Augustine was in many ways the greatest imitators of Cicero in the matter of Latin writing style. From what Augustine himself described about the effects of Cicero upon him (Confessions 3, 4, 7-8), it is clear that the passion of Augustine was not for the conceptual discipline that is called philosophy today.
Rather than this, Augustine was drawn to a Hellenistic pursuit of a wisdom that overlaps with what today is variously sectioned into the distinct disciplines of philosophy, religion, and psychology. In particular, philosophy for Augustine was centred on what is sometimes called "the problem of evil." It must be stated, however, that this problem was not the sort of analytic and largely logical problem of theodicy that later came to preoccupy the philosophers of religion.
Augustine, the problem was of a more general and visceral sort. It was the concern with the issue of how to make sense of and live within a world that seemed so adversarial and fraught with danger. It was a world in which so much of what matters most to us is so easily lost (see e.g. Confessions 4, 10, 15) In this sense, the wisdom that Augustine was desirous of seeking was a common denominator uniting the conflicting views of such Hellenistic philosophical sects as the Epicureans, Stoics, Sceptics, and Neoplatonists (although this title is a later term) such as Plotinus and Porphyry, as well as many Christians of varying degrees of orthodoxy, including very unorthodox sects such as the Manicheans (which, with this in mind, he joined shortly afterwards.)
More broadly, Cicero had a lasting effect on the life and thought of Augustine. This was not only regarding his passionate quest for wisdom, but also in his understanding of the meaning of friendship. In De Amicitia (or Laelius: On Friendship), written around 44 B.C.E., Cicero describes a friend as an alter ego ("another self"). He described friendship as "the greatest of all the gifts from the gods." He describes the loss of a friend in the way that Augustine parallels with his description in the Confessions of the loss of his unnamed friend in Thagaste when Augustine was twenty two years old. of the loss of his unnamed friend in Thagaste when Augustine was twenty two years old. Augustine wrote on the same subjects as Cicero, such as friendship and the happy life, and used the same dialogic approach. He also quotes the definition by Cicero of the nature of friendship in one of his letters. The written words of Augustine again echoed the words of Cicero about human friendship when late in life Augustine produced his major book, City of God.
Even though the influence of Cicero on Augustine was noteworthy, it would be an error to believe that this influence was of equal intensity at all periods during Augustine’s life. Likewise it should not be thought that Augustine agreed with all aspects of Ciceronian thought, or that Augustine’s impression of Cicero’s thought did not change with Augustine’s ongoing life experience. As to the varying sway of Cicero’s thought on Augustine at various periods, it was strong during his adolescence in attracting him to study philosophy. It became strong again at the time of his conversion because Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, used some Ciceronian thought.And it was strong again when as a priest Augustine wrote his Confessions, and was strong again when he wrote De civitate Dei (“City of God”) from about the year 413 to 427, and again finally when he was still writing Contra Julianum opus imperfectum - his unfinished book - at the time of his death. As Augustine during his life developed in his grasp of the Scriptures and of Christian theology, however, Cicero somewhat declined in Augustine’s regard from being accorded the status of an authority to being a great thinker whose thought had to be recognised.
Indeed, some of Augustine’s important writings are a Christian re-writing of Ciceronean works: Contra Academicos (Augustine) of Academia (Cicero), De doctrina Christiana ("On Christian Doctrine") of De oratore, key sections of De civitate Dei ("City of God") are a reaction to Cicero’s De republica, and De Trinitate ("On the Trinity") made great use of the now-lost Hortensius by Cicero. In summary, it can be said that throughout much of his life Augustine was never far from reflecting on the ideas Cicero, whether to agree with it, to modify it or to indicate where is fell short of the Christian principles that Augustine espoused. In areas that were not in conflict with Christianity, however, Augustine viewed Cicero as a masterly thinker and writer who had much to offer about countless aspects of human nature.
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