Volume 53, Issue 2, 2022
Taking Augustine at his Word: Re-evaluating the Testimony of De gestis Pelagii
The following article examines Augustine’s efforts in De gestis Pelagii (gest. Pel.), the bishop of Hippo’s commentary on the acts of the Synod of Diospolis at which Pelagius was acquitted of heresy in December 415 CE. Gest. Pel. is far from an attempt to offer an impartial account of the synod’s events. Rather, it forms a key part of Augustine’s efforts in the aftermath of Diospolis to re-interpret what appeared to be a disaster for the anti-Pelagian cause. In this sense, gest. Pel. is a work with a clear rhetorical purpose. The question at the heart of this article is whether, as two scholars have recently suggested, Augustine’s rhetorical aims in this work led him to consciously misrepresent the facts—about the synod’s decision, Pelagius’s views, and his own history with Pelagius. I will argue that we can plausibly take Augustine at his word in gest. Pel.