For a person of his time - even one who was a bishop - and of his geographical location, Augustine travelled a lot but did so with some reluctance, with little protection from bad weather, and with some degree of danger. Whenever he travelled, Augustine made a point of stopping at various towns and villages in the far reaches of his Diocese of Hippo. The journeys were long, hot and uncomfortable. Carts with springs were long in the future. He also detested sailing, perhaps suffering from seasickness. As well as his obligations to the local Church at Hippo, Augustine accepted that he also had a commitment to the broader Church.
When he was called to make a journey for this purpose, he explained to his people, "I beg you in the name of Christ not to let yourselves be cast down by my bodily absence... Your charity knows that I have never absented myself from your midst because of any selfish whim, but only because of the call of duty. That call has often obliged other of my holy brother bishops to face hardship on the sea and overseas. I have always had to abstain from such journeys not because of any evil disposition of my soul; but because of my ill health." (Letter 122, 1)
His only journey beyond Africa happened when he was almost 30 years old in the autumn of 383 AD. Augustine took a ship across the Mediterranean Sea from Carthage to Rome, and was away from North Africa for the next five years, living successively at Rome, Milan, Cassiciacum, Ostia, and at Rome once again between the years 383 and 388, while he advanced in age from 32 years to 37 years. In 388 he returned to North Africa to the town of his early education, Thagaste. He stayed there for just over two years, until the celebrated occasion when he visited a friend in Hippo and was prevailed upon by the local people to accept priesthood. From then onwards, Augustine was based in Hippo, as a priest in 391, as an assistant bishop in 395, and as Bishop of Hippo in 396; that was his residence until he died there at the age of 74 years in 430.
Once he became Bishop of Hippo, Augustine had to attend bishops' conferences. Many of these conferences were held in Carthage, which easily was the most frequent destination of the journeys of Augustine. The horse was a means of transport for rich people and military officers, but Augustine regarded this expensive means of transport as inappropriate for clergy and for those professing evangelical poverty. Augustine was satisfied to use a mule or ass, but more often seemed to avail of the rheda, a four-wheeled wagon for long-distance transport. Hauled by eight mules in summer and ten in winter, it allowed passengers to sit uncomfortably along its sides as it carried the passengers' luggage.
There are quite a number of events in the life of Augustine that can accurately be placed. These include: the third and eighth synods of Carthage in the years 397 and 403, at which he was definitely present; the disputation with the Manichean Felix at Hippo in 404; the eleventh synod of Carthage in 407; the conference with the Donatists in Carthage, 411; the synod of Mileve, 416; the African general council at Carthage, 418; and another general council in Carthage, 419.
Augustine had additional travel because of his public defence of the Catholic Christian faith in his writings, in his sermons, as an invited visiting preacher, and in public debates against opponents in Carthage and elsewhere. He went to meetings and councils forty to fifty times during his thirty five years as a bishop. In fact, it has been estimated that Augustine spent as much as a third of that period away from Hippo.
Augustine had additional journeys because of his public defence of the Catholic Christian faith in his writings, in his sermons as an invited visiting preacher, and in public debates against opponents in Carthage and elsewhere. He travelled to meetings and councils forty to fifty times during his thirty-five years as a bishop. In fact, it has been estimated that Augustine spent as much as a third of that period away from Hippo. That his training and natural talent coincided is best seen in an episode when he once found himself quelling by force of his personality and words a potential riot while visiting the town of Caesarea Mauretanensis (or Caesarea of Mauritania, which is mentioned again hereunder).
As well as bishops' conferences at Carthage, Augustine also took part in the episcopal councils of several provinces as often as he could. His longest journey was to Caesarea in Mauritania in the year 418, in addition to others in Numidia, to Cirta (Constantine), Mileve (Mila) and Calama (Guelma). There were many bishops' provinces because, until the highly skilled Augustine became the exception to the rule, priests in North Africa did not preach, hence there had to be a bishop living within a convenient travelling distance of every church, or cluster of churches. There were about 300 bishops along the African hinterland near the North African shores of the Mediterranean, and 300 bishops of the Donatist schism as well.
Augustine obviously hated to travel. However, he did it for God and for the people of God. In travelling, however, Augustine endangered his health. He suffered a lung problem, probably asthma. As an effective orator for the Roman church, he also was in physical danger from Donatists and the Circumcellions (a Donatist sect that adopted violence against the person and property of their opponents.) On one occasion an attempted kidnapping failed because his guide took a wrong road. Once returning home from Calama, where his friend Alypius was the bishop, Augustine was ambushed, and some of the men with him were wounded.
Finally, in the year 418 when sixty-two years of age, Augustine accompanied Alypius, together with Possidius, on a long voyage to Caesarea (now Cherchel) of Mauritania. Sent to Caesarea by Pope Zosimus. they had to journey, in those times, a distance of about a thousand kilometres (650 miles). See map: http://www.fsmitha.com/h1/map19rm.htm Augustine preached in Caesarea to dissuade the people from creating factions, which had been a regular occurrence there. After his strong preaching, however, harmony reigned there for eight years (De Doctrina Christiana, IV,24,53). Such were the abilities of Augustine as an orator (rhetor) and the power of his preaching.
When in Hippo, Augustine was host to other bishops who were entering or leaving Africa through the port of Hippo. A summer calm settled on the Mediterranean between March and October, and the little ships would sail between Italy and North Africa. Alypius, the friend of Augustine who was also a bishop, passed through the port of Hippo many times. As explained by the scholar, Peter Brown, (Rollins Professor of History at Princeton University, New Jersey, United States of America), in the 420s Alypius spent much of his life "across the water" in Italy, raising Church matters at the imperial court at Ravenna. Alypius was an almost permanent ambassador to the Emperor for the Catholic Church of Africa, ensuring that the laws against the Pelagians and other heresies were maintained.
The older Augustine remained in North Africa, busy with his ministry and his writings. This is the second of three Augnet pages on the journeys of Augustine. The third page concentrates on his many visits to Carthage.
The travels of Saint Augustine. This web site contains a map of his travels, plus images of the main places he visited. This virtual exhibition about Augustine is by the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. It contains photos of places where Augustine lived: This web site contains a map of his travels, plus images of the main places he visited. This virtual exhibition about Augustine is by the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. It contains photos of places where Augustine lived:http://www.unifr.ch/patr/aug/ea2.html
Madaura: where he was born.
Thagaste (Souk Ahras):where he was raised.
Carthage:where he studied, taught, took a partner, had a son, and became a Manichean and a parent.
Rome: where he taught.
Milan: where he became a sceptic, met Ambrose, experienced conversion, and was baptised and formed his first lay community.
Ostia: where he and Monica, his mother, prayed in ecstasy, and where she died.
Calama (Guelma): where his friend, Alypius was bishop.
Hippo (Annaba):where he was bishop and where he died. http://www.unifr.ch/patr/aug/ea2.html
Many Journeys to Carthage
Carthage, over five hundred kilometres from Hippo, was the most frequent destination of the journeys of Augustine during his four decades as a priest and bishop. As a priest, sometime after 8th October 393 Augustine travelled to Carthage. He remained there for a while, perhaps in connection with preparations for the synod that was held there in 394. Once he became Bishop of Hippo, Augustine had to attend bishops' conferences. Many of these conferences were held in Carthage.
There are quite a number of events in the life of Augustine which can be accurately placed. These include: the third and eighth meetings (synods) of Carthage in the years 397 and 403, at which he was definitely present; the eleventh synod of Carthage in 407; the conference with the Donatists in Carthage, 411; the African general council at Carthage, 418; and another general council in Carthage, 419. There is evidence that he went to Carthage at least twenty to thirty times, and it is open to surmise just how many other occasions he may have visited there without leaving reference to it in the copies of those sermons and letters of his that still exist.
There were three possible routes between Hippo and Carthage - the shortest a return journey of approximately 560 km, the second 640 km and the longest route 670 km. Because this journey in either direction took nine days, just the travelling time for a return visit to Carthage totalled two and a half weeks. Augustine usually departed Hippo just after Easter, and was in Carthage during the summer period for a number of months, when he no doubt spent time in its libraries in order to make notes for his various publications. There he would also pursue church business in a milieu more suited to his talents than was Hippo, his adopted home city.
The observation has been made that, on his twenty or thirty journeys between Hippo and Carthage, Augustine was never recorded as having detoured to re-visit Thagaste, the town of his birth. No doubt, the roads were rough and travelling on side routes was dangerous; as well, possibly, Augustine was not inclined to walk again in the town of his childhood and of part of his tumultuous and troubled adolsecence. It is easy to imagine that, after his earlier life experiences in Carthage, Rome and Milan, that Hippo would have proved a very small focus for his undivided attention.