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“Possidius - The last days of Augustine from his Sancti Augustini Vita

Chapters 28, 29 and 31 - Latin text with English translation

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Click here to read at in the original Latin (with dictionary lookup links). The English translation below is from Sancti Augustini Vita, Herbert T. Weiskotten edition (Princeton University Press - 1919).

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Relevant books
 available at Amazon

Peter Brown biography


Allan Fitzgerald


Henry Chadwick
a short indroduction


William Harmless.
Extracts from several of Augustine's main works


Henry Chadwick's translation of "Confessions"


R.W.Dyson's translation of "The City of God"


R.P.H. Green's translation of "On Christian Teaching"


Gareth Matthews' translation of "On The Trinity" (books 8 - 15)



The books published by Augustine just before his death
Shortly before the time of his death he revised the books which he had dictated and edited, whether those which he had dictated in the time immediately following his conversion when he was still a layman, or while he was a presbyter or a bishop. And in those works which he had dictated or written while he was as yet not so well acquainted with ecclesiastical usage and had less understanding, whatsoever he found not agreeing with the ecclesiastical rule, this he himself censured and corrected. Thus he wrote two volumes whose title is On the Revision of Books. And he sometimes complained that certain books had been carried off by some of his brethren before his careful revision, although he revised them later. Some of his books, however, he left uncompleted at the time of his death. Furthermore, in his desire to be of help to all, both those who could read many books and those who could not, he made excerpts from both the sacred Testaments, the Old and the New, of the divine commandments and prohibitions relating to the conduct of life, and with the addition of a preface, made one volume of them. He who wishes may read it and learn therefrom how obedient or disobedient he is to God. This work he desired to have called The Mirror.

But a short time after this it came about, in accordance with the divine will and command, that a great host of savage foes, Vandals and Alans, with some of the Gothic tribe interspersed, and various other peoples, armed with all kinds of weapons and well trained in warfare, came by ship from the regions of Spain across the sea and poured into Africa and overran it. And everywhere through the regions of Mauretania, even crossing over to other of our provinces and territories, raging with cruelty and barbarity, they completely devastated everything they could by their pillage, murder and varied tortures, conflagrations and other innumerable and unspeakable crimes, sparing neither sex nor age, nor even the priests or ministers of God, nor yet the ornaments or vessels of the churches nor even the buildings. Now the man of God did not believe and think as other men did regarding the causes from which this most fierce assault and devastation of the foe had arisen and come to pass. But considering these matters more deeply and profoundly and perceiving in them above all the dangers and the death of souls (since, as it is written, “He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow,” and “An understanding heart is a worm in the bones”), more than ever tears were his meat day and night, as he passed through and endured those days of his life, now almost ended, which beyond all others were the most bitter and mournful of his old age. For he saw cities overthrown in destruction, and the resident citizens, together with the buildings on their lands, partly annihilated by the enemy’s slaughter and others driven into flight and dispersed. He saw churches stripped of priests and ministers, and holy virgins and all the monastics scattered in every direction. Here he saw some succumb to torture and others slain by the sword, while still others in captivity, losing their innocency and faith both in soul and body, received from their foes the harsh and evil treatment of slaves. He saw the hymns and praises of God perish from the churches ; the church buildings in many places consumed by fire; the regular services which were due to God cease from their appointed places ; the holy sacraments no longer desired, or if some one did desire them, no one could easily be found to administer them. When they gathered in flight amid the mountain forests, in the caves and caverns of the rocks or in any other kind of retreat, some were captured and put to death while others were robbed and deprived of the necessary means of sustenance so that they gradually perished of hunger. Even the bishops of the churches and the clergy who, by the help of God, did not chance to meet the foe or, if they did meet them, escaped their hands, he saw despoiled and stripped of all their goods and begging in abject poverty, nor could they all be furnished with that by which they might be relieved. Of the innumerable churches he saw only three survive, namely those of Carthage, Hippo and Cirta, which by God’s favor were not demolished. These cities too still stand, protected by human and divine aid, although after Augustine’s death the city of Hippo, abandoned by its inhabitants, was burned by the enemy. Amid these calamities he was consoled by the thought of a certain wise man who said: “He is not to be thought great who thinks it strange that wood and stones should fall and mortals die.”

But Augustine, being exceeding wise, daily bewailed all these events. And it increased his grief and sorrow that this same enemy also came to besiege the city of the Hippo-Regians which had so far maintained its position. With its defence at this time the late Count Boniface had been entrusted with an army of allied Goths. For almost fourteen months they shut up and besieged the city; and they even cut off its sea-coast by blockade. We ourselves with other of our fellow-bishops from the neighboring regions took refuge in this city and remained in it during the whole time of the siege. Consequently we very frequently conversed together and meditated on the awful judgments of God laid bare before our eyes, saying : “Righteous art thou, O Lord, and upright are thy judgments.” And in our common grief, with groanings and tears, we besought the Father of mercies and the Lord of all consolation that He vouchsafe to sustain us in this tribulation.


Augustine’s last illness

And it chanced at one time while we were seated with him at the table and were conversing together that he said to us : “I would have you know that in this time of our misfortune I ask this of God: either that He may be pleased to free this city which is surrounded by the foe, or if something else seems good in His sight, that He make His servants brave for enduring His will, or at least that He may take me from this world unto Himself.” And when he had taught us these words, together with him we all joined in a like petition to God Most High, for ourselves and for all our fellow bishops and for the others who were in this city. And lo, in the third month of the siege he succumbed to fever and began to suffer in his last illness. In truth the Lord did not deprive His servant of the reward of his prayer. For what he asked with tears and prayers for himself and the city he obtained in due time. I know also that both while he was presbyter and bishop, when asked to pray for certain demoniacs, he entreated God in prayer with many tears and the demons departed from the men. In like manner when he was sick and confined to his bed there came a certain man with a sick relative and asked him to lay his hand upon him that he might be healed. But Augustine answered that if he had any power in such things he would surely have applied it to himself first of all; to which the stranger replied that he had had a vision and that in his dream these words had been addressed to him: “Go to the bishop Augustine that he may lay his hand upon him, and he shall be whole.” Now when Augustine heard this he did not delay to do it and immediately God caused the sick man to depart from him healed.....


Death and burial

Now the holy man in his long life given of God for the benefit and happiness of the holy Church (for he lived seventy-six years, almost forty of which he spent as a priest or bishop), in private conversations frequently told us that even after baptism had been received exemplary Christians and priests ought not depart from this life without fitting and appropriate repentance. And this he himself did in his last illness of which he died. For he commanded that the shortest penitential Psalms of David should be copied for him, and during the days of his sickness as he lay in bed he would look at these sheets as they hung upon the wall and read them; and he wept freely and constantly. And that his attention might not be interrupted by anyone, about ten days before he departed from the body he asked of us who were present that no one should come in to him, except only at the hours in which the physicians came to examine him or when nourishment was brought to him. This, accordingly, was observed and done, and he had all that time free for prayer. Up to the very moment of his last illness he preached the Word of God in the church incessantly, vigorously and powerfully, with a clear mind and sound judgment. With all the members of his body intact, with sight and hearing unimpaired, while we stood by and watched and prayed, “he slept with his fathers,” as it is written, “well-nourished in a good old age.” And in our presence, after a service was offered to God for the peaceful repose of his body, he was buried. He made no will, because as a poor man of God he had nothing from which to make it. He repeatedly ordered that the library of the church and all the books should be carefully preserved for future generations. Whatever the church had in the way of possessions or ornaments he left in charge of his presbyter, who had the care of the church building under his direction. Neither in life nor death did he treat his relatives according to the general custom, whether they observed his manner of life or not. But while he was still living, whenever there was need he gave to them the same as he gave others, not that they should have riches, but that they might not be in want, or at least might be less in want. He left to the Church a fully sufficient body of clergy and monasteries of men and women with their continent overseers, together with the library and books containing treatises of his own and of other holy men. By the help of God, one may find therein how great he was in the Church and therein the faithful may always find him living. Wherefore also a secular poet, who directed that a monument be erected to himself in a public place after his death, composed this as an inscription, saying:
Wouldst know that poets live again, O traveller, after death?
These words thou readest, lo, I speak! Thy voice is but my breath.

From his writing assuredly it is manifest that this priest, beloved and acceptable to God, lived uprightly and soberly in the faith, hope and love of the Catholic Church in so far as he was permitted to see it by the light of truth, and those who read his works on divine subjects profit thereby. But I believe that they were able to derive greater good from him who heard and saw him as he spoke in person in the church, and especially those who knew well his manner of life among men. For not only was he a “scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old,” and one of those merchants who “when he had found the pearl of great price, sold all that he had and bought it,” but he was also one of those of whom it is written: “So speak ye and so do,” and of whom the Saviour said: “Whosoever shall so do and teach men, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Now I earnestly ask your grace who read these words, you who bless the Lord, that with me you give thanks to God Almighty, who gave me understanding to desire and power to bring these things to the knowledge of men near and far, of present and of future time ; and I ask that you pray with me and for me, that as by the grace of God I have lived with this man, who is now dead, on terms of intimate and delightful friendship, with no bitter disagreement, for almost forty years, I may also continue to emulate and imitate him in this world and may enjoy with him the promises of God Almighty in the world to come. Amen.









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original Latin text
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Migne Latin
Patrologiae Latinae Cursus Completus
Patrologia Latina


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