This book was written by Saint Augustine in 413-426 AD. He describes two cities: the earthly city and the city of god. The earthly city contains the damned, whom God has not chosen to save. The city of God contains those who have been 'repaired' by God's grace, and who are therefore able to escape vanity, to love God as they should, and therefore merit salvation.
The City of God is not situated physically in heaven. It is not even a single physical city, like London or New York. Instead it refers to the collection of good people on the earth, and the good society they can form amongst themselves.
The headings on this page point the New Advent web site, which has the complete text split of the book up over twenty-two web pages.
The rest of this page contains some personal annotations and extracts.
Book I. Augustine censures the pagans, who attributed the calamities of the world, and especially the sack of Rome by the Goths, to the Christian religion and its prohibition of the worship of the gods.
Book II. A review of the calamities suffered by the Romans before the time of Christ, showing that their gods had plunged them into corruption and vice.
Book III. The external calamities of Rome.
Book IV. That empire was given to Rome not by the gods, but by the One True God.
Book V. Of fate, freewill, and God's prescience, and of the source of the virtues of the ancient Romans.
Book VI. Of Varro's threefold division of theology, and of the inability of the gods to contribute anything to the happiness of the future life.
Book VII. Of the "select gods" of the civil theology, and that eternal life is not obtained by worshipping them.
Book VIII. Some account of the Socratic and Platonic philosophy, and a refutation of the doctrine of Apuleius that the demons should be worshipped as mediators between gods and men.
Book IX. Of those who allege a distinction among demons, some being good and others evil.
Book X. Porphyry's doctrine of redemption.
Book XI. Augustine passes to the second part of the work, in which the origin, progress, and destinies of the earthly and heavenly cities are discussed. — Speculations regarding the creation of the world.
Book XII. Of the creation of angels and men, and of the origin of evil.
Book XIII. That death is penal, and had its origin in Adam's sin.
Book XIV. Of the punishment and results of man's first sin, and of the propagation of man without lust.
Book XV. The progress of the earthly and heavenly cities traced by the sacred history.
Book XVI. The history of the city of God from Noah to the time of the kings of Israel.
Book XVII. The history of the city of God from the times of the prophets to Christ.
Book XVIII. A parallel history of the earthly and heavenly cities from the time of Abraham to the end of the world.
Book XIX. A review of the philosophical opinions regarding the Supreme Good, and a comparison of these opinions with the Christian belief regarding happiness.
Book XX. Of the last judgement, and the declarations regarding it in the Old and New Testaments.
Book XXI. Of the eternal punishment of the wicked in hell, and of the various objections urged against it.
Book XXII. Of the eternal happiness of the saints, the resurrection of the body, and the miracles of the early Church.
Some personal annotations, and favourite extracts:
"Let the one god Jupiter be all these minor gods that I have named and whatever others I have not named. Let him be all these gods and goddesses, or, as some would say, let all these be parts of him or powers of him." (Augustine is wrong, I think, in what follows. It is not a question of the minor gods being offended should we fail to worship them, as he says. It is a directive on how to live a good life. If we fail to appreciate what is special in each individual thing, or if we begin to take some things for granted, then we ourselves are living more poorly or out of balance. Patron saints do the same thing.) But: "Because they did not know the name of Him by Whom felicity is given, they chose to call the deity who gave it by the name of the gift. This, then, sufficiently shows them to have thought that felicity cannot be given even by Jupiter hiimself. Let that God be sought, therefore; let him be worshipped." Again: "As with those things which I have cited as examples, so with all the rest: they complicate rather than explain." (When the Romans associated minor gods with things in the world around them, were they trying to explain how the world around them worked?)
"Fortune befalls both good and bad men by chance (fortuito), which is why it is called fortune (fortuna). How then is the goddess Fortune good, when she comes to both good men and bad without any discrimination? There is nothing to be gained from worshipping her if she is mere chance; but if she singles out her worshippers, to help them, then she is not mere chance." (Two groups would worship her: those who give thanks, and those who idolize risk. Note that God helps both the bad and the good alike, and he is deemed good.)
"He spun a potter's wheel with all the force he could, and then, as it was turning, quickly touched it twice with black ink, supposedly in one place. But when the motion stopped, it was found that the marks were no small distance apart on the edge of the wheel. 'Thus', he says, 'considering the rapidity with which the heavens turn...'"
"In what manner mathematicians are convicted of professing a vain science." (A more modern translation calls them astrologers rather than mathematicians.)
Of the temporal reward which God granted to the good morals of the Romans. (In fact, the Romans went initially after the early city, and got it. Upon converting to Christianity they gained the heavenly city and lost the earthly.)
"As to those things which truly confer dignity upon mankind, namely, security and good morals, I entirely fail to see what difference it makes, aside from the most empty pride of human glory, that some men should be conquerors and others conquered."
"Yet they still ought to give more honour to Terminus than to Janus for the joy is greater when anything is brought to perfection, whereas things begun are always full of anxiety until they are brought to their end." (Although some other things are begun full of hope, yet end in sadness.)
"Behold what has befallen the world for the sake of a Greek or poetical world for our palate! Let us worship this god solely for the sake of our saliva." (Augustine is right in that every division of things can be made to look absurd. One God is indeed the logical conclusion. But probably we could pull the same trick with Good vs. Evil.) "The poets did not, however, invent the fact that their accounts of such deeds are pleasing and acceptable to the gods."
"'But it is possible', he says, 'for the same thing to be one, yet to have many things contained in it'. There are, I grant, many things in one man; but are there for this reason many men in him?" (The Trinity: there are three things in one God; for this reason there are three Gods in him.)
"These philosophers have been able to conceive only of what their hearts, bound to the bodily senses,have devised for them. The faculty by which the likeness of a body is seen in the mind is itself neither a body nor the likeness of a body. That faculty is the mind of man and the rational soul; and it is certainly not a body, if even the likeness of a body when perceived in the mind, is not a body. The soul therefore is neither earth, nor water, nor air, nore fire. And if the soul is not a body, how can God, the creator of the soul, be a body? Him Who truly is because He is immutable. Him Who simply is. For, to Him, it is not one thing to exist and another to live, as if he could exist without living; nor, to Him, is it one thing to live and another to understand, as though he might live but not understand; nor is it one thing to understand and another to be blessed, as though He might understand and not be blessed. Rather, to Him, to exist is to live, to understand and to be blessed. Immutability and simplicity."
"Nature flees non-existence. For some natural reason, indeed, mere existence is so pleasant that even those who are miserable do not wish to die."
Augustine's Cogito. "I am wholly certain that I exist. If I am mistaken then, by the same token, I must exist, since how can I be mistaken without existing? Therefore I exist."
"things probable and credible". Augustine gives a reliable account of the future, to justify an unreliable account of the past. Normally it works the other way round!
non mendatum est, sed mysterium. It is not a paradox, but a mystery. Augustine deploys "mysteries" of his own, but his very criticial of the "paradoxes" of his opponents.
Will and desire. The Stoics said that a wise person experiences will, gladness and caution instead of desire, joy and fear. The Bible doesn't make this distinction. "The choices of the will, however, are not subject to the position of the stars."
"For there is also a love by which that is loved which ought not to be loved; and this is a love which a man hates in himself if he loves that by which he loves what oughtto be loved."
ARGUMENT. AUGUSTINE CENSURES THE PAGANS, WHO ATTRIBUTED THE CALAMITIES OF THE WORLD, AND ESPECIALLY THE RECENT SACK OF ROME BY THE GOTHS, TO THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, AND ITS PROHIBITION OF THE WORSHIP OF THE GODS. HE SPEAKS OF THE BLESSINGS AND ILLS OF LIFE, WHICH THEN, AS ALWAYS, HAPPENED TO GOOD AND BAD MEN ALIKE. FINALLY, HE REBUKES THE SHAMELESSNESS OF THOSE WHO CAST UP TO THE CHRISTIANS THAT THEIR WOMEN HAD BEEN VIOLATED BY THE SOLDIERS.
THE glorious city of God is my theme in this work, which you, my dearest son Marcellinus, suggested, and which is due to you by my promise. I have undertaken its defense against those who prefer their own gods to the Founder of this city, — a city surpassingly glorious, whether we view it as it still lives by faith in this fleeting course of time, and sojourns as a stranger in the midst of the ungodly, or as it shall dwell in the fixed stability of its eternal seat, which it now with patience waits for, expecting until "righteousness shall return unto judgment," and it obtain, by virtue of its excellence, final victory and perfect peace. A great work this, and an arduous; but God is my helper. For I am aware what ability is requisite to persuade the proud how great is the virtue of humility, which raises us, not by a quite human arrogance, but by a divine grace, above all earthly dignities that totter on this shifting scene. For the King and Founder of this city of which we speak, has in Scripture uttered to His people a dictum of the divine law in these words: "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." But this, which is God's prerogative, the inflated ambition of a proud spirit also affects, and dearly loves that this be numbered among its attributes, to
"Show pity to the humbled soul, And crush the sons of pride."
And therefore, as the plan of this work we have undertaken requires, and as occasion offers, we must speak also of the earthly city, which, though it be mistress of the nations, is itself ruled by its lust of rule.
ARGUMENT. HERE BEGINS THE SECOND PART OF THIS WORK, WHICH TREATS OF THE ORIGIN, HISTORY, AND DESTINIES OF THE TWO CITIES, THE EARTHLY AND THE HEAVENLY IN THE FIRST PLACE, AUGUSTINE SHOWS IN THIS BOOK HOW THE TWO CITIES WERE FORMED ORIGINALLY, BY THE SEPARATION OF THE GOOD AND BAD ANGELS; AND TAKES OCCASION TO TREAT OF THE CREATION OF THE WORLD, AS IT IS DESCRIBED IN HOLY SCRIPTURE IN THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK OF GENESIS
And we indeed recognize in ourselves the image of God, that is, of the supreme Trinity, an image which, though it be not equal to God, or rather, though it be very far removed from Him, — being neither co-eternal, nor, to say all in a word, consubstantial with Him, — is yet nearer to Him in nature than any other of His works, and is destined to be yet restored, that it may bear a still closer resemblance. For we both are, and know that we are, and delight in our being, and our knowledge of it. Moreover, in these three things no true-seeming illusion disturbs us; for we do not come into contact with these by some bodily sense, as we perceive the things outside of us, — colors, e. g. , by seeing, sounds by hearing, smells by smelling, tastes by tasting, hard and soft objects by touching, — of all which sensible objects it is the images resembling them, but not themselves which we perceive in the mind and hold in the memory, and which excite us to desire the objects. But, without any delusive representation of images or phantasms, I am most certain that I am, and that I know and delight in this. In respect of these truths, I am not at all afraid of the arguments of the Academicians, who say, What if you are deceived? For if I am deceived, I am. For he who is not, cannot be deceived; and if I am deceived, by this same token I am. And since I am if I am deceived, how am I deceived in believing that I am? for it is certain that I am if I am deceived. Since, therefore, I, the person deceived, should be, even if I were deceived, certainly I am not deceived in this knowledge that I am. And, consequently, neither am I deceived in knowing that I know. For, as I know that I am, so I know this also, that I know. And when I love these two things, I add to them a certain third thing, namely, my love, which is of equal moment. For neither am I deceived in this, that I love, since in those things which I love I am not deceived; though even if these were false, it would still be true that I loved false things. For how could I justly be blamed and prohibited from loving false things, if it were false that I loved them? But, since they are true and real, who doubts that when they are loved, the love of them is itself true and real? Further, as there is no one who does not wish to be happy, so there is no one who does not wish to be. For how can he be happy, if he is nothing?
And truly the very fact of existing is by some natural spell so pleasant, that even the wretched are, for no other reason, unwilling to perish; and, when they feel that they are wretched, wish not that they themselves be annihilated, but that their misery be so. Take even those who, both in their own esteem, and in point of fact, are utterly wretched, and who are reckoned so, not only by wise men on account of their folly, but by those who count themselves blessed, and who think them wretched because they are poor and destitute, — if any one should give these men an immortality, in which their misery should be deathless, and should offer the alternative, that if they shrank from existing eternally in the same misery they might be annihilated, and exist nowhere at all, nor in any condition, on the instant they would joyfully, nay exultantly, make election to exist always, even in such a condition, rather than not exist at all. The well-known feeling of such men witnesses to this. For when we see that they fear to die, and will rather live in such misfortune than end it by death, is it not obvious enough how nature shrinks from annihilation? And, accordingly, when they know that they must die, they seek, as a great boon, that this mercy be shown them, that they may a little longer live in the same misery, and delay to end it by death. And so they indubitably prove with what glad alacrity they would accept immortality, even though it secured to them endless destruction. What! do not even all irrational animals, to whom such calculations are unknown, from the huge dragons down to the least worms, all testify that they wish to exist, and therefore shun death by every movement in their power? Nay, the very plants and shrubs, which have no such life as enables them to shun destruction by movements we can see, do not they all seek in their own fashion to conserve their existence, by rooting themselves more and more deeply in the earth, that so they may draw nourishment, and throw out healthy branches towards the sky? In fine, even the lifeless bodies, which want not only sensation but seminal life, yet either seek the upper air or sink deep, or are balanced in an intermediate position, so that they may protect their existence in that situation where they can exist in most accordance with their nature.
And how much human nature loves the knowledge of its existence, and how it shrinks from being deceived, will be sufficiently understood from this fact, that every man prefers to grieve in a sane mind, rather than to be glad in madness. And this grand and wonderful instinct belongs to men alone of all animals; for, though some of them have keener eyesight than ourselves for this world's light, they cannot attain to that spiritual light with which our mind is somehow irradiated, so that we can form right judgments of all things. For our power to judge is proportioned to our acceptance of this light. Nevertheless, the irrational animals, though they have not knowledge, have certainly something resembling knowledge; whereas the other material things are said to be sensible, not because they have senses, but because they are the objects of our senses. Yet among plants, their nourishment and generation have some resemblance to sensible life. However, both these and all material things have their causes hidden in their nature; but their outward forms, which lend beauty to this visible structure of the world, are perceived by our senses, so that they seem to wish to compensate for their own want of knowledge by providing us with knowledge. But we perceive them by our bodily senses in such a way that we do not judge of them by these senses. For we have another and far superior sense, belonging to the inner man, by which we perceive what things are just, and what unjust, — just by means of an intelligible idea, unjust by the want of it. This sense is aided in its functions neither by the eyesight, nor by the orifice of the ear, nor by the air-holes of the nostrils, nor by the palate's taste, nor by any bodily touch. By it I am assured both that I am, and that I know this; and these two I love, and in the same manner I am assured that I love them.
Those emotions which the Greeks call eujpaqei>ai, and which Cicero calls constantioe, the Stoics would restrict to three; and, instead of three "perturbations" in the soul of the wise man, they substituted severally, in place of desire, will; in place of joy, contentment; and for fear, caution; and as to sickness or pain, which we, to avoid ambiguity, preferred to call sorrow, they denied that it could exist in the mind of a wise man. Will, they say, seeks the good, for this the wise man does. Contentment has its object in good that is possessed, and this the wise man continually possesses. Caution avoids evil, and this the wise man ought to avoid. But sorrow arises from evil that has already happened; and as they suppose that no evil can happen to the wise man, there can be no representative of sorrow in his mind. According to them, therefore, none but the wise man wills, is contented, uses caution; and that the fool can do no more than desire, rejoice, fear, be sad. The former three affections Cicero calls constantioe, the last four perturbationes. Many, however, calls these last passions; and, as I have said, the Greeks call the former eujpaqei>ai, and the latter pa>qh. And when I made a careful examination of Scripture to find whether this terminology was sanctioned by it, I came upon this saying of the prophet: "There is no contentment to the wicked, saith the Lord;" as if the wicked might more properly rejoice than be contented regarding evils, for contentment is the property of the good and godly. I found also that verse in the Gospel: "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them: which seems to imply that evil or shameful things may be the object of desire, but not of will. Indeed, some interpreters have added "good things," to make the expression more in conformity with customary usage, and have given this meaning, "Whatsoever good deeds that ye would that men should do unto you." For they thought that this would prevent any one from wishing other men to provide him with unseemly, not to say shameful gratifications, — luxurious banquets, for example, — on the supposition that if he returned the like to them he would be fulfilling this precept. In the Greek Gospel, however, from which the Latin is translated, "good" does not occur, but only, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them," and, as I believe, because "good" is already included in the word "would;" for He does not say "desire."
Yet though we may sometimes avail ourselves of these precise proprieties of language, we are not to be always bridled by them; and when we read those writers against whose authority it is unlawful to reclaim, we must accept the meanings above mentioned in passages where a right sense can be educed by no other interpretation, as in those instances we adduced partly from the prophet, partly from the Gospel. For who does not know that the wicked exult with joy? Yet "there is no contentment for the wicked, saith the Lord." And how so, unless because contentment, when the word is used in its proper and distinctive significance, means something different from joy? In like manner, who would deny that it were wrong to enjoin upon men that whatever they desire others to do to them they should themselves do to others, lest they should mutually please one another by shameful and illicit pleasure? And yet the precept, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them," is very wholesome and just. And how is this, unless because the will is in this place used strictly, and signifies that will which cannot have evil for its object? But ordinary phraseology would not have allowed the saying, "Be unwilling to make any manner of lie," had there not been also an evil will, whose wickedness separates if from that which the angels celebrated, "Peace on earth, of good will to men." For "good" is superfluous if there is no other kind of will but good will. And why should the apostle have mentioned it among the praises of charity as a great thing, that "it rejoices not in iniquity," unless because wickedness does so rejoice? For even with secular writers these words are used indifferently. For Cicero, that most fertile of orators, says, "I desire, conscript fathers, to be merciful." And who would be so pedantic as to say that he should have said" I will" rather than "I desire," because the word is used in a good connection? Again, in Terence, the profligate youth, burning with wild lust, says, "I will nothing else than Philumena." That this "will" was lust is sufficiently indicated by the answer of his old servant which is there introduced: "How much better were it to try and banish that love from your heart, than to speak so as uselessly to inflame your passion still more!" And that contentment was used by secular writers in a bad sense that verse of Virgil testifies, in which he most succinctly comprehends these four perturbations, —
"Hence they fear and desire, grieve and are content" The same author had also used the expression, "the evil contentments of the mind." So that good and bad men alike will, are cautious, and contented; or, to say the same thing in other words, good and bad men alike desire, fear, rejoice, but the former in a good, the latter in a bad fashion, according as the will is right or wrong. Sorrow itself, too, which the Stoics would not allow to tie represented in the mind of the wise man, is used in a good sense, and especially in our writings. For the apostle praises the Corinthians because they had a godly sorrow. But possibly some one may say that the apostle congratulated them because they were penitently sorry, and that such sorrow can exist only in those who have sinned. For these are his words: "For I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of, but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For, behold, this selfsame thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you!" Consequently the Stoics may defend themselves by replying, that sorrow is indeed useful for repentance of sin, but that this can have no place in the mind of the wise man, inasmuch as no sin attaches to him of which he could sorrowfully repent, nor any other evil the endurance or experience of which could make him sorrowful. For they say that Alcibiades (if my memory does not deceive me), who believed himself happy, shed tears when Socrates argued with him, and demonstrated that he was miserable because he was foolish. In his case, therefore, folly was the cause of this useful and desirable sorrow, wherewith a man mourns that he is what he ought not to be. But the Stoics maintain not that the fool, but that the wise man, cannot be sorrowful.
I think I have now, by God's help, discharged my obligation in writing this large work. Let those who think I have said too little, or those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough join me in giving thanks to God. Amen.