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USES AND MEANINGS OF ‘PAGANUS’ IN THE WORKS OF SAINT AUGUSTINE Jérôme Lagouanère Augustine of Hippo employs the term “pagan” (paganus) in special ways. A quick search in the Brepols Library of Latin Texts shows that the plural pagani is more frequent in his works than the singular paganus: the latter occurs in his sermons, often in negative sense.1 Just like iudaeus and haereticus, paganus is an opponent of Christianus as persecutor of the Church (persecutor ecclesiae),2 enemy (inimicus),3 and adversary of Christ (hostis Christi).4 Only occasionally are pagans assessed less negatively, when, for example, Augustine reminds his flock of the reality of conversion: “Today he is pagan, but how do you know that he is not Christian tomorrow?”5 For Augustine, “pagan” is a typological figure in the construction of Christian identity, rather than a socio-historical group.6 Vigorous defender of the Catholic Church and talented polemicist, Augustine of Hippo would rank among “committed Christians” in the categories set up by Alan Cameron.7 Being a “committed Christian,” however, does not mean that Augustine 1  Paganus rarely turns up in the De ciuitate Dei: Paul C. Burns, “Augustine’s use of Varro’s Antiquitates Rerum Diuinarum in his De Civitate Dei,” Augustinian Studies 32/11 (2001), 37–64, esp. 44–45. 2 Augustine, In Iohannis euangelium tractatus, 5, 13, l.3. 3 Augustine, Sermones 56, ed. Revue Bénédictine 68, p.36, l.279. 4 Augustine, Sermones 71, ed. Revue Bénédictine 75, p.68, l.77. 5 Augustine, Sermones 71, ed. Revue Bénédictine 75, p. 86, l.464: Paganus est hodie: unde scis, utrum sit futurus crastino Christianus? 6  For the Christian construction of the notion of paganus: James J. O’Donnell, “Paganus,” Classical Folia, 31 (1977): 163–169; Id., “The Demise of Paganism”, Traditio 35 (1979), 45–88; Alan Cameron, The Last Pagans of Rome (Oxford-New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 14–32. 7 Alan Cameron, The Last Pagans of Rome, 176 distinguishes five categories: “committed Christians” (Ambrose, Augustine); “center Christians” (Ausonius); “neither Christian nor pagan” (Bacurius); “center pagans” (Servius ) “committed pagans” (Praetextatus, Symmachus). These categories become problematic when arguing that “Augustine and other rigorists” (The Last Pagans, 801) seek to purge Christian literature from Classical references , but accepting that Augustine was an educated Christian immersed in the Classical tradition: The Last Pagans, 385. i6 p&c 00 book.indb 105 2017.09.20. 16:22 JÉRÔME LAGOUANÈRE 106 meets paganism in polemics alone. Augustine’s complex relation with pagans is not to be reduced to controversy. The bishop does not exclusively perceive pagans as adversaries . Throughout his episcopate, Augustine is in constant contact with pagans such as Maximus of Madaura,8 Nectarius,9 Longinianus,10 or Volusianus.11 Augustine’s sermons (including the Dolbeau Sermons12) show that pagans came to Augustine’s church to hear him preach. Besides, Augustine was an educated man impregnated with Classical culture, who did not hide his love for Platonic philosophy or Virgil.13 This paper explores the social and historical background as well as the rhetorical context in which the figure of the paganus appears in Augustine’s works to show that the pagan is not only an adversary, but also a brother in the eyes of the bishop of Hippo. I examine three representations of the paganus in Augustine—adversary, interlocutor , exemplar – to show that contacts with self-professed pagans such as Volusianus made a huge impact on Augustine’s thought and inspired him to write The City of God and, more importantly, to argue that rhetorics notwithstanding, the bishop of Hippo preaches the love of God and neighbour towards the “pagans.” The pagan as adversary Augustine’s writings contain a good number of treatises contra paganos14 demonstrating that the fight against paganism was one of the chief agendas of the bishop of Hippo—even after 399, when idolatry was prohibited in North Africa by Stilicho.15 Is the preponderance of this topic in Augustine a sign of a “pagan resistance” in Africa 8  Augustine, Letters 16 & 17. 9  Augustine, Letters 103 & 104. 10 Augustine, Letters 233, 234 & 235. 11  Augustine, Letters 132, 135 & 137. 12  Sermones Dolbeau are found in: François Dolbeau, Augustin d’Hippone. Vingt-six sermons au peuple d’Afrique, (Paris, Collection des Études Augustiniennes, 1996 ; repr. 2009). See for instance Augustine, Sermones Dolbeau , 24 and 26. 13  Recent scholarship on “pagans and Christians” invalidates this categorization as inaccurately describing specific situations: Hervé Inglebert, Sylvain Destephen, Bruno...


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