Paulus Orosius (b. circa 375, d. not before 418),[1] less often Paul Orosius in English, was a Christian historian, theologian and student of Augustine of Hippo from Gallaecia. He is best known for his Historiarum Adversum Paganos Libri VII ("Seven Books of History Against the Pagans"), which he wrote in response to the belief that the decline of the Roman Empire was the result of its adoption of Christianity.



After entering the priesthood, he took an interest in the Priscillianist controversy then going on in his native country. He went to consult with Augustine at Hippo (now Annaba in Algeria) in 413 or 414, possibly in connection with this controversy. After staying for some time in North Africa as Augustine's student, he was reportedly sent by him in 415 to Jerusalem with a letter of introduction to Jerome, then living in Bethlehem, where he represented the orthodox party against the Pelagians at the Synod of Jerusalem.[2]

The ostensible purpose of his mission (apart from the typical intent of pilgrimage and perhaps relic-hunting) was that he might gain further instruction from Jerome on the points raised by the Priscillianists and Origenists. In reality, it would seem that his business was to assist Jerome and others against Pelagius, who, after the synod of Carthage in 411, had been living in Palestine, and finding some acceptance there.

After his arrival. John II, bishop of Jerusalem, was induced to summon a synod in June 415 at which Orosius communicated the decisions of Carthage and read several of Augustine's writings against Pelagius. Success, however, was not achieved among Greeks who did not understand Latin, and whose sense of reverence was unshocked by Pelagius's famous question, Et quis est mihi Augustinus? ("Who is Augustine to me?") Orosius succeeded only in obtaining John's consent to send letters and deputies to Pope Innocent I of Rome; and, after having waited long enough to learn the unfavourable decision of the Synod of Diospolis (Lydda) in December of the same year, he returned to north Africa, where he is believed to have died. According to Gennadius, he carried with him relics of the protomartyr Stephen from Palestine to Minorca, where they were reported to be useful in attempts to convert members of the Jewish community to Christianity.

His work

The earliest work of Orosius, Consultatio sive commonitorium ad Augustinum de errore Priscillianistarum et Origenistarum ("Warnings and Reminders by Augustine against the errors of the Priscilliants and Origeniasts"), explains its object by its title; it was written soon after his arrival in Africa, and is usually printed in the works of Augustine along with the reply of the latter, Contra Priscillianistas et Origenistas liber ad Orosium.

His next treatise, Liber apologeticus de arbitrii libertate, was written during his stay in Palestine, and in connection with the controversy which engaged him there. It is a keen but not always fair criticism of the Pelagian position from that of Augustine.

The Historiae adversum paganos was undertaken at the suggestion of Augustine, to whom it is dedicated. Orosius argues that the world has improved since the introduction of Christianity rather than declined as others had argued. In response to those who pointed to contemporary disasters, he simply argues out that previous ones occurring before Christianity were much worse. The work, a universal history of the calamities that have happened to mankind from the fall down to about 417, was the first attempt to write the history of the world as a history of God guiding humanity. Its purpose gave it value in the eyes of the orthodox, and the Hormesta (or Ormesta, Ormista) as it was called—no one knows why—speedily attained a wide popularity. Nearly two hundred manuscripts of it have survived. An abridged, free translation, often wrongly attributed to King Alfred is still extant.[3] Bono Giamboni translated it in Italian language.[4] A still unpublished 14th century Aragonese translation, made by Domingo de García Martín at the request of Juan Fernández de Heredia, comes from Bono Giamboni's Italian translation. The history of Orosius was translated also into Arabic during the reign of al-Hakam II of Córdoba. It later became one of the sources of Ibn Khaldun in his history.

The sources Orosius used have been investigated by T. de Morner; besides the Old and New Testaments, he appears to have consulted Caesar, Livy, Justin, Tacitus, Suetonius, Florus and a cosmography, attaching also great value to Jerome's translation of the Chronicles of Eusebius.

See also


  1. ^ David Rohrbacher, "Orosius," in The Historians of Late Antiquity (Routledge, 2002), pp. 135–137. Rohrbacher bases the date of birth on Augustine's description of Orosius as a "young priest" and a "son by age" in the period 414–418, which would place his age at 30 or younger. Rohrbacher further speculates (p. 137) that Orosius may have died in a shipwreck while attempting to return to Spain after visiting Palestine and Africa, since nothing is heard of him after 418, which is also the likely date of completion of his book.
  2. ^ Merrills, A. H., History and Geography in Late Antiquity, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought fourth Series, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne, 2005, p.39
  3. ^ Old English text, with original in Latin, edited by H. Sweet, 1883.
  4. ^ ed. Tassi, Firenze 1849; partial editions are available in Cesare Segre, Volgarizzamenti del Due e del Trecento, Torino 1953 and in Cesare Segre, La prosa del Duecento, Milano-Napoli 1959)


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • OROSIUS — Hispanus patriâ, domô (ut Ioh. Gerundensis tradit) Tarraconensis, sub Arcadio et Honorio vixit, ut Prosper, in Chronicis, ait. Hic, cum, Româ ab Alarico Gothorum Rege captâ, gentiles, et huius, et omnium calamitatum causam in Christianos… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Orosĭus — Orosĭus, 1) Paulus, Presbyter zu Tarracona in Spanien, Schüler Augustins; er wurde 415 von den spanischen Bischöfen Eutropius u. Paulus an seinen Lehrer gesandt, um dessen Responsum wider einige Ketzereien zu holen. Bei seinem Aufenthalte in… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Orosĭus — Orosĭus, seit dem 8. Jahrh. Paulus O., Kirchenschriftsteller, geb. wahrscheinlich zu Bracara (Braga) in Spanien, gest. nach 418, siedelte als Presbyter nach Afrika über, wo er sich an Augustin anschloß und mit geringer Sachkenntnis und vielfacher …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Orosius — Orosĭus, Paulus, röm. Geschichtschreiber des 5. Jahrh. n. Chr., christl. Presbyter; seine »Historiarum adversus paganos libri VII«, auch »Hormesta« genannt (hg. von Zangemeister, 1882) im Mittelalter viel benutzter Leitfaden der Weltgeschichte …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Orosius — Orosius, Paul, Priester zu Tarragona in Catalonien im ersten Viertel des 5. Jahrh., verkehrte viel mit Augustinus wegen den Ketzereien seiner Zeit, schrieb im Auftrage desselben 416 sein Hauptschriftchen: »historiarum libri VIIa«, worin er durch… …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Orosius — Orosius,   Paulus, spanischer Geschichtsschreiber und Theologe, * Braga (?), ✝ nach 418; wandte sich als junger Presbyter in seinen Schriften gegen Priscillianisten, Origenisten und Pelagianer. Verfasste als Ergänzung zu »De civitate Dei« des… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Orosius — Paulus Orosius (* um 385; † um 418), war ein in Hispanien (möglicherweise in Braga in der Provinz Galaecia) geborener spätantiker Historiker und christlicher Theologe. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Leben und Werk 2 Ausgaben und Übersetzungen …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Orosius, S. — S. Orosius, Presb. M. (14. Aug.). Dieser heil. Priester und Martyrer, ein geborner Spanier, kam nach Rom, um die dortigen Heiligthümer zu besuchen und beschäftige sich an den Begräbnißstätten der hl. Martyrer. Er starb unter Constantius, in… …   Vollständiges Heiligen-Lexikon

  • Orosius — /aw roh zhee euhs/, n. Paulus /paw leuhs/, fl. 5th century A.D., Spanish theologian and historian. * * * …   Universalium

  • orosius — oro·sius …   English syllables

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