Volume 52, Issue 1, 2021
The Ancient Readers of Augustine’s City of God
Recent scholarship has held that De ciuitate Dei was aimed primarily at Christians. Through a comprehensive study of Augustine’s correspondence with known readers of De ciuitate Dei, this article argues that he in fact intended it for practical outreach. Beginning with the exchange with Volusianus and Marcellinus, it argues that the “circle of Volusianus” was not comprised of self-confident pagans but of a dynamic group of locals and émigrés, pagan and Christian, who had briefly coalesced around Volusianus and Marcellinus. The Carthaginian social situation did not greatly change, therefore, after Marcellinus’s execution and Volusianus’s departure. Neither did Augustine’s aims, of which the same picture emerges from Augustine’s later correspondence with Macedonius, Evodius, Peter and Abraham, Firmus, and Darius, and from Orosius. Augustine intended, from the first inception of De ciuitate Dei to the eve of his death, to use it to equip Christians with arguments and, through those Christians’ efforts in turn, to convince once-reluctant pagans to embrace the truth of its claims.