Lactantius and Augustine


in Representations of Empire

Published by British Academy

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780197262764
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191753947 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Lactantius and Augustine

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This chapter puts Lactantius and Augustine side by side, compares their interests and preoccupations, and attempts to confront their contributions in certain key areas of Christian thought, in particular, ethics. It suggests that Augustine knew the Divine Institutes, perhaps as early as his Ciceronian phase, for Lactantius's prose was as Ciceronian as one could get outside the master's own corpus. Already in On True Religion, Augustine shows that he had read Divine Institutes closely enough, and recently enough, to have taken up its main theme — that religion and philosophy belong together under the banner of Christianity, that Christianity is the true religion and the true wisdom. In ethics Lactantius emerges as a serious and inventive theorist. He identifies the Final End as eternal life, and, more originally, redefines the classical virtues in Christian terms. Piety and devoted worship of the Christian God become a necessary condition of justice and the other virtues. These are precisely Augustine's views in City of God. In political theory there is a large gap between the two thinkers, which reflects above all the different contexts in which they lived and wrote.

Keywords: Christian thought; ethics; Divine Institutes; Christianity; political theory; City of God; Lactantius; Augustine

Chapter.  14654 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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