Possidius, St.

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Fifth-century African bishop, biographer of St. Augustine; d. after 437. One of the first of Augustine's disciples at Hippo (c. 391), Possidius became bishop of Calama in Numidia c. 397. He took part in the 8th Council of Carthage, Aug. 25, 403 (Mansi, Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio 3:790); the 11th, in 407 (ibid. 806); and the 15th, June 14, 410 (ibid. 810). He served as spokesman for the Catholic bishops in their great discussion with the Donatists, held at Carthage in May and June 411 (Mansi 4:8). He participated in the Council of Milevis (416) against Pelagianism (ibid. 335; Augustine, Epist., 137, 176), and was at the Council of Carthage in 419 (Mansi 4:433) (see pelagius and pelagianism).

On a pastoral visitation in 404 Possidius was attacked by the Donatists (Vita Aug. 12; Augustine, Epist., 105.4), and in 408 he retired before the fanaticism of the pagans of Calama. He was sent to Italy as ambassador to the imperial authority and visited paulinus of nola (Augustine, Epist., 95.1), but returned to Africa in 410. When the Vandals invaded Calama (428), Possidius took refuge at Hippo and assisted Augustine on his deathbed (Vita Aug. 2829, 31). Forced to return to Calama in 435, he was expelled with other African bishops by the Vandals under Geiseric in 437 (Prosper of Aquitaine, Chron.; Monumenta Germanica Auctores Antiquissimi 9:475) and disappears from history.

His principal work, the biography of St. Augustine, composed between 432 and 437, delineates Augustine's career as a monk, priest, and bishop. A modest work, it avoids the overlaudatory style usual to that age. Its account of Augustine's activities is trustworthy for the most part; the Indiculus (list of Augustine's writings) is invaluable, though not complete or without error.

Feast: May 16 or 17.

Bibliography: Patrologia Latina 32.1:3366. Acta sanctorum Aug. 6:427440. m. pellegrino, Revue des études augustiniennes 2 (1956) 195229; ed., Vita (Alba 1955). a. wilmart, ed., in Miscellanea Agostiniana, 2 v. (Rome 193031) 2:149233, ed. of Indiculus. w. ensslin, Paulys Realencyclopädie der klassichen Altertumswissenschaft 22.1 (1953) 860861. b. altaner, Patrology 488, 513. h. t. weiskotten, ed. and tr., Vita (Princeton 1919), critical ed. and Eng. tr. e. elm, "Die Vita Augustini des Possidius: 'The Work of a Plain Man and an Untrained Writer?' Wandlungen in der Beurteilung eines hagiographischen Textes," Augustinianum 37 (1997) 229240.

[r. k. poetzel]