“Augustine’s Contribution to the Republican Tradition”

Cornish, Paul. “Augustine’s Contribution to the Republican Tradition.” European Journal of Political Theory, Vol. 9 (2010), pp. 133-148.  


“The present argument focuses on part of Augustine’s defense of Christianity in The City of God. There Augustine argues that the Christian religion did not cause the sack of Rome by the Goths in 410 CE. Augustine revised the definitions of a ‘people’ and ‘republic’ found in Cicero’s De Republica in light of the impossibility of true justice in a world corrupted by sin. If one returns these definitions to their original context, and accounts for Cicero’s own political teachings, one finds that Augustine follows Cicero’s republicanism on several key points. First, civil rule differs from mastery over slaves. Second, political life is indeterminate, so a republic could be any regime suitable for governing free human beings. Third, the prudent man may not abstain from public service. For Augustine the duty to public service is connected to his tragic portrayal of life and suffering in society after ‘the fall’. Augustine’s contribution to the republican tradition is not to be found in the concept of a natural order, but in an explanation of why that order fails. “