Orosius, Paulus

Orosius, Paulus a noted writer of the early Christian Church in Spain, was born in the latter part of the 4th century at Tarragona, in Catalonia. He was educated in Spain, and, after entering the service of the Church, was made presbyter in his native place. About A.D. 414 he proceeded, by direction of the Spanish bishops Eutropius and Paul, to Africa, for the purpose, as it seems, of consulting St. Augustine (whom he appears; from the introduction to his History, to have been in communication with some years before) on several controverted points of belief, which were then discussed by the Priscillianists and the Origenists, especially concerning the doctrine of the nature and origin of the soul. (See Consultatio sive Commonitorium Orosii ad Augustinum de errore Priscillianistarums et Origeiistarum, together with Augustine's answer, Ad Orosium contra Priscillianistas et Origenistas, both in the collection of the works of St. Augustine.) By advice of Augustine, Orosius proceeded thence to Palestine with a recommendation from Augustine to Jerome, who was then living at Bethlehem to consult with this learned Church father too. While in Palestine, Orosius wrote a treatise against Pelagius, who was at that time spreading his opinions concerning original sin and grace — Liber apologeticus contra Pelagium de Arbitrii Libertate which is annexed to the History of Orosius. He was also called upon to oppose Pelagius and his disciple' Celestius in a synod held at Jerusalem July 30, 415. From Palestine Orosius returned to Hippo Regius, to his friend Augustine, and thence to Spain. He now employed himself in writing, in accordance with Augustine's advice, the historical work which gained him his reputation, viz. the Historiarum lib. vii, adv. paganos; also known under the different titles of De cladibus et miseriis munzdi, De totius mundi calamitatibus, Hormeta, and Ormsesta (the origin and signification of these latter appellations are uncertain). This work was commenced in 416, and completed in 417; its object is to refute the accusations of the heathen, who stated that the calamities which had befallen the Roman empire, and, above all, the capture and pillage of Rome by Alaric, A.D. 410, and the subsequent misfortunes of the people, arose from the neglect of the ancient gods and the introduction of Christianity. Augustine had already treated the same subject in his great apologetic work, De civitate Dei, in another manner. Orosins set himself to prove historically that this world had always been a place of suffering and sorrow, governed by errors and superstitions, but that it would be still worse were it not for Christianity. This historical work, which comes down to the year 417, consists of seven books, divided into chapters. It begins with a geographical description of the world, then treats of the origin of the human race according to the book of Genesis, and afterwards relates the various accounts of the mythologists and poets concerning the heroic ages. Then follows the history of the early monarchies, the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Persian; the conquests of Alexander, and the wars of his successors; as well as the early history of Rome, the contents being chiefly taken from Trogus Pompeius and Justinus. The fourth book contains the history of Rome from the wars of Pyrrhus to the fall of Carthage. The fifth book comprises the period from the taking of Corinth to the war of Spartacus. Orosius quotes his authorities, several of which are from works which are now lost. The narrative in the sixth book begins with the war of Sulla against Mithridates, and ends with the birth of our Savior. The seventh book contains the history of the empire till A.D. 416, including a narrative of the taking and sacking of Rome by Alaric, which was the great event of the age. Orosius intermixes with his narrative moral reflections, and sometimes whole chapters of advice and consolation, addressed to his Christian brethren, and intended to confirm their faith amid the calamities of the times, which, however heavy, were not, as he asserts, unprecedented. The Romans, he says, in their conquests had inflicted equal if not greater wrongs on other countries. His tone is that of a Christian moralist impressed with the notions of justice, retribution, and humanity, in which most of the heathen historians show themselves deficient. He deprecates ambition, conquest, and glory gained at the expense of human blood and human happiness. As a historian, Orosius shows considerable critical judgment in general, though in particular passages he appears too credulous, as in ch. 10 of the first book, where he relates from report that the marks of the chariot- wheels of Pharaoh's host are still visible at the bottom of the Red Sea. (As an instance of the incidental value of the passages taken by Orosius from older writers, see Savigny, Das Recht des Besitzes p. 176.) In the main, however, the work is not strictly original, but is largely taken from Justin and Eutropius. That it was highly prized in the Middle Ages is proved by the fact that there are a great many manuscript copies extant. The Historiae has often been published (Augsburg, 1471; Vicenza, 1475; Cologne, 1526, etc.; Leydel, by Haverkamp, 1738 and 1767). King Alfred made a free translation of it into the Anglo-Saxon language, which was published by Daines Barrington, with an English version of it (Lond. 1773, 8vo), but of which a much more accurate edition, with a literal translation into English, and valuable notes, was published by Dr. Bosworth in 1855. The very remarkable additions of Alfred are especially valuable, as containing "the only geography of Europe written by a contemporary, and giving the position and the political state of the Germanic nations so early as the 9th century." A translation of Alfred's version forms a volume of "Bohn's Antiquarian Library" (1847). One of the best editions of Orosius is that with Haverkamp's notes, published at Leyden. Orosius died in Africa. Several other works, such as Quaestiones de Trinitate et aliis S.S. locis (Paris, 1533), have been erroneously attributed to him. See Mohler, De Orosii Vita ejusque Historiarum Libris Septem adversus Paganos (Bal. 1844); Gennadius, De Viris Illustribus, p. 39, 46; Schonenmann, Bibl. Patr. Lat. vol. ii, § 10; Moller, Dissertatio de Paulo Orosio (Altorf, 1689, 4to); Smith, Diet. of Gr. and Romans Biog. and iMythol. 3:58, 59; Alzog, Kirchengesch. vol. i; Moshelm, Eccles. Hist. vol. i; Lardner, Works (see Index); English Cyclop. s.v.

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