Clerical Leadership in Late Antiquity: Augustine on Bishops’ Polemical and Pastoral Burdens

  • Peter Iver Kaufman
Part of the Jepson Studies in Leadership book series (JSL)


Augustine returned from Italy to North Africa in 388, apparently elated to have found his calling. The cities he had known, Thagaste and Carthage, and would soon come to know, Hippo Regius, were relatively prosperous, despite taxes collected for the central government, which had been making increasing demands since the time of Emperor Constantine. The funds available for municipal improvements were depleted (gravement amputés), Claude Lepelley calculated, siting the African cities in “a history of inexorable decline” from the 380s into the 430s (Lepelley 1979–1981, 1:197, also 1:414). In the coastal city of Hippo, however, Augustine, as bishop, was busy from the late 390s, exchanging ideas and insults with polemicists of various stripes. He had not meant to take a prominent part in African Christianity’s bouts with sectarians, secessionists, and pagans. He planned to retire to his family estate in Thagaste with several like-minded friends. He only traveled to Hippo to consult with a man whom he hoped to tempt to join his small company of contemplatives and perhaps to confer with the faithful about the prospects for locating another contemplative collective there. He tells us he disliked traveling. He feared that his reputation for eloquence and insight might tempt the faithful far from his home and friends in Thagaste to waylay him to fill a vacancy.


African City Sacred Text Christian Faith Late Antiquity Sectarian Hatred 
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© Peter Iver Kaufman 2016

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  • Peter Iver Kaufman

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