Augustine and his Modern Legacy

History 103A.003

Spring 2008
Instructor (text): 
2227 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Tues 10-12
Simon Grote ( is a sixth-year graduate student in early modern European history, with an M.A. in ancient Roman history. He is writing his dissertation on aesthetic theories and moral philosophy in eighteenth-century Scotland and Germany.

The surviving works of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430 AD) far outnumber the surviving works of every other ancient author, and they shed a bright light on the Roman world in which he lived. They have also had a deep and lasting influence on the shape of Western intellectual history - including ways of thinking about religion and theology, politics, education, psychology, and economics - from the middle ages until the present day. We will spend the semester examining Augustine's ideas about some of the issues that he considered important, as a window into fourth- and fifth-century Roman social and intellectual life, and then consider the extraordinary force of those ideas in new historical contexts long after Augustine's death. Our ancient subjects, occupying the first seven weeks of the course, will include ideas of Roman progress and decline, the meaning of history, the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire, monastic life and controversies surrounding it, and debates over original sin and predestination, focusing on the writings of Augustine and his ancient predecessors and interlocutors, including Eusebius, Porphyry, and Pelagius. Our more modern subjects will include late-medieval Augustinianism, the Protestant Reformation, Enlightenment debates over Christianity and economics, and visions of Augustinian politics in the twentieth century, with readings including Erasmus, Martin Luther, Francis Hutcheson, Bernard Mandeville, and Hannah Arendt.

The course is meant as an introduction to important themes in late antique Roman history and important episodes in more recent European intellectual history, as well as methods of research in intellectual history in general. Requirements will include active participation in (and occasional leading of) the discussion, brief weekly response papers, and a final essay of around fifteen pages.