Historic olive tree still stands in the town of St. Augustine after 1,700 years.

Historic olive tree still stands in the town of St. Augustine after 1,700 years.

“The Romans, having defeated Numidia, proceeded to colonize the region due to its agricultural resources like grain and olive orchards,” Denova explained. “During this period, Roman entrepreneurs also established themselves in the area.”

Augustine, according to Denova, assimilated this process of “romanization,” while still maintaining ties with the local population.

Jim O’Donnell, an Augustinian scholar and the university librarian at Arizona State University, mentioned that Thagaste, the city of Augustine’s birth, wasn’t historically significant on a large scale. The city, he noted, was likely established in the second century, predating Augustine’s birth by a few centuries.

The city played a role in a significant theological period within the Church’s history. O’Donnell shared that until 347, the Christian church in Thagaste was under the influence of the Donatist faction. However, in that year, an imperial commissioner along with soldiers compelled churches in the region to abandon Donatist beliefs and align with the Caecilianist faction.

The Donatists, a heretical Christian group led by Bishop Donatus, propagated the false idea that clergy must be in a state of grace to validly perform sacraments. The Caecilianists, opposing this view and named after Bishop Caecilianus of Carthage, were later designated as “Catholic” by Augustine.

O’Donnell pointed out the significance of this context for Augustine’s mother, Monica, who grew up in this environment. Monica would give birth to Augustine seven years after this conversion of the city’s allegiance, implying that she likely grew up amidst the Donatists.