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Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine was born to a pagan father and Christian mother (later canonised as Saint Monica) in Tagaste, now Souk Ahras, on November 13, 354. A teenager of exceptional intellect, he went to Carthage to finish his studies like other promising Numidian students. As well as furthering his education, Augustine fell for the temptations of the city, kept a mistress and fathered an illegitimate son before he was 18. He lived during the end of the Roman empire, taught literature in Tagaste and then Carthage before moving to Rome and then, in 384, to Milan, where he was appointed Professor of Rhetoric at the imperial court, one of the most important intellectual posts in the empire. He was just 30 and had the emperor's full attention.

In Milan, he was won over to Christianity by Bishop (later Saint) Ambrose, who baptised Augustine and his son, Adeodatus, on Easter Saturday in 387. The conversion was the end of his court ambitions: Augustine longed for a quiet retreat where he could pray and read scripture. He settled in the town of his birth in 391, but two years later, was on a visit to Hippo Regius when the congregation pressed him into being their priest. In 393, he was elected to the bishopric of Hippo, a position he held, and from which he preached and wrote, until his death.

Augustine's contribution to Christianity lies in his works, Confessions (397), his autobiography, and De Civitate Dei (413), a reaffirmation of fundamental Christian values at a time when the Church was seen as corrupt and in decline. In May 430, Vandals under Genseric besieged Hippo Regius. Augustine died on August 28, just before the city fell.