The Following was written by a guest to our blog looking at the City of God in the Context of the fall of Rome and the greater sphere of education;  please enjoy.

In this analysis I will be looking at Book 5, Chapter 24 of ‘The City of God’, summarising and looking
at it from an analytical perspective, taking into account both social and political contexts. St.
Augustine wrote ‘The City of God’ in response to the sacking of Rome in August 410AD directing ‘at
the paganism of an empire now in dissolution’ (Palmer, 2001: 26), due to the accusations that
Christianity was the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire.

This chapter of the ‘City of God’, a ‘Mirror of Princes’, was written by St Augustine to depict the
image of how Christian Roman Emperors ought to act. It criticises the Romans for not restraining
themselves in its strive for power and control, and forgetting that they were only temporal rulers of
the earthly city and that the power of the true God comes from God. Furthermore this was power
willing given by god to the Emperors and should be used as an extension of his worship to ‘promote
true religion’ (Deane, 1963:134), and the teachings of Christianity.

In addition Augustine continues on that Christian emperors should act both morally and religiously.
Be humble and not be surrounded by the sense of grandeur and power of those who honour them
with meaningless praise. This strive for praise makes virtues, not a true virtue, and pride is the root
of all sin. Augustine continues on that Christian emperors must be compassionate and be willing to
pardon those who have committed injustice, with mercy whatever severity of the crime, so that the
committee of the crime can amend their ways and be penitent before god, as all men are depraved
with sin and are fallen.

So in conclusion to my summery Augustine is stating that Christians emperors should be humble
not seeking out empty glory, ‘vain conceit’, and be restrained in searching for control and power.
Emperors should use their power as an extension of God to promote the true faith of Christianity
and its teachings. Emperors should also remember that they are in turn just men and only temporal
rulers of the plane and the God is the true ruler of all. As all men are fallen including the emperor,
and he as well as other men must be penitent and pray to God to forgive him for his transgressions
and sin.

When analysing this text, historical, political and social contexts is of the up most importance,
as Augustine writes this in response to the paganism of the falling Roman Empire which was on
a ‘Slippery slope of moral decline… Rome had free rein to indulge in selfish passions of greed and
domination, only the city of god in heaven was eternal and supreme’ (Baker, 2006).

To begin with, the beliefs of Augustine and the historical contexts are hugely interlinked, and must
be considered, when looking at this chapter. Given that Augustine was a theologian more than a
philosopher and furthermore that his works were not his own ideas about how to live a virtuous
life or how society should act but rather the Word of God, written from the scriptures, (Deane,
1963). He was also a preacher of the Word of God, so his audience would be the pagans who were
in dissolution, frighten at the events of the Sacking of Rome in 410 AD. Augustine saw his task as the
preacher to set forward the message of God’s Word, and defend the word of god against enemies of
the faith e.g. pagans. This was motive of writing the city of God, to defend the Word of God against
the accusations that Christianity was the reason of the Sacking of Rome.

However this may seem somewhat hypocritical when we look at the historical contexts of the

Sacking of Rome. The Sack of Rome was led by a leader of the Visigoth, or Goth tribe, who were

asylum seekers to Rome to escape the attack of the Huns. However they were met great difficulty
due to not having equal status in the eyes of the Roman Empire, this was due to the Romans being
anxious of the Goth tribes. However when the attempted assignation of leaders of the tribe failed,
Alaric saw this as just cause to fight for their right as citizens and as Christian. Alaric was a Christian
and so was the Goth Tribe, however they were far from virtuous, they killed and tortured the
Romans who were fleeing and looted the pagan temples. (Baker, 2006)

Additionally when looking at this chapter of ‘The City of God’, Augustine’s Theology can be seen
directly, especially his theology of the Fallen man, even more critically when he doesn’t condemn
Alaric’s behaviour as a Christian. The Theology of the fallen man stems from Augustine’s previous
work the ‘Confessions’ where he confesses the multiple sins he committed as a child but also in
adulthood. He comes the conclusion that it is in mans nature to sin, because when Adam and Eve
were condemned for ‘original sin’, by turning away from gods wishes and eating from the Tree of
Knowledge, therefore committing themselves to the root of all sin pride. ‘Disobedience and rebellion
against God, which had its root in mans pride and in his presumptuous desires’ (Deane, 1963: 16).
Augustine dictates in this chapter that the emperor must turn to the true God, and through prayer
ask god forgiveness for his sins, because this pride and ‘free-will’ to sin is what led to the sacking
of Rome, as the pagans turned their back on God, for pride and power to control vast amounts of

In regards to contemporary education in today’s standards, St. Augustine’s ideas are more idealistic
towards Christianity. With society today, especially in the United Kingdom, it has become secularised
and multicultural, so Augustine’s ideas of using power and an ‘extension of worship’ to promote
the true faith would be highly inappropriate, as this would ignore other faiths and beliefs in society.
The idea of teaching humbleness, and restrain against sinning or perhaps even classing this as bad
behaviour is rooted to religion, as some of the laws we see are based on teachings from the bible and
we cannot get past that as it’s in our history, such as the idea of morality and punishment for our
crimes may it be in this life or the next.

Perhaps this may be biased on my account due to being an atheist, and this has therefore led me to
the idea that his teachings in a modern-day perspective would not be effectively applied. Perhaps
by becoming secularised we are losing our restraint and are in a city of dissolution because we are
not ‘God-fearing’.

However when looking at this on a grander scale of more historical education of the middle ages, it
did supply some deviance on contemporary education, after the ‘dark ages’. Where most education
establishments were churches where future members of the clergy were taught how to read and
write in Latin, and when the protest church was created English.

Deane, H.A (1963) The Political and Social Ideas of St. Augustine. USA: Columbia University Press.

Baker, S (2006) Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire, UK:BBC Books, pg 276-312

O’Daly, G (1999) Agustine’s City of God: A Reader’s Guide. . Oxford: Clarendon Press. pg 99-100

Palmer, J.A (2001) Fifty Major Thinkers on Education, , Oxon: Routledge., pg 25-29