The R hetorical S tyle of St. Agustine
St. Agustine of Hippo lived in the 350AD on the fringe of the rapidly declining Roman Empire, in the North African town of Hippo. He served as bishop for 35 years and helped e stablish the intellectual foundations of Christianity with his work in the early Middle Ages . He proved to be popular and inspirational to his largely poor and uneducated congregation. He became interested in the study of rhetoric and taught at Carthage, Milan , and Rome. He understood the importance of mastering semiotics, which is the nature of signs and signification in language. In his own work, h e took the influence of many ancient philosophers such as Cicero and Socrates . Yet, this does not mean that he agreed with his arguments. In fact, he often challenges the popular notions of these philosophers. Agustine served many roles as a rhetorician, a preacher, and a teacher. I will explore how did he became inspired to change the educational methods by improving rhetoric, as well as his influences as a teacher and how they impacted the study of rhetor ic.
Agustine's father was a self-proclaimed pagan , and a very active member in local government . He wished a better life for his children, and thus was very demanding of St Agustine. A s a child, St. Agustine despised his lectures, and often thought of h is subjects to be too difficult or simply senseless although he would later be considered an intellectual . In his self-reflective book , Confessions he says, "What on earth is the use of repeating one plus two equals three?" expressing his frustrations with the dull and unattractive education system. He would often find games more entertaining than school and be reprimanded for doing so.
[M]y mind was absorbed only in play, and I was punished for this by those who were doing the same things themselves. But the idling of our elders is called business: the idling of boys, though quite like it, is punished by those same elders, and no one pities either the boys or the men. For will any common sense ob server agree that I was rightly punished as a boy for playing ball just because this hindered me from learning more quickly those lessons by means of which, as a man, I could play at more shameful games.
To secure a better education, he was sent to Medara , about 12 miles away, an institute that was considered by many as " pagan to the core . " There he fell in love with learning. St. Agustine returned home at the age of 16 , when money for school ran out, however, his parents still tried to find the means to further his education. With th e help of a sponsor he went to Carthage and studied mathematics, rhetoric, music and philosophy. He reflected on the avenues he could take to peruse wisdom, and through his teachers he was exposed to new ideas. Later he set up a school in Rome where he realized that students were all the same: little interested in their studies. It is because of his personal experience that he developed a system where both students and professors improved the educational system, making it more appealing.
In his stud ies St . Agustine was influence d by Cicero and the virtues of wisdom and eloquence began to ponder on him. While St. Agustine drawn inspiration from Plato and Cicero, he favorited the doctrine of the church as the biggest source of knowledge and u nderstanding, he even said, "I have read in Plato and Cicero sayings that are wise and very beautiful; but I have never read in either of them: Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden." As a result, Cicero would provide a framework in which Agustin would operate , as Agustin assimilated the influences of the church into Cicero's concepts. As sociologist, Berit Van Neste explains in Cicero and St. Au gustine's Just War Theory: Classical Influences on a Christian Idea , how Cicero's R epublic , remain ed lost for centuries. The work only survived through quotations by