Augustine of Hippo may be the best known and most frequently quoted early Christian writer. Associations and journals are dedicated to understand his life, work, and meanings; seminarians read his Confessions, and learn his theology of grace, philosophers engage his City of God, quarrel with his neoplatonism, and explain his views on freedom, society, and human nature. Andrew Knowles and Pachomios Penkett, in Augustine And His World, have put together a mighty synthesis of the man and his time in a small 5x7x1/2 package.
In eight clearly written chapters, the authors walk the reader through the world before Augustine, the young man, his moves from Manichee to Christian, the road to ordination, the leader and Bishop, controversies with Donatists and Pelagians, a look at his greatest writings, and Augustine's legacy today. In addition to a good narrative, what makes this book unique is its multitasked pages. Over 70 photos of art, artifacts, architecture, paintings, sketches, and four pages of maps bring color, light, context, and special effects to the glossy pages of 180 pages of exposition.
As if the icons of the ages were not enough to bring the reader back to meet the man and his world, the margins contain glosses printed on a beige background of significant short quotations from Augustine's works and other primary sources, as well as brief notes on classical and modern works of art. One or two special effects on almost every page replace the need for encyclopedias, dictionaries, or internet trips to google.
The solid, accurate main text is frequently interrupted by a light powder blue header that introduces over 30 boxes of short sub-texts on a pale, lime-green tinted background that explain practically every question that arises in a study of Augustine. The lightly shaded running commentary include monasticism, Monica, Thagaste, early learning, divided Church, Cyprian, waning empire, Why didn't Augustine marry his partner? What did Monica believe? Augustine's memory of Faustus, Alypius and Nebredius, Ambrose of Milan, Plotinus, Porphyry, Anthony of Egypt, Romanianus, Books, Paulinus (c. 353-431), the demise of paganism, the lusts of the flesh and splendor of life, the roots of the Dontatist schism, Circumcellions, popular song, Augustine's health, Marcellinus, Jerome, Julian of Erclanum (c. 380-454), the Bishop as judge, talking to Boniface, and Augustine's spirituality. These topics enhance the main narrative and open the mind to the many avenues that interconnected people living in late antique Roman society.
The book contains a chronology of Augustine's life and an index. It is a great companion for a beginner in Augustine studies. If the other seven books in the "IVP Histories series" can match this one, then every library that serves undergraduate students, including local town libraries, would benefit from this rich resource.