De Civitate Dei: The Plan of the Work

In a cover letter to his friend Firmus which accompanied the completed manuscript of his monumental De Civitate Dei, Augustine describes the plan of the work. If it needs to be published in two codices, he notes, the first ten books belong together, as a refutation of pagan error, while the latter twelve books are “a defense of our religion,” though the latter is sometimes taken up in the first part, and the former sometimes in the second, as need and opportunity dictates. And if the work needs to be further subdivided even than that, Augustine continues, the first five books form a natural unity, as they aim at those who say that the worship of the gods pertains to the happiness of the present life, while the next five books (6-10) oppose those who claim that the worship of the old gods pertains to the next life. The next twelve books can be divided into groups of four: the first (11-14) demonstrates the origin (exortum) of the two cities, the second group (15-18) considers the two cities’ present course (procursum vel excursum), and the third (19-22) considers their due ends (debitos fines).

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