Augustine of Hippo is one of the most important thinkers for Western theology and philosophy. His understanding of the self, of sin, of redemption, and of sanctification set the tone for all subsequent theology. Even those who disagree with him must still interact with the effects of his thought. In his Confessions, Augustine gives a theocentric testimonial of his conversion experience and his growing understanding of God. This crucial work introduced the idea of the inner self to the world. It was the first work that struggled to understand the inner life—the life of the mind. Its place at the beginning of the development of the autobiography is undeniable.
Augustine of Hippo (354–430) was born in Thagaste, Numidia, in Northern Africa. He studied rhetoric in Carthage when he was 17. As an adult, Augustine abandoned the Christianity of his youth to pursue Manichaeism. Through his Manichaen connections, Augustine became professor of rhetoric at the imperial court of Milan. While in Milan, Augustine was heavily influenced by the bishop of Milan, Ambrose. Influenced by Ambrose and by the biography of St. Anthony, Augustine began exploring Christianity and eventually reconverted. He was baptized in 387 and returned to Africa. There he was ordained and became a well-known preacher and apologist for the Christian faith. He was eventually made Bishop of Hippo, an office he held until his death in 430.