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City of God (Penguin Classics)
ISBN 0140444262 / 9780140444261 / 0-14-044426-2
Publisher Penguin Classics
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Augustine's City of God, a monumental work of religious lore, philosophy, and history, was written as a kind of literary tombstone for Roman culture. After the sack of Rome, Augustine wrote this book to anatomize the corruption of Romans' pursuit of earthly pleasures: "grasping for praise, open-handed with their money; honest in the pursuit of wealth, they wanted to hoard glory." Augustine contrasts his condemnation of Rome with an exaltation of Christian culture. The glory that Rome failed to attain will only be realized by citizens of the City of God, the Heavenly Jerusalem foreseen in Revelation. Because City of God was written for men of classical learning--custodians of the culture Augustine sought to condemn--it is thick with Ciceronian circumlocutions, and makes many stark contrasts between "Your Virgil" and "Our Scriptures." Even if Augustine's prose strikes modern ears as a bit bombastic, and if his polarized Christian/pagan world is more binary than the one we live in today, his arguments against utopianism and his defense of the richness of Christian culture remain useful and strong. City of God is, as its final words proclaim itself to be, "a giant of a book." --Michael Joseph Gross [via]