The Seven Books of History against the Pagans by Paulus Orosius was written as a response to the sack of Rome in 410 CE. In contrast to his contemporaries, Orosius responded to the disaster by writing a history that decentered the city of Rome. His work reshaped Roman history through deemphasizing traditional Roman values and by foregrounding a local perspective. This paper examines Orosius’s literary strategies through his description of the destruction of cities in the Republican period. It first surveys the interaction between accounts of the sack of Rome in 410 and the literary archetypes that dominate the descriptions of destroyed cities in Roman sources. Turning to Orosius, it outlines how his Historiae adversus paganos both does and does not adhere to this model, arguing that the encounter between classical sources and the Christian structure of his work allowed Orosius to critique Rome’s history of imperialism. Orosius saw and portrayed the past as a subjective experience, and the examples of Numantia and Carthage demonstrate that Orosius told the destruction of cities from a peripheral point of view. In pursuit of mitigating the effects of Rome’s own recent disaster, Orosius gives a glimpse of an alternate, regional interpretation of Roman history, one of the many that surely existed alongside a historical tradition that our sources often present as empire-wide and monolithic.
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Research Article| February 01 2024
Locales Gentium Singularum Miserias: Grieving the Provincial City in Orosius
Studies in Late Antiquity (2024) 8 (1): 100–128.
Emily Lucille Hurt; Locales Gentium Singularum Miserias: Grieving the Provincial City in Orosius. Studies in Late Antiquity 1 February 2024; 8 (1): 100–128. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sla.2024.8.1.100
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