Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Augustine and Catholic Christianization: The Catholicization of Roman Africa, 391-408

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Augustine and Catholic Christianization: The Catholicization of Roman Africa, 391-408

Article excerpt

Ancient Augustine and Catholic Christianization: The Catholicization of Roman Africa, 391-408. By Horace E. Six-Means. [Patristic Studies, Vol. 10.] (New York: Peter Lang. 2011. Pp. viii, 215. $77.95. ISBN 978-1-4331-0804-4.)

This book presents St. Augustine as the primary force behind efforts to make Roman North Africa Catholic (as opposed to pagan or Christian of a non-Catholic kind). Six-Means employs the (to this reviewer, unhelpful) term spin doctor to describe Augustine's role as Africa's arbiter of all things Catholic, whether they are in the realm of rhetoric, law, or theology. Despite the author's insistence that Augustine worked in concert with his episcopal colleagues, we actually see very little of them in this book. Augustine is indisputably the star of the show. Although the book initially seems to have as its ambition an explanation for Catholicism's ultimate dominance over all other forms of belief, it quickly settles into a discussion focusing mostly on the Donatists.The dates of investigation (391 to 408) aid in pushing the narrative in this direction, but do not necessarily force its hand. Although 391 is understandable for commencing a study (it is the year Augustine was ordained as a priest), 408 is problematic. In this year Stilicho was executed. Six-Means believes that with Stilicho's death came a "chill" in the fruitful relationship that the Catholics in Africa had cultivated with the imperial court while Stilicho enjoyed power. This is oversimplification. The book all but ignores what is happening in Africa itself. Real and sustained resistance by administrators in Africa (of whatever level) to imperial support for "Catholicization" places Augustine's assumed role (and Six-Means's thesis) in jeopardy. The date of 408 also feels somewhat arbitrary, for although this is largely a book about Augustine's relationship with the Donatists, the cut-off date enables the author to avoid analysis of the 411 Conference and its aftermath, which, in fact, could have lent support to Six-Means's arguments.

There are a number of bright spots in this volume.The author does a good job tracing Augustine's intellectual evolution as he transforms himself from a professional rhetor associating with the elite of the empire to a Catholic bishop who must care for all people's spiritual well-being. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.