This post is part of an on-going series in which I and others systematically read through Augustine of Hippo’s City of God in 2014.
City of God 8.14–27.
8.14–15. Augustine begins his discussion of the demons of Platonism and their mediation. Much of his discussion will be a critique of the views of Apuleius. Apuleius lived in the second century after Christ and was a North African, like Augustine. Apuleius was a teacher of rhetoric and was a Platonist, but he’s most famous today for his novel, The Golden Ass.
In early Greek mythology and philosophy, “daimon” didn’t have any negative connotations. A demon was usually understood to be some sort of spirit of nature. By Augustine’s day, however, because of the influence of Christianity, the word had a universal negative connotation.
Augustine contends that the demons ought not be considered superior to humans. Even though they possess immortal bodies of air, better and worse are always matters of virtue. Physicality does not confer virtue. This is another aspect of the same argument that Augustine made when discussing the greatness of the Roman Empire.