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City of God

St. Augustine

Book I

Augustine explains how he wants to tackle the “glorious city of God” in his work. By
this he means he wants to defend his God is the only true God and to show others who
believe in other deities that they need to change their views. He praises God and all his

Chapter 1
He gives a very brief history of Roman times as it relates to worshipping God.
Additionally, he goes on to discuss how many people take God and his works for granted.

Chapter 16
Here we see some of the first shades of Augustine’s beliefs. He writes: “the only
difficulty is so to treat the subject as to satisfy at once modesty and reason” showing his
focus on the need for modest means. He goes on to say how the true virtuous life is in
the soul and not worldly pleasures. The body and its desires and needs are secondary to
those of the soul.

Chapter 18
In this section he discusses the contradictions between the body and the soul when
controlled by others. He writes that even though the body many be controlled by others
(that is, even though you may be forced to do something by another person), no one can
ever control your will. He focuses on “purity” of the soul and writes on that matter: “If,
on the other hand, it belongs to the soul, then not even when the body is violated is it
lost.” As long as the soul remains pure and virtuous then nothing that happens with the
body matters.

Book II

Chapter 2
Augustine writes that he has shown that people need to attribute actions of luck or good
fortune to God. He also explains how he has shown why bad things happen to the good
and the wicked. He writes how Rome was founded by ancient heroes, but that their
descendents have destroyed it and how the destruction and downfall of Rome has
contributed to the rise of Christianity.

Chapter 3
He says he must write for ignorant men because most of the population of the world
believes that Christianity caused the terrible events and disasters. He asks if Christianity
did cause these disasters, why did the other gods not stop them?
Chapter 4
Augustine implies the evil and bad nature of man, and wonders why the other so-called
true gods never intervened or created mechanisms to help their devotees live more
religious and virtuous lives. Augustine writes that his true God has shown the devotees a
true way to achieve a virtuous life.

Chapter 14
Here, Augustine discusses Plato and his arguments against certain aspects of his own
government. Augustine suggests that the laws the gods of ancient Greece and Rome held
themselves and their believers to low standards and that they lacked any set standards of
morality or behavior (and thus any method of virtue). He wrote: “It is obvious, therefore,
that the Romans could not receive, nor reasonably expect to receive, laws for the
regulation of their conduct from their gods, since the laws they themselves enacted far
surpassed and put to shame the morality of the gods.”

Chapter 19
He discusses the depravity of the Roman republic and how evil and corrupt it is. There is
a lack of law and order and no virtue. Christians must be able to endure these terrible
conditions (with the help of their God) for the afterlife.

Chapter 20
Greater details on the vices of Roman society. He focuses on the nature of law to defend
acts against property rather than acts against other humans. He basically rails against
Roman society and the evil nature of a focus on earthly pleasures and goods.

Chapter 21
This section is a critique using Cicero of the Roman republic, and more largely the
concept of government in general. He quotes, “so, where reason is allowed to modulate
the diverse elements of the state, there is obtained a perfect concord from the upper,
lower, and middle classes as from various sounds,” suggesting the need for reason in
deliberation of matters of the state. Republics can only be called republics when they are
justly and fairly governed; when they are not, then they stop being republics at all.
Augustine writes that Rome’s republic was less republican than they would like others to
believe; moreover, he argues that the only true republic with justice and virtue is that
founded under Christ.

Chapter 28
This chapter deals with the nature of Christianity as healing. Augustine writes on the evil
nature and bad tendencies of men and how Christianity lifts them out of these things.
There is an implicit assumption by Augustine as to the evil nature of man here, as he
views Christianity as raising men out of it.

Book IV

Chapter 1
A brief introduction that includes a look-back at what has been discussed as well as a
defense of the claims made in the first book against the non-Christians. This portion
focuses mainly on the nature of Christianity as related to other religions.

Chapter 2
In a similar model as Chapter 1, this part rehashes and defends the topics discussed in
books 2 and 3. Discussion focuses mainly on the nature of government and the role of
religion in government formation. This is done in discussing the evils of the Roman
empire and how they got to be that way.

Chapter 3
He gives an example of two men, one rich and one poor. The rich man has great
materials wealth but is very scared, anxious, and constantly fighting off evil temptations.
The poor man is content with his lifestyle and wants nothing else. Augustine concludes
that the latter man is more desirable and that the world should be ruled by such persons as
they do not harm themselves and their souls as the first man does. Quoting Augustine:
“but the bad man, even if he reigns, is a slave, and that not of one man, but, what is far
more grievous, of as many masters as he has vices.”

Chapter 4
He compares kingdoms without justice to robberies, as they take things without any
fairness or just rule. Likewise, he says that robberies (in their organization) are but small

Chapter 15
This section deals with the expansion of an empire. Augustine writes that if people had
not sought out new territory there would be many more small kingdoms in the world. He
goes onto say that it is not right for the lesser to rule over the more righteous person.
Rome made out the foreigners who they waged war against to be more unjust than they
so that the way was justifiable.

Chapter 18
This portion deals with the seemingly conflicting or competing notions of felicity and
fortune. Augustine suggests that if felicity is present then nothing else is needed as one
will be happy. He also wonders why people ask for fortune when it can be good or bad.
He concludes: “Felicity is she whom the good have by previous merit; but fortune, which
is termed good without any trial of merit, befalls both good and bad men fortuitously,
whence also she is named Fortune.” All of this is dealt with under a veil of polytheistic
religion with these forces being represented as goddesses.

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