Study Help Full Glossary for St. Augustine's Confessions


Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David patriarchs of the Old Testament.

Aeneas and Dido Aeneas was the legendary founder of Rome and the hero of Virgil's Aeneid. Dido, the queen of Carthage, kills herself after being abandoned by Aeneas.

Anubis, Neptune, Venus, Minerva Anubis was an Egyptian god of the underworld. Neptune, Venus, and Minerva were the Roman gods of the sea, love, and wisdom, respectively. The line is quoted from the Aeneid. The point was that the Romans had become devoted to cults imported from Egypt, a conquered Roman territory.

Apollinarians the Apollinarian heresy held that Christ had a human body but not a human spirit.

assessor a person acting as a consultant or advisor in matters of law.

Athanasius c. 296-373, bishop of Alexandria, theologian, and saint, noted for his asceticism.

catechumen a Christian receiving instruction in the faith but not yet baptized. As the child of a Christian mother, Augustine was at least nominally a catechumen from early childhood onward.

Catiline d. 62 B.C.; Roman conspirator. Augustine quotes from the history of Catiline's career by Sallust (c. 86-35 B.C.), in which Catiline is represented as an archetypal villain.

Cyprian Bishop of Carthage and martyr, d. 258. He was a kind of patron saint for North Africa and the subject of intense popular devotion.

Elijah (or Elias) prophet of the Old Testament. He is miraculously fed by a poor widow (1 Kings 17:9-24) and by ravens (1 Kings 17:6).

Elpidius nothing is known of Elpidius beyond what Augustine says.

Epaphroditus a companion of St. Paul; see Philippians 2:25-30. Paul thanks the Christian community at Philippi for their gifts to him, sent via Epahproditus (Philippians 4:18).

Epicurus c. 341-270 B.C. Greek philosopher who held that the ultimate good was to feel pleasure and avoid pain. Epicurus made a famous argument concerning God and evil, to which Augustine may be alluding: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then where does evil come from? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

Evodius Evodius appears as a speaker in two of Augustine's dialogues; he became bishop of Uzali in about the year 400, and continued to correspond with Augustine as late as 414.

Faustus c.340-390(?), Manichee bishop. At about the same time he was writing the Confessions, Augustine was also working on the Contra Faustum Manicheum, a detailed refutation of the Manichee preacher's teaching.

Firminus nothing is known of Firminus beyond what Augustine says.

the fish a symbol for Christ, from the phrase "Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior," whose first letters in Greek spell the Greek word for "fish."

Five Elements, Five Caves of Darkness a reference to Manichean mythology.

foot a metrical unit in poetry.

friend of the bridegroom a reference to John 3:29: "The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice." In its original context, the "friend" is John the Baptist, but Augustine is applying the symbolism more broadly, to any faithful soul.

Galatians quoting from Paul's letter rebuking the Christians in Galatia for insisting on the observance of Jewish law, rather than relying upon faith (Gal. 3:1).

Great Bear Ursa Major, the constellation of the Big Dipper.

Homer Greek poet and author of the Odyssey.

husks After he wastes his inheritance, the Prodigal Son is reduced to eating the "husks" or scraps that are fed to pigs. Augustine uses this as a metaphor for the literature he was teaching to his students — he could not find spiritual nourishment in the "husks" of pagan fiction.

Jacob and Esau twin sons of Isaac (see Genesis, 25 and 27).

Juno the queen of the gods in Roman mythology. Augustine's contest involved an angry speech Juno gives in Book 1 of the Aeneid after Aeneas escapes from her.

Jupiter and Danae Jupiter is the king of the gods in Roman mythology. To seduce Danae, a human woman who had been locked up in tower by her father, Jupiter turned himself into a golden shower and rained into Danae's lap.

Medea a sorceress of Greek mythology; she flies through the air in a chariot pulled by dragons.

Monad and Dyad Neo-Platonic philosophy had a triadic conception of the divine being. The Monad, or One, is transcendent and ineffable. There are two emanations from the Monad: the Dyad (or Intelligence) and the World-Soul. In the Dyad, the perfect unity of the One becomes divided to Ideas, and the World-Soul expresses these Ideas as physical Forms. In his discussion, Augustine indicates that he was identifying the Monad with the "good" God of Manichaeism, and the Dyad with the Manichaean concept of evil as a substance.

my brother Augustine's brother was named Navigius, and it is likely that he came to Milan with Monica.

old leaven (or yeast) a reference to I Corinthians 5:7-8: "Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast; not with the old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."

Onesiphorus praised for his assistance to St. Paul in 2 Timothy 1:16.

Orestes and Pylades characters from Greek literature, famous for their devoted friendship.

pearl in Christ's parable of the "Pearl of Great Price," (Matthew 13:45-46) a merchant finds a precious pearl and then sells everything that he has in order to buy it.

Photinus d. 376, condemned for heresy in 351. Photinus believed that Christ as the Son of God did not exist before the Incarnation; this belief was contrary to orthodox doctrine that the Son was eternal and uncreated.

Prodigal Son the subject of one of Christ's parables (Luke 15:11-32). The son of a rich father, he demands his inheritance, and then squanders it in dissolute living. Destitute and humiliated, he finally returns home to beg from his father, who joyfully takes him back.

salt salt was placed on the tongues of new catechumens. Salt was frequently used as a protection against evil spirits, and it also recalled Christ's admonition to the church that "you are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13).

sign of the cross a gesture of blessing; a priest would bless catechumens by making the sign of the cross over them.

Simplicianus d. c.400. Ambrose's spiritual father; succeeded Ambrose as bishop of Milan in 397.

Sodom Biblical city destroyed by God (Genesis 18:20-19:25). The Sodomites were traditionally believed to have practiced homosexuality.

Solomon's allegory King Solomon was believed to be the author of the Old Testament book of Proverbs. See Proverbs 9:17, where the "woman" is Folly or Ignorance.

Symmachus c.345-402. Roman prefect, aristocrat, and pagan. Symmachus had a reputation for promoting talent, but he also had reasons for recommending Augustine, a non-Catholic, to a public post in Milan. Just prior to Augustine's appointment, Symmachus had asked the Emperor in Milan to reinstate toleration of pagan rites, a request that Ambrose had managed to block.

ten-stringed harp the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).

Terence Latin playwright, author of six comedies written in the 160s B.C.. Augustine is quoting from Terence's play The Eunuch.

Troy, ghost of Creusa Creusa, Aeneas' wife, died trying to escape from the besieged city of Troy. In Book 2 of the Aeneid, Aeneas describes how he met her ghost as he also fled.

Vindicianus the doctor who tries to warn Augustine against astrology in Book 4.5.

vintage vacation a traditional Roman vacation period during harvest time, from late August to mid-October.

Way, Word, Only-Begotten names for Christ used in the New Testament.