Unit 2: Metaphysics

Selected Reading from St. Augustine’s “The City of God”

Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo

Editor’s Note: The following text is the fourth chapter (“How like kingdoms without justice are to robberies.”) of the fourth book (“Book Fourth – Argument”) of Augustine’s The City of God. 

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increase to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”[1]

Citation and Use

This text was taken from the following work.

Ausustine, Aurelius, Bishop of Hippo. The City of God (Urbana, IL: Project Gutenberg, 2014), Trans. by E. M. Edghill.

The use of this work is governed by the public domain.

  1. Nonius Marcell. borrows this anecdote from Cicero, De Repub. iii


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