This is because in that late Roman imperial period, marriage was strictly regulated under Roman law, which was concerned with the control of the rights of citizenship and inheritance. In that society, marriage was an alliance between families and estates. It was not a romantic affair based on personal preferences. Marriage was illegal between persons of certain different classes in society, and some groups such as slaves were not allowed to marry at all. An alternate relationship was required, and concubinage was accepted as a respectable solution. Concubinage was usually a monogamous, stable relationship. As such, it was a union distinguished from a formal marriage only by certain legal restrictions, in addition to the informality of its beginning and the possibility of a voluntary dissolution.
Author Peter Brown explained that concubinage was a perfectly respectable arrangement for a potential professor of rhetoric in the later Roman Empire. The subsequent birth of his son apparently had a sobering effect upon him - the parenthood that later as a bishop he would later recommend to young Christian husbands. Even so, taking a concubine was an uncertain area of church law. The North African bishops had decided that it would be impossible to forbid Communion to anyone who was faithful to one partner in concubinage. In Book III of his Confessions, Augustine says that at the age of eighteen, "I came to Carthage, and all around me in my ears were the activities of impure loves. I was not yet in love, but I loved the idea of love." [Confessions 3, 51]
What Augustine demonstrates many times in his Confessions is the desire to love and to be loved. His relationship with the concubine he took in Carthage focuses on the problem of restless love. He wrote, "It was a sweet thing to be loved, and more sweet still when I was able to enjoy the body of a woman." [Confessions 3, 51]
In North Africa of that era, many young men stayed with a woman until the time came to marry. This is what Augustine did. In this context, concubinage was an acknowledged relationship that protected the woman's reputation from being seen as a prostitute, and protected the man from charges of carnal knowledge. He states that, "In those days I lived with a woman, not my lawful wife but a woman whom I had chosen for no special reason but that my restless passions had alighted on her." [Confessions 4, 4] In the culture during the time of Augustine, such a union was distinguished from a formal marriage only by certain legal restrictions, in addition to the informality of its beginning and the possibility of a voluntary dissolution.
Taking a concubine was an uncertain area of law. The practice was partly generated by the rigid class system of late Roman society. In that society, marriage was an alliance between families and estates. It was not a romantic affair based on personal preferences. Another possibility was that the woman in question was a former slave. If so, Augustine, who was born as a Roman citizen, would not legally have been permitted to wed her. Monica - the strongly Christian mother of Augustine - seems to have received her grandson and his mother publicly at the family home in Thagaste. Augustine and concubine remained together and were faithful to one another for thirteen years, until about 385. Augustine wrote of himself, "But she was the only one and I was faithful to her." The grief which Augustine felt at parting from her shows how strong the relationship had been. It was, nonetheless, out of ambition rather than for any moral scruple that Augustine parted from the mother of his son.
Augustine never recorded for posterity the name of the woman he loved, the mother of his child. From their union came a beloved son, Adeodatus, born in 372-373. His birth happened early in his parents' relationship. In Confessions 2.2.2., Augustine indicates that there was an unwillingness to have children, which has led to speculation that some forth of birth control must have been practised in the final fifteen years of the relationship. In his book called De Magistro ("About the Teacher"), Augustine later described Adeodatus as an exceptionally intelligent child and close friend to Augustine himself. Even so, Monica was going to accept only what was socially most acceptable for her son and for his career now that he was a rising star in Milan. When she came to live with Augustine in Milan, she told him that he should have a "proper" wife whom he was legally able to marry.
In deference to the pleas of Monica, Augustine agreed to marry a chosen woman of suitable station. One temporary problem was that the young lady in question had not at that time reached the legal age for marriage. The marriage would have to be delayed. Some authors suggest that this could mean that she was as young as twelve or thirteen years of age at the time of the agreement. Other writers have surmised that, because Monica was a great influence in this plan, the young lady in question must have been a Christian; Augustine never wrote on this matter. Monica argued with such force and persistence that Augustine finally agreed to send back to Carthage the woman who was his de facto partner (concubine) and the mother of Adeodatus.
Many writers have pointed out the harshness of this decision, but it reflected the social realities of the time. Even so, their parting was very painful for Augustine. He wrote in his Confessions, "When they took from my side her with whom I had slept for so long, my heart was torn at the place where it stuck to her, and the wound was bleeding.....My heart, which clung to her, was broken and wounded and dropping blood." The love of his life returned to Carthage in North Africa "after having made a vow to you [God] that she would never go to bed with another man... " [Confessions 16, 132-133] Some writers have suggested that back in Carthage this woman became a Christian, but Augustine certainly made no such statement. He praises her for vowing to take no other man, while he himself showed no such control of his passions. He promptly took another woman while he waited for two years for his betrothed to reach the legal age for marriage. His never including the name of his concubine in his voluminous writings is also sometimes held against Augustine, but this reticence, surely, is to his credit. He was writing his own Confessions, not hers.
It would have been a gross breach of her privacy to publish her name to his readers in Carthage when he was then the Bishop of Hippo, which was only a few days' journey away. The classical culture in the time of Augustine suggested that only men could be friends to men. Because friendship presupposed the full equality of those involved, it was thought that only other males could be the friends of a man. It was thus significant that Augustine applied the term friend to this woman who had been his lover and who was the mother of Adeodatus, his son.
Although Augustine sensitively wrote about his concubine in his Confessions, little mention was made of her from the time of the writing of Augustine's friend and biographer, Possidius, until the era of Jordan of Saxony O.S.A. (or Jordan of Quedlinburg), who lived in c. 1299 - c. 1380.r. This written silence about her and Adeodatus was possibly because they both were startling reminders of the relatively-unbridled lust of Augustine in his early years - something that also was passed over in embarrassment by centuries of Christian writers.AN1027