Orosius, Paulus°

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OROSIUS, PAULUS ° (b. c. 385), Christian author of Historiarum adversum paganos libri septem ("Seven Books of Histories Against the Pagans"), a history of the world from the Creation to 417, written at the suggestion of St. Augustine as a supplement to the latter's De civitate Dei (book 3). It attempted to prove that the Roman Empire had suffered as many calamities before the rise of Christianity as it did afterward.

Among details concerning the Jews which he mentions are the reasons given by Pompeius Trogus and Tacitus for the expulsion of the Jews from Egypt; the establishment of a sizable Jewish community in Hyrcania near the Caspian Sea in the fourth century b.c.e.; the capture of Jerusalem by Pompey; the plundering of the Temple by Crassus Licinius; the embassy to Caligula led by Philo; the relief of a famine (of Christians, surprisingly) in Jerusalem by Helena, queen of Adiabene (who, according to Orosius, was a Christian convert); the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by Claudius; the Jewish revolt against the Romans in 66–73 (Orosius, in common with Sulpicius Severus and in opposition to Josephus, claims that Titus gave the order to set fire to the Temple); Domitian's persecution of the Jews; the Jewish revolt against Trajan (important for confirming and supplementing Eusebius' account and now verified by inscriptions and papyri); the Bar Kokhba rebellion (in connection with which it is stated that the Jews tortured the Christians because they would not join the revolt); and the suppression of a Jewish, Samaritan, and Adiabenian revolt by Septimius Severus. Orosius' aim is essentially apologetic and his work is superficial and fragmentary. It is heavily indebted to others, especially Livy, Pompeius Trogus, Josephus, Tacitus, Eusebius, and Eutropius. His history is of limited value, except for contemporaneous events or where, as in the case of a large part of Livy, his sources are lost.

The following are the English translations of his writings: I.W. Raymond, Seven Books of History against the Pagans (1936); R.J. Deferrari, Seven Books of History against the Pagans (1964).


Reinach, Textes, 325, n. 1; Pauly-Wissowa, 35 (1939), 1185–95.

[Louis Harry Feldman]