James O'Donnell tells the story from the vantage point of Hippo, the city in what is now Algeria, where Augustine spent almost 40 years as priest and bishop. By telling the story that way, he is able to escape from the Confessions: the post-Confessions years are the ones in which Augustine (354-430) really made his name. The story is extraordinarily rich in vivid primary material about the crises and doings of his time, the late Roman Empire. Rich men converting to Christianity to get ahead, priests covering up their sexual and financial peccadilloes, gangs of desperadoes invading churches or lying in ambush on country roads, generals playing coldly calculated games of geopolitics - these are the figures who stand out in Augustine's world against a background of a battle to the death over the future of Christianity. This is one of the most remarkable biographies to be written about any figure from the ancient world.