Some of their conversations at Cassiciacum were philosophical and religious, and have come down to us in the book by Augustine called "Dialogues".
From this source it is known that the group spent part of every day together reading aloud the works of the classical Roman poet, Virgil.
Though Augustine says he often spent half the night awake in prayer and meditation, the dialogues themselves are not full of theology.
The Dialogues seem to have been modest attempts to use the professional expertise of a rhetorician and philosopher to clarify technically the questions that had perplexed him.
The Dialogues show a charming humility about the powers of philosophical argument.
In the midst of a long, abstract argument among the men, Monica would come into the discussion. This was an unusual step in that culture which displayed much sexism
In a few words, and often quoting scripture as possibly the only baptised person present, Monica
would sometimes summarise an argument more clearly and concisely than the young students of Augustine had been able to do.
This fact is evident in these dialogues which, transcribed by a secretary, supplied the foundation of the book by Augustine called "Dialogues
Licentius, in his "Letters," would later on recall these delightful philosophical mornings and evenings. He said that Augustine had the talent to elicit the most elevating discussions from the most common incidents.
The favourite topics at their conferences were truth, certainty (Contra academicos, "Against the Academics"), true happiness in philosophy (De beata vita, "On a Happy Life"), the providential order of the world and the problem of evil (De ordine, "On Order") and God (Soliloquia, "Soliloquies"), and the soul ("On the Immortality of the Soul").
Several of these Cassiciacum writings mirror the style and manner of the dialogues of Cicero
, but in a new Christian manner with the influence of Plato.
The whole party returned from Cassiciacum to Milan before Easter of the year 387. Along with Alypius his friend and Adeodatus his son, Augustine was baptised
on the night of Holy Saturday, 23rd-24th April 387 by Ambrose
, from whose preaching Augustine had learned so much.
(Continued on the next page.)
Photo (top right):
Detail of a Gozzoli fresco of Augustine as a student. In the Church of Saint Augustine at San Gimignano
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Photo Gallery of San Gimignano on Augnet.
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