Volume 61, Issue 1, June 2021
Sana oculos meos
Alypius’ Curiositas in Augustine’s Confessiones (6, 8, 13)
Augustine’s commentary on Alypius’ curiositas at the gladiatorial show (6, 8, 13) recounts one of the most well-known stories in Augustine’s Confessiones. Despite the various interpretations or explications of the story in Augustinian scholarship, this paper argues that the story centres around Alypius’ curiositas as a function of Alypius’ preceding, morally deficient character. The author provides a fourfold, cumulative and philological case for this thesis. He develops this case by means of four evidences. First, Augustine uses the phraseology of animus forti temperantia (6, 7, 12), the virtuous character describing Alypius when he had overcome his love of the gladiatorial games. Second, Augustine distinguishes between “supreme” and “a surface level” virtue, the existence of which is best explained by its application in Augustine’s remark that Alypius had been audax rather than fortis. Third, Augustine uses the language of talis in reference to Alypius, a term describing sorts or kinds of things or persons; in this context, this is the language of character. Finally, Augustine’s use of adhuc implies that there is a type of character Alypius had been, the remedy of which was to acquire an animus forti temperantia. The author then argues that Augustine envisions that the healing of curiositas (as a vice) is from God, especially when a virtuous character – the means by which one is able to overcome curiositas – itself is articulated as a gift of God’s grace. The response to such healing, then, is gratitude. The author concludes that this paper contributes both to a more comprehensive interpretation of the Alypius narrative (6, 8, 13) as well as contemporary scholarship on Augustine’s relation to (psychotherapeutic) healing.