If I could go back in time I would like to see Augustine’s library. When the Vandals burned down his town of Hippo in 430, by some miracle his library was saved. His books were sent to Italy soon after. I do not know what happened to them after that.
Even though his library is long gone, we can still get a sense of what was in it (apart from his own works) by the books and authors he mentions in his writings.
Here are the authors he mentions at least five times in the “Confessions” and the “City of God”, his two greatest and most general works. Those in colour are also in the Loeb Library and so are easy to get – the green ones in Greek and English, and the red ones in Latin and English. The numbers are for the number of mentions:
1000+ LXX, NT 149 Plato 131 Varro 85 Cicero 71 Porphyry 40 Virgil 39 Apuleius 31 Sallust 24 Cato 14 Homer 13 Ambrose 11 Plotinus, Labeo 10 Thales 9 Victorinus, Pythagoras 7 Jerome, Epicurus, Seneca 6 Hermes Trismegistus, Hippocrates, Eusebius, Terence, Anaximenes 5 Origen, Manichaeus
Augustine scholar James J. O’Donnell adds these Christian authors:
- Hilary of Poitiers
All but the last one was a fellow African. So were Apuleius, Plotinus, Victorinus, Terence and Origen.
Augustine was bad at Greek. He read Plato as translated into Latin by Victorinus.
Augustine got most of his Roman history from Sallust and most of his knowledge of Roman religion from Varro. What he knows of Roman law comes from Labeo.
If you read the authors that both Loeb and the Augustine libraries have, it would be hard to go wrong since you would avoid the individual tastes of either. But for myself I trust Augustine far more than Loeb: he lived back then and was a great mind.
So which books of these authors did he have? That is harder to say. These are the ones that I have seen him refer to (those that are in the Loeb Library I marked with stars):
- Scripture: Septuagint, Vulgate
- Plato: Timaeus*, Republic*, Gorgias*, Protagoras*
- Varro: Antiquitatum rerum humanarum et divinarum, De philosophia, Of the race of the Roman people
- Cicero: Hortensius, Academica*, De Republica*, De divinatione*, De natura deorum*, Tusculan questions*, De finibus*, Timaeus (translated from Plato), Orator*
- Porphyry: Epistle to Anebo, De regressu animae, De philosophia ex oraculis
- Virgil: Aeneid*, Georgics*, Eclogues*
- Apuleius: De mundo, Concerning the God of Socrates, The Golden Ass*
- Sallust: his Roman history
- Homer: Iliad*, Odyssey*
- Plotinus: Enneads*
- Victorinus: works of Plato translated
- Jerome: Chronicles, On Daniel
- Seneca: Against superstitions
- Hermes Trismegistus:
- Eusebius: Chronicles*
- Terence: The Eunuch*, Andria*
- Origen: De principiis
It still needs work. I am going to look through his other writings to see if I can find more books. If I do, I will add them here.
Yes, this is my reading list in the making.
In the meantime I am reading the Church Fathers, in case you did not already figure that one out: Athanasius, Ambrose, Gregory of Nyssa (who I am reading now), Cyprian and Basil. And Augustine (his book on the Trinity).
Last year I read Augustine’s “Confessions” and his “City of God” – something I do every ten years or so – in addition to some of his other works. That is how I started the list above.
– Abagond, 2006, 2016.
- City of God – search it online. Might be able to find other books that Augustine refers to in its excellent footnotes.
- The Anglo-Saxon Library – I am not the first person to wonder about Augustine’s library – so have St Posidius, Altaner and Scheele. The last two have each written a book on the subject!!
- St Augustine
- Loeb Library
- The Abagond Library
- Posts on books and authors in Augustine’s library: