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Possidius' Augustine and post-Augustinian Africa

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Description: Possidius’ Vita Augustini was written sometime between 432 and 437 C.E. As an intimate friend and fellow bishop of Augustine, Possidius has provided historians with a wealth of detailed information. The Vita has not been appreciated as a literary piece in its own right with its own specific authorial concerns. The Vita does not fit easily into the style of late antique hagiography known by Augustine and his circle. Rather, the Vita suggests Possidius’ response to the unique circumstances of post-Augustinian Africa: the crisis of the Vandal invasions and subsequent rise of Arianism. Possidius provided a model Augustine who, through his monastic and pastoral commitment, combated heresy and helped realize the pax et unitas of the Church. Possidius was willing to break with Augustine’s self-portrayal in Confessions and recast the Vita more akin to Augustine’s response to the taking of Rome in City of God. In the world of late antique hagiography the Vita Augustini is a peculiar and important document. Written after Augustine’s death in 432 and before 437 C.E. by the African bishop and monastic Possidius of Calama, it clearly bears the marks of a contemporary and an intimate friend.1 While the Vita has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, it has *My sincere thanks to Professor Robert Dodaro, O.S.A., and Professor George Lawless, O.S.A., for their careful reading of early drafts of this article and for providing me the benefit of their considerable knowledge. I would also like to thank Dr. Przemyslaw Nehring for reading an early draft of this article, which is a much revised version of my Master’s thesis (1994) written under the direction of Professor Thomas F. X. Noble. 1. Possidius’ easy access to the documents of Augustine’s life suggests that he was in Hippo at the time of the Vita’s composition, thus placing the date somewhere between 432 and 435 C.E. See André Mandouze, “Possidius,” in Prosopographie chrétienne du Bas-Empire, Vol. 1 Prosopographie de L’Afrique Chrétienne (303–533), 890–96, at 895.
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