From a reader…
I have a number of volumes of St. Augustine’s writings, almost entirely English translations. However, I recently acquired a volume of his writings in Latin and the title page refers to him as “Sancti Aurelii Augustini.” I was wondering if you could explain the significance of “Aurelii” and why it is added to his name. I believe it is the Latin word for golden and therefore assume it is some sort of title of honor, but I was curious about its origin and significance.
Thanks for all the good work you do for our Church!
Thanks for the interesting question.
Auctores scinduntur… authors are divided about the great saint’s name.
The main line is that Augustine belonged to the Roman family, gens, the Aurelia. The gens Aurelia were Roman citizens. Thus, his name, Aurelius Augustinus.
On the other hand, some suggest that Augustine acquired Aurelius along the way because Augustinus was on lists of participants of Councils in N. Africa immediately after that of the great Primate of Africa and Bishop of Carthage, Aurelius. So, as Lancel puts it in terms of modern orthography, was the conciliar list really “Aurelius Augustinus” or was it “Aurelius, Augustinus”.
But, as I said, it is pretty much accepted that Augustine was from the gens Aurelia.
As Gerald Bonner says, the saint’s nomen is Aurelius, his cognomen is Augustus, and there is no information about a praenomen.
Of course we could have a little fun and take this another step.
How is the saint’s name pronounced?
We could have a poll!
Think about it. There is another Augustine, of Canterbury. Is his name pronounced differently from that of the Doctor from N. Africa? How about the city in Florida? Aby analogy, what about the name of the Emperor Constantine?
Everyone can vote, but only registered users can post comments. And please do!
I think there is a correct answer, by the way.