Slaves of God: Augustine and Other Romans on Religion and Politics

A provocative look at the central role of slavery in Augustine’s religious, ethical, and political thought


Published (US):
Aug 6, 2024
Published (UK):
Oct 1, 2024
6.13 x 9.25 in.
5 tables.
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Augustine believed that slavery is permissible, but to understand why, we must situate him in his late antique Roman intellectual context. Slaves of God provides a major reassessment of this monumental figure in the Western religious and political tradition, tracing the remarkably close connections between Augustine’s understanding of slavery and his broader thought.

Augustine is most often read through the lens of Greek philosophy and the theology of Christian writers such as Paul and Ambrose, yet his debt to Roman thought is seldom appreciated. Toni Alimi reminds us that the author of Confessions and City of God was also a Roman citizen and argues that some of the thinkers who most significantly shaped his intellectual development were Romans such as Cicero, Seneca, Lactantius, and Varro—Romans who had much to say about slavery and its relationship to civic life. Alimi shows how Augustine, a keen and influential student of these figures, related chattel slavery and slavery to God, and sheds light on Augustinianism’s complicity in Christianity’s long entanglement with slavery.

An illuminating work of scholarship, Slaves of God reveals how slavery was integral to Augustine’s views about law, rule, accountability, and citizenship, and breaks new ground in the history of slavery in late antique and medieval political thought.