Historiae adversus paganos‘Histories against the pagans’

Paulus Orosius
  • Latin
  • prose
  • Non-Celtic texts, Universal history
Work by the Christian author Paulus Orosius (fl. early 5th century), a student of Augustine of Hippo; it is traditionally interpreted as an apologetic work in response to the idea that the arrival of Christianity was in some way to blame for the decline of Rome and its empire. In the course of seven books, it gives a universal history from the time of Creation onwards.
(fl. early 5th century)
Paulus Orosius
Christian author and theologian from Spain; student of Augustine of Hippo; author of the Historia(e) adversus paganos, the Commonitorium and the Liber apologeticus.
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a student of Augustine of Hippo

For a handlist of manuscripts, see Janet M. Bately • D. J. A. Ross, ‘A checklist of manuscripts of Orosius’ Historiarum aduersum paganos libri septem’, Scriptorium: Revue internationale des études relative aux manuscrits 15 (1961).

Manuscripts of possible Irish or insular interest
Manuscripts with Breton glosses
  • Latin
prose (primary)
Textual relationships
Related: Cosmographia of Aethicus IsterCosmographia of Aethicus Ister

An early medieval Latin work of cosmography, geography and ethnography, datable to the first half of the eighth century, which purports to be an epitome of a work by a Scythian philosopher named Aethicus (Ister) and which spuriously attributes its redaction and running commentary to St Jerome. Aethicus is described as a pagan (gentilis) who lived before the birth of Christ and travelled the four corners of the earth, although the chronology of peoples and events is regularly disturbed.

Scéla Alaxandair maic PilipScéla Alaxandair maic Pilip

Middle Irish saga on the career and conquests of Alexander the Great, based on an account in Orosius’ Historiae adversus paganos, Alexander’s letter to Aristotle about India and the correspondences known as the Collatio cum Dindimo.


Non-Celtic textsNon-Celtic texts

Universal historyUniversal history


Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Arnaud-Lindet, Marie-Pierre, Orose: Histoires contre les païens, 3 vols, Collection des Universités de France, Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1990–1991.
[ed.] Zangemeister, Karl, Pauli Orosii historiarum adversum paganos libri VII; accedit eiusdem, Liber apologeticus, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 5, Vienna, 1882.
Superseded by the edition of Arnaud-Lindet, though still in use.
[ed.] Zangemeister, Karl, Pauli Orosii historiarum adversum paganos libri VII, Bibliotheca scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum Teubneriana, Leipzig: Teubner, 1889.
Internet Archive: <link> Attalus.org – transcription: <link>
[tr.] Fear, A. T., Orosius: Seven books of history against the pagans, Translated Texts for Historians 54, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2010.
[tr.] Deferrari, Roy J., Orosius: Seven books of history against the pagans, Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1964.
[tr.] Raymond, I. W., Seven books of history against the pagans: the apology of Paulus Orosius, New York, 1936.
English translation

Secondary sources (select)

Orosius as primary source

Baumgarten, Rolf, “The geographical orientation of Ireland in Isidore and Orosius”, Peritia 3 (1984): 189–203.
Freeman, Philip, Ireland and the classical world, Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000.

Transmission and reception

Bately, J. M., and D. J. A. Ross, “A checklist of manuscripts of Orosius’ Historiarum aduersum paganos libri septem”, Scriptorium: Revue internationale des études relative aux manuscrits 15 (1961): 329–334.
Szerwiniack, Olivier, “Un commentaire hiberno-latin des deux premiers livres d’Orose, Histoires contre les païens (suite)”, ALMA: Bulletin du Cange 65 (2007): 165–207.
I-Revues – PDF: <link>
Szerwiniack, Olivier, “D’Orose au Lebor gabála Érenn: les gloses du manuscrit Reg. lat. 1650”, Études Celtiques 31 (1995): 205–217.  
[FR] Un recueil de gloses hiberno-latines aux Histoires contre les Païens d’Orose, contenu dans le manuscrit Vatican, B.A.V., Reg. lat. 1650, semble avoir des points de contact avec la compilation irlandaise Lebor Gabála Érenn. Ces gloses peuvent avoir contribué à faire connaître dans les milieux monastiques irlandais un certain nombre des idées d’Orose, qui seront reprises plus tard dans le Lebor Gabála.

[EN] From Orosius to the Lebor Gabála Érenn : the glosses in ms. Reg. lat. 1650.
The Hiberno-Latin glosses on Orosius’s Historiae contra Paganos, that occur in the manuscript Vatican, B.A.V., Reg. lat. 1650, seem to have some points of contact with the Irish compilation Lebor Gabála Érenn. These glosses may have contributed to the dissemination in the Irish monastic circles of some of Orosius’s ideas, that were later taken over in the Lebor Gabála.
Journal volume:  Persée – Études Celtiques, vol. 31, 1995: <link>
Lambert, Pierre-Yves, “Gloses à Orose: résultats d’enquête”, Études Celtiques 25 (1988): 213–220.
Journal volume:  Persée – Études Celtiques, vol. 25, 1988: <link>
Wright, Neil, “Knowledge of Christian Latin poets and historians in early medieval Brittany”, Études Celtiques 23 (1986): 163–186.  
Suite de l'élude parue dans Ét. celt. 20 (1983), 161-175 : Six textes hagiographiques bretons attestent de nombreux emprunts à des poètes latins chrétiens, d’abord et surtout Sedulius, mais aussi Juvencus, Arator, Cyprianus Gallus, Aldhelm. Ce sont les mêmes textes qui citent Virgile. L’auteur classe les emprunts en «citations» (ou «imitations»), et en «échos». — Utilisation des historiens latins chrétiens : Wrdisten imite souvent Gildas, parfois en le paraphrasant ; il a aussi utilisé Orose. Son élève Wrmonoc utilise les mêmes textes historiques, qui devaient donc être disponibles à l’abbaye de Landévennec. Les traités historiques de Gildas et Orose, qui partagent la même conception de l’histoire, ont reçu parfois le même titre, Ormesta, dans les manuscrits d’origine bretonne.
Journal volume:  Persée – Études Celtiques, vol. 23, 1986: <link>
Wright, Neil, “Did Gildas read Orosius?”, Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 9 (Summer, 1985): 31–42.
Scully, Diarmuid, “Bede, Orosius and Gildas on the early history of Britain”, in: Lebecq, Stéphane, Michel Perrin, and Olivier Szerwiniack (eds), Bède le Vénérable: entre tradition et posterité, Centre de Recherche sur l'Histoire de l'Europe du Nord-Ouest 34, Villeneuve d'Ascq, 2005. 30–42.  
This paper explores Bede’s account of Britain’s spiritual and political history under the Roman empire from the time of the island’s conquest to the Britons’ conversion. Bede’s approach to this subject in the Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (HE) provides an insight into his objectives and techniques as a providential historian. The paper will consider his selection, interpretation and omission of information and ideas from earlier sources, and in particular the writings of Orosius and Gildas. Orosius’ Historiarum adversum paganos libri vii (Hist.), written in the early fifth century, is one of Bede’s most important sources for Romano-British history. Bede, however, was not the first Insular authority to make use of Orosius. In the mid-sixth century, the British prophet-historian Gildas made extensive use of the Historiae in his De excidio Britanniae (DEB). Since Gildas’ work is another vital source for Bede’s account of early British history, we will also consider Bede’s response to his reading of Orosius.
(source: Introduction)
Hleno.revues.org: <link>
Breeze, Andrew, “Orosius, the Book of Taliesin and Culhwch and Olwen”, Studia Celtica 45 (2011): 203–209.
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
December 2014, last updated: September 2022