St. Augustine of Hippo: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

Saint Augustine of Hippo is remembered as one of the greatest writers in the history of Christianity. His famous works shaped the religion for centuries after his death. Learn about his life and legacy in this lesson.

Saints Go Marching In

If you met a person who used the title 'of Hippo' after their name, you might assume that they work at a zoo or a wildlife park. However, the word hippo in ancient languages didn't mean the big animal that hangs out in a river, but was the name used for a harbor for ships, and many cities had it in their names.

One city, Hippo Regius (pronounced re-gee-us), had a particularly famous bishop, or Christian church leader, named Saint Augustine of Hippo. He wrote a number of works on Christianity about 1600 years ago that have become very well-known, and influenced church teachings for many years after.

Painting of Saint Augustine of Hippo
Saint Augustine painting

A Roman Citizen

Nobody becomes a saint overnight. In the case of Saint Augustine, he was born in northern Africa in 354 CE, while it belonged to the great Roman Empire. His birth name was Aurelius Augustinus.

His family wasn't poor, but they didn't have enough money to educate anyone except him, meaning his brother and sister didn't get to go to school. While it may sound great to not have to go to school, it meant that they had to do hard work instead of learning.

The Roman Empire (in purple) during life of Saint Augustine
Roman Empire map

After completing his schooling, he decided he wanted to teach others, instructing them in debate and public speaking. He caught the eye of the Roman Emperor and got a very good-paying job as a head instructor. However, he lasted only two years before he got tired of it and looked for a life change.

Becoming Holy

The transition from Aurelius Augustinus to Saint Augustine began when he was in his 30s and joined the church, which at the time was the religion of the entire Roman Empire. He became famous for being able to write very persuasive books about religion, while also giving sermons, or religious speeches, that common people could understand, even if they did not have an education. By the age of 40 he became the bishop of Hippo, where he would remain for the rest of his life.

Map of northern Africa, showing Hippo Regius at the top in what is modern-day Algeria
Map of Hippo Regius

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