressive academic era, and social, economic, and political t ...more
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very readable, scholarly book (thank you Stephen Dalton for leaving it accidentally) that was very interesting. The book was originally published a couple decades ago but the author revised and expanded it because of all the new manuscripts discovered (from Augustine, contemporaries and peers and a large number of Donatist manuscripts), plus a more seasoned perspective.

Not only is A himself revealed in the complexity of a living man, but also quite a perspective on life the late Roman Empire,
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic
This is an excellent historical biography. I am amazed by Brown’s grasp of Augustine’s works and that he wrote this so early in his career. The epilogue provides a very useful and interesting analysis of the new evidence of the Dolbeau sermons and the Divjak letters. In epilogue Brown also describes how Augustine and late antique scholarship has changed since the 1960s, and is able to analyze his own development as a historian since then. He points out areas of weakness in his early scholarship: ...more
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anything by Peter Brown is well worth the read and this is no exception. This has been for me a really life-giving experience allowing me to drink deeply from Augustine's inner life while learning about the outer events that shaped it. I seldom recommend books to friends but have encouraged every close friend I have to pick up a copy of this important historical, philosophical, and theological work.
Seth Woodley
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brown's biography of Augustine is thoroughly enjoyable and insightful. He uses many details from Confessions and other works by Augustine to compose this excellent biography. Brown helpfully situates Augustine in late Antiquity, and he explores the cultural influences on Augustine's life and writing. This book is so enjoyable and beautiful that it is fairly easy to forget how long it is.
JD Tyler
Apr 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
There’s a reason this is the Gold Standard for Augustine biographies. Beautifully written, Brown weaves the life-story of St. Augustine in way that causes you to feel yourself close very to the Bishop of Hippo himself. A must read for all interested in this man-his life and his work.
Feb 08, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This biography of Saint Augustine is ideal for someone not part of the Christian elect but yet interested in the development of Western (Catholic) Christianity. The focus is primarily on the personal and professional experiences in Augustine's life that helped shape the development of ideas on original sin, predestination, and grace espoused by one of the "doctors" of the early church.

Part of what makes Peter Brown such a great historian is that he is physically unable to write a book that does
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read the 1967 edition without the epilogues, so I am aware that the book is dated in parts; however, Peter Brown’s classic biography of Augustine of Hippo has got to be the greatest biography I have ever read. Brown gives his reader a human portrait of a complex figure in the history of Western Christianity. Such an engrossing read!

Despite the highly unpleasant teachings in Augustine’s writings against Julian of Eclanum, I feel that the “Augustinian pessimism” is actually quite comforting. Our
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There is more than one author with this name.

Peter Robert Lamont Brown FBA is Rollins Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University. His principal contributions to the discipline have been in the field of Late Antiquity. His work has concerned, in particular, the religious culture of the later Roman Empire and early medieval Europe, and the relation between religion and society.

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