Augustine of Hippo

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Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt...

Aurelius Augustine; St. Augustine of Hippo (13 November 35420 August 430) was a Christian theologian, rhetor, North African bishop, Doctor of the Roman Catholic Church, and saint. Some scholars consider him a Neoplatonist as well.


  • When I am here, I do not fast on Saturday; when at Rome, I do fast on Saturday.
    • Epistle 36, to Casulanus, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: "When they are at Rome, they do there as they see done", Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part iii, Section 4, Membrane 2, Subsection 1.
  • Spiritalis enim virtus sacramenti ita est ut lux: etsi per immundos transeat, non inquinatur.
  • Translated: The spiritual virtue of a sacrament is like light,—although it passes among the impure, it is not polluted.
    • Works, Vol. iii. In Johannis Evangelum, c. tr. 5, Section 15, reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919). Compare: " The sun, which passeth through pollutions and itself remains as pure as before", Francis Bacon, 'Advancement of Learning, Book ii (1605); "The sun, too, shines into cesspools and is not polluted", Diogenes Laërtius, Lib. vi. section 63.

City of God

  • Thus, in this universal catastrophe, the sufferings of Christians have tended to their moral improvement, because they viewed them with eyes of faith.
    • I, 9
  • Virtue and vice are not the same, even if they undergo the same torment.
    • I, 8
  • The violence which assails good men to test them, to cleanse and purify them, effects in the wicked their condemnation, ruin, and annihilation.
    • I, 8
  • The good man, though a slave, is free; the wicked, though he reigns, is a slave, and not the slave of a single man, but – what is worse – the slave of as many masters as he has vices.
    • IV, 3


  • The weakness of little children's limbs is innocent, not their souls.
    • I, 7
  • Nos fecisti ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te.
  • Translation: Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.
    • I, 1
  • I became evil for no reason. I had no motive for my wickedness except wickedness itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved the self-destruction, I loved my fall, not the object for which I had fallen but my fall itself. My depraved soul leaped down from your firmament to ruin. I was seeking not to gain anything by shameful means, but shame for its own sake.
    • II, 4
  • Already I had learned from thee that because a thing is eloquently expressed it should not be taken to be as necessarily true; nor because it is uttered with stammering lips should it be supposed false. Nor, again, is it necessarily true because rudely uttered, nor untrue because the language is brilliant. Wisdom and folly both are like meats that are wholesome and unwholesome, and courtly or simple words are like town-made or rustic vessels--both kinds of food may be served in either kind of dish.
    • V, 6
    • Variation on the middle sentence: A thing is not necessarily true because badly uttered, nor false because spoken magnificently.
    • Variation on the middle sentence: A thing is not necessarily false because it is badly expressed, nor true because it is expressed magnificently.
  • As a youth I prayed, "Give me chastity and continence, but not yet."
    • VIII, 7
  • Tolle lege, tolle lege
    • Take up and read, take up and read
    • VIII, 12
  • Too late I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient and ever new! Too late I loved you! And, behold, you were within me, and I out of myself, and there I searched for you.
    • X, 27
  • Give what you command, and command what you will. You impose continency on us.
    • X, 29

  • What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.
  • You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

De Genesi ad Litteram

  • Quapropter bono christiano, sive mathematici, sive quilibet impie divinantium, maxime dicentes vera, cavendi sunt, ne consortio daemoniorum animam deceptam, pacto quodam societatis irretiant.
    • II, xvii, 37
    • Translation published in Mathematics in Western Culture (1953): The good Christian should beware the mathematician and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of hell.
    • Modern translation by J.H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers (1982): Hence, a devout Christian must avoid astrologers and all impious soothsayers, especially when they tell the truth, for fear of leading his soul into error by consorting with demons and entangling himself with the bonds of such association.
    • Note: The well known, but incorrect English translation was published on page 3 of Morris Kline's Mathematics in Western Culture (1953). This book is a favorite with math students and is still in print. The Latin word mathematici derives from the Greek meaning of "something learned" and refers mainly to astrologers. This was the chief branch of mathematics at the time but has been replaced in modern times by a plethora of other branches. According to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 3rd edition, the word "mathematician" still meant astrologer as late as 1710.
  • In matters that are so obscure and far beyond our vision, we find in Holy Scripture passages which can be interpreted in very different ways without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such cases, we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search for truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it."
    • I, xxxxi. Modern translation by J.H. Taylor
  • Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.
    • De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim, II, xix. Translation by J. H. Taylor in Ancient Christian Writers, Newman Press, 1982, volume 41.

In epistulam Ioannis ad Parthos

  • Once for all, then, a short precept is given thee: Love, and do what thou wilt: whether thou hold thy peace, through love hold thy peace; whether thou cry out, through love cry out; whether thou correct, through love correct; whether thou spare, through love do thou spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good.
    • Tractatus VII, 8
    • Latin: "dilige et quod vis fac."; falsely often: "ama et fac quod vis."
    • Translation by Professor Joseph Fletcher: "Love and then what you will, do."


  • We make a ladder of our vices, if we trample those same vices underfoot.
    • 3
  • Anger is a weed; hate is the tree.
    • 58
  • He who sings prays twice. (Qui cantat, bis orat)
    • 336
  • The dove loves when it quarrels; the wolf hates when it flatters.
    • 64
  • He who created you without you will not justify you without you.
    • 169
  • You can live, provided you live; that is, you can live for ever, provided you live a good life.
    • 229H:3:2
  • Nobody should ever doubt that in the washing of rebirth (Titus 3:5) absolutely all sins, from the least to the greatest, are altogether forgiven.
    • 229E:2
  • So the Church too, like Mary, enjoys perpetual virginity and uncorrupted fecundity.
    • 195:2
  • So the Church imitates the Lord’s mother - not in the bodily sense, which it could not do - but in mind it is both mother and virgin. In no way, then, did Christ deprive his mother of her virginity by being born, seeing that he made his Church into a virgin by redeeming her fornication with demons.
    • 191:3
  • But it isn’t just a matter of faith, but of faith and works. Each is necessary. For the demons also believe –you heard the apostle- and tremble (Jas 2:19); but their believing doesn’t do them any good. Faith alone is not enough, unless works too are joined to it: Faith working through love (Gal 5:6), says the apostle.
    • 16A:11:2
  • When the apostle James was talking about faith and works against those who thought their faith was enough, and didn’t want to have good works, he said, You believe God is one; you do well; the demons also believe, and tremble.” (Jas 2:19)
    • 183:13:2
  • The fellow who eggs you on to avenge yourself will rob you of what you were going to say – as we forgive our debtors. When you have forfeited that, all your sins will be held against you; absolutely nothing is forgiven.
    • 57:11:3
  • I too have sworn heedlessly and all the time, I have had this most repulsive and death-dealing habit. I’m telling your graces; from the moment I began to serve God, and saw what evil there is in forswearing oneself, I grew very afraid indeed, and out of fear I applied the brakes to this old, old, habit.
    • 180:10:1
  • Don’t hold yourselves cheap, seeing that the creator of all things and of you estimates your value so high, so dear, that he pours out for you every day the most precious blood of his only-begotten Son.
    • 216:3:1
  • You wish to be great, begin from the least. You are thinking to construct some mighty fabric in height; first think of the foundation of humility. And how great soever a mass of building one may wish and design to place above it, the greater the building is to be, the deeper does he dig his foundation.

De doctrina christiana

  • For if a thing is not diminished by being shared with others, it is not rightly owned if it is only owned and not shared.
    • 1:1:1 English Latin
    • Latin: Omnis enim res quae dando non deficit, dum habetur et non datur, nondum habetur quomodo habenda est.


To wisdom belongs the intellectual apprehension of things eternal; to knowledge, the rational apprehension of things temporal.
  • Love the sinner and hate the sin (Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum) (Opera Omnia, vol II. col. 962, letter 211.)
  • One does not read in the Gospel that the Lord said: 'I will send you the Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and moon.' For He willed to make them Christians, not mathematicians.
  • Singing is loving. (Cantare Amantis est)
    • Variant translation: Singing is characteristic of a loving person.
    • Variant translation: Singing is for the lovers.
  • Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked.
  • By faithfulness we are collected and wound up into unity within ourselves, whereas we had been scattered abroad in multiplicity.
  • Charity is no substitute for justice withheld.
  • Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.
    • Variant: To many, total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.
  • Don't you believe that there is in man a deep [spirit] so profound as to be hidden even to him in whom it is?
  • Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.
  • For what is faith unless it is to believe what you do not see?
    • Variant translation(?): Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.
  • For, were it not good that evil things should also exist, the omnipotent God would almost certainly not allow evil to be, since beyond doubt it is just as easy for Him not to allow what He does not will, as for Him to do what He will.
  • Forgiveness is the remission of sins. For it is by this that what has been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again.
  • Go forth on your path, as it exists only through your walking.
  • God does not give heed to the ambitiousness of our prayers, because he is always ready to give to us his light, not a visible light but an intellectual and spiritual one; but we are not always ready to receive it when we turn aside and down to other
  • God had one son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering.
  • God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist.
  • God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.
  • God provides the wind, but man must raise the sails.
  • He that is kind is free, though he is a slave; he that is evil is a slave, though he be a king.
  • He who is filled with love is filled with God himself.
  • Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.
  • I asked the whole frame of the world about my God; and he answered, I am not He, but He made me.
  • I found thee not, O Lord, without, because I erred in seeking thee without that wert within.
  • I want my friend to miss me as long as I miss him.
  • If two friends ask you to judge a dispute, don't accept, because you will lose one friend; on the other hand, if two strangers come with the same request, accept because you will gain one friend.
  • If we live good lives, the times are also good. As we are, such are the times.
  • In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery?
  • Indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible.
  • It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.
  • Love is the beauty of the soul.
  • Miracles are not contrary to nature, but only contrary to what we know about nature.
  • My mind withdrew its thoughts from experience, extracting itself from the contradictory throng of sensuous images, that it might find out what that light was wherein it was bathed... And thus, with the flash of one hurried glance, it attained to the vision of That Which Is.
  • No eulogy is due to him who simply does his duty and nothing more.
  • Order your soul; reduce your wants; live in charity; associate in Christian community; obey the laws; trust in Providence.
  • Our bodies are shaped to bear children, and our lives are a working out of the processes of creation. All our ambitions and intelligence are beside that great elemental point.
  • Passion is the evil in adultery. If a man has no opportunity of living with another man's wife, but if it is obvious for some reason that he would like to do so, and would do so if he could, he is no less guilty than if he was caught in the act.
  • Patience is the companion of wisdom.
  • People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.
    • Variant: Men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty billows of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, and pass themselves by.
  • Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.
  • Punishment is justice for the unjust.
  • Renouncement: the heroism of mediocrity.
  • Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.
  • The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.
  • The desire is thy prayers; and if thy desire is without ceasing, thy prayer will also be without ceasing. The continuance of your longing is the continuance of your prayer.
  • The mind commands the body and it obeys. The mind orders itself and meets resistance.
  • The people who remained victorious were less like conquerors than conquered.
  • The purpose of all wars, is peace.
  • The words printed here are concepts. You must go through the experiences.
  • The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
  • There is no possible source of evil except good.
  • This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.
  • Thou must be emptied of that wherewith thou art full, that thou mayest be filled with that whereof thou art empty.
  • To abstain from sin when one can no longer sin is to be forsaken by sin, not to forsake it.
  • To wisdom belongs the intellectual apprehension of things eternal; to knowledge, the rational apprehension of things temporal.
  • We are certainly in a common class with the beasts; every action of animal life is concerned with seeking bodily pleasure and avoiding pain
  • We cannot pass our guardian angel's bounds, resigned or sullen, he will hear our sighs.
  • What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.
  • What I needed most was to love and to be loved, eager to be caught. Happily I wrapped those painful bonds around me; and sure enough, I would be lashed with the red-hot pokers or jealousy, by suspicions and fear, by burst of anger and quarrels.
  • Who can map out the various forces at play in one soul? Man is a great depth, O Lord. The hairs of his head are easier by far to count than his feeling, the movements of his heart.
  • You aspire to great things? Begin with little ones.
  • Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.
  • If you were the only person on earth, Christ would have still suffered and died for you.
  • An unjust law is no law at all.


  • Inter faeces et urinam nascimur.
    • We are born between feces and urine.
    • Variant: We are born amid feces and urine.
    • The probable source is a homily by Bernard of Clairvaux. [2]
  • "Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand." Anselm of Canterbury said this, and some people attribute it to Augustine of Hippo.

Quotes about Augustine

  • Of all the fathers of the church, St. Augustine was the most admired and the most influential during the Middle Ages. [...] Augustine was an outsider - a native North African whose family was not Roman but Berber. [...] He was a genius - an intellectual giant.
    • Norman Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, Harper, 1993, p. 74

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