Adeodatus, the only-known son of Augustine (November 13, 354 - August 28, 430) [q.v.; cf. Q 4.342-462], bishop of Hippo, was born while his father was a student at Carthage to the first of the several mistresses with whom Augustine lived (Confessions IV.2; VI.12-15). In this particular case, though the woman’s name be unknown, they cohabited for a period of at least fourteen years, she finally leaving Augustine when he had taken up with others. The child was left with his father in 386; the mother returned to the Roman province of Africa, from which she had come, “vowing never to give herself to any other man” (Confessions VI.15).
Augustine’s father, Patricius [q.v.], had died in 371, two years before Augustine was nineteen; his mother, Monica [q.v.] did not remarry (Frend 1988:135-151). Augustine appears to have begun his daliances in that interval, even though it was ultimately his mother’s parental and religious influences which were to prevail. Monica had been instrumental in the conversion of her husband to Christianity not long before his death (Confessions IX.9), and in the instilling within her son the seeds of such a possibility, in spite of the postponement of his baptism, long before these took root and grew into his statured role (Confessions I.11).
Accompanied by mistress and son, Augustine’s own career took him from higher education in Carthage, as determined by his father, whereat he studied philosophy and rhetoric (Confessions III), from whence he became a teacher of rhetoric first at Thagaste (375; Confessions IV) and then at Carthage (376-383), before voyaging via Rome to take up a comparable position at Milan (384) where he not only encountered Ambrose (Q 4.144-180) but was joined by Monica (385) for the remainder of her days. Adeodatus clearly came under the influence of his grandmother, such that he was baptized into the “Catholic” church at Milan along with his father on Holy Saturday, April 24, 387, “although he was barely fifteen” (Confessions IX.6). But within months, Monica died at the Roman port of Ostia as they were all returning to Africa, and this affected the lad most severely (Confessions IX.12).
Nevertheless, by virtue of the fact that, as Augustine remarked, “there were many learned and respected men who were not his equals in intelligence,” Adeodatus came to play a significant role in Augustine’s further religious development, such that there is singled out “a book of mine called De magistro, which consists of a dialogue between Adeodatus and me” (Confessions IX.6; cf. Q 4.360-361; DECL 66). The lad survived but a few years longer, sharing in the communal life with his father, established in what had been the parental home back in Thagaste (Possidius Vita Augustini 3.1-2; van der Meer 1961:208), before succumbing prematurely, much to his father’s grief.
Clyde Curry Smith
Bibliography (see link to abbreviations table below):
OEEC 11 (ATrape)
Saint Augustine Confessions, translated with an introduction by R. S. Pine-Coffin. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd., 1961. (Cited by Book and section)
“The Family of Augustine: A Microcosm of Religious Change in North Africa,” by William Hugh Clifford Frend, in Atti del Congresso internazionale su S. Agostino nel XVI centenario della conversione (Roma, 15-20 settembre 1986), I (Studia Ephemeridis “Augustinianum,” 24). Rome, 1987: 135-151; reprinted in Archaeology and History in the Study of Early Christianity, by William Hugh Clifford Frend. London: Variorum Reprints, #VIII.
van der Meer 1961
Augustine the Bishop: Church and Society at the Dawn of the Middle Ages, by F. van der Meer, translated by Brian Battershaw and G. R. Lamb. London: Sheed and Ward Ltd.
This article, received in 2004, was researched and written by Dr. Clyde Curry Smith, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History and Religion, University of Wisconsin, River Falls.